The Case Against Coal Terminals: Lummi Cite Health, Environmental Factors

NOAAPacific International Terminals proposes building an export terminal for the export of coal and other commodities, on Cherry Point near the Lummi Nation reservation. The site is approximately midway between the BP oil refinery -- its docks are in the foreground -- and the Alcoa Intalco Works aluminum smelter. Opponents fear the further industrialization of this area will harm an ecosystem that is struggling to survive.
Pacific International Terminals proposes building an export terminal for the export of coal and other commodities, on Cherry Point near the Lummi Nation reservation. The site is approximately midway between the BP oil refinery — its docks are in the foreground — and the Alcoa Intalco Works aluminum smelter. Opponents fear the further industrialization of this area will harm an ecosystem that is struggling to survive.


Richard Walker, Indian Country Today


Coal trains are not the only threats to sacred sites and traditional hunting and fishing territory.First Nations in the U.S. and Canada that share the Salish Sea contend that increased ballast water discharges associated with the Gateway Pacific Terminal would introduce invasive species to the local marine environment; that increased rail and vessel activity would increase the risk of coal and oil spills, and that coal dust from the railway and terminal would affect the health of marine waters and nearby communities. But the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal is only one of the projects that would bring increased rail and shipping activity to the Salish Sea. Also proposed: Expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline to Vancouver, B.C., and expansion of a coal, grain and container terminal at Delta, B.C.

RELATED: Lummi Call Coal Terminals an Absolute No-Go, Invoking Treaty Rights

The Salish Sea is currently transited by an estimated 10,000 cargo ships and tankers en route to and from oil refineries and shipping ports. The George Washington University and Virginia Commonwealth University studied the potential risk for a large oil spill from increase in shipping and “an ever-changing vessel traffic mix” of cargo ships and tankers that would result from the three projects. The 2014 vessel traffic risk assessment was commissioned by the Puget Sound Partnership, a state agency charged with coordinating efforts to improve the health of Puget Sound by 2020.

“Even though this area has not experienced major oil spills in the past 20 years or so, the presence of tankers in an ever changing vessel traffic mix places the area at risk for large oil spills,” the study states. “While a previous GW/VCU analysis of this area demonstrated significant risk reduction of oil transportation risk due to existing risk mitigation measures, potential for large oil spills continues to be a prominent public concern heightened by proposed maritime terminal developments.”

Concerns about coal dust and coal spills are bolstered by recent incidents in other communities.

“On more than one occasion, coal dust from the Brayton Point [power-generating] station has covered the nearby neighborhoods of Somerset, Massachusetts,” the Center for Media and Democracyreports. “On October 29, 2008, coal dust covered nearby Ripley Street, where residents reported having coal dust in their homes despite the windows being closed.”

Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Ashley Ahearn reports that in 2009, a representative of BNSF Railway Company testified before a federal review board that 645 pounds of dust escapes from each coal train car during a 400-mile trip.

“Since the 2009 testimony, coal companies have been required to apply what’s called surfactant or topper agent to the trains before they leave the mines,” Ahearn reported in March 2013. “BNSF researchhas shown that the surfactants reduce the coal dust by about 85 percent. That should bring the 645-pound figure down to about 100 pounds of coal dust escaping per car. There are usually about 125 cars per coal train.”

But coal in transit can harm health and the environment in other ways. In December 2012, a ship crashed into a conveyor belt at Westshore Terminals in Vancouver, British Columbia, spilling 30 metric tons of coal into the sea. In January 2014, a 152-car coal train derailed in Burnaby, British Columbia; three cars spilled their loads, one of them into a protected waterway.

Concerns about rail accidents in Washington state are shared by rail workers themselves. Members of the Sheet Metal Air Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART), have proposed new rules for hazardous material trains in response to the recent explosions of oil trains in Canada and North Dakota. House Bill 1809 and Senate Bill 5679 would require trains carrying hazardous materials to have one or two additional staff on board. Previously, Washington state mandated six-person crews. Today, some trains operate with only one or two people, according to SMART.

“Our workers know how to run these trains safely, but the railroad refuses to provide adequate staffing, exposing the public and rail workers to death and injury,” said SMART legislative director Herb Krohn, a conductor and switchman on Washington’s rails, in announcing the bills.

The measures have bipartisan support. HB 1809 is sponsored by 34 representatives and has been approved by the House Committee on Labor. Companion bill SB 5679, sponsored by 24 senators, is before the Senate Committee on Commerce & Labor.

“Our bill simply restores Washington state’s common-sense safety standards,” Krohn said. “We looked at what went wrong in each of the catastrophic explosions and the close calls, and it’s clear that one or two people simply can’t monitor and safely operate these dangerous cargos.  Adding even one more person to a train, particularly at the back of the train, will save lives.”



A Time to Veto

By Rhea Suh, President, NRDC,  Huffington Post


President Obama is poised to reject legislation meant to force the approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, in what would be his third veto since taking office six years ago.

Pipeline proponents, naturally, are howling.

Obama, though, is exercising his veto authority under the Constitution in precisely the way our founders intended: as a check on Congressional overreach at odds with the good of the country.

The president is the only public official elected to represent all the American people. That confers upon the president, uniquely, an obligation to act on behalf of the entire country, not simply a collection of congressional districts or states, in a way that reflects the common will and advances the national interest.

The Constitution enshrines the presidential veto as a vital tool for fulfilling that role, and leaders throughout our history have found it essential. Presidents stretching back to George Washington have used the veto 2,563 times to reject legislation passed by both houses of Congress.

Ronald Reagan used his veto power 78 times — the most of any president in modern times. Obama, at the other end of the scale, has vetoed just two bills so far — fewer than any other president in 160 years.

Rarely is the veto more clearly in order as now.

Under long-established procedure, the question of whether to approve a project like a pipeline that would cross a U.S. border hangs on a single criteria: is the project in the national interest? It is the president’s job — and properly so — to make that determination.

In assessing whether the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline meets the criteria, Obama has put the U.S. State Department in the lead, with expertise added from an array of other government agencies that oversee commerce, transportation, energy, environment and other important areas central to the national interest.

The Republican-led House gave final congressional approval today to a bill meant to force approval of the tar sands pipeline in a way that would usurp presidential authority, short-circuit the deliberative process of informed evaluation already underway and supersede the president’s obligation to determine whether the project is good for the country.

Those are three good reasons to veto the bill.

There is, though, one more, and it goes to the heart of our system of checks and balances.

The tar sands pipeline is not a project designed to help this country. It is a plan to pipe some of the dirtiest oil on the planet — tar sands crude mined from Canada’s boreal forest using some of the most destructive industrial practices ever devised — through the breadbasket of America to Gulf coast refineries where most of the fuel will be shipped overseas.

It would create 35 permanent American jobs, according to the Canadian company that wants to build the pipeline. And the tar sands crude would generate 17 percent more of the carbon pollution that is driving climate change than conventional crude oil produces.

It would put our heartland at grave and needless risk of the kind of pipeline accidents we’ve seen nearly 6,000 times over just the past two decades. It would cross more than 1,000 rivers, streams and other waterways and pass within a mile of some 3,000 underground wells that supply irrigation and drinking water to communities and farms across Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska. And it would deepen our addiction to the fossil fuels of the past when we need to be investing in the clean energy options of the future.

That is not a project that serves our national interest. It is, instead, a project that’s about big profits for big oil, big payoffs for industry allies on Capitol Hill and big pollution for the rest of us.

If that’s what the Republican leadership in Congress wants to drop on the president’s desk, here’s what’s going to happen. The president is going to do what other presidents going back to George Washington have done more than 2,500 times: stand up for what’s best for all Americans, and veto this terrible bill.

Native Leaders Appointed to Positions in Education, Environment, Justice in Washington State

 Washington State Governor Jay Inslee
Washington State Governor Jay Inslee


Richard Walker, Indian Country Today


Three prominent Native American Washingtonians have been appointed to key positions in education, environmental protection, and the judiciary.

On December 15, Gov. Jay Inslee announced his appointment of Raquel Montoya-Lewis, Isleta Pueblo/Laguna Pueblo, to the Whatcom County Superior Court. She will be the only Native American Superior Court judge in Washington state when she takes office in January.

That day, Inslee also announced his appointment of Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe Vice Chairman Russell Hepfer to the Puget Sound Partnership’s Leadership Council. The Partnership is a state agency charged with mobilizing community, regional, and state efforts to restore the health of Puget Sound.

And in November, the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction hired Michael Vendiola, communications director of the Swinomish Tribe, as program supervisor for the Office of Native Education.

Montoya-Lewis is chief judge for the Nooksack Tribe and the Upper Skagit Tribe, and is an associate professor at Western Washington University. She is also an appellate court judge for the Nisqually Tribe Court of Appeals and the Northwest Intertribal Court System and previously for the Nooksack Tribal Court of Appeals. She is former chief judge of the Lummi Nation Court.

Montoya-Lewis serves on the federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice and was appointed by Inslee’s predecessor to the state’s Partnership Council on Juvenile Justice. She has a J.D. and a master’s in social work from the University of Washington and a B.A. from the University of New Mexico.

“Raquel’s 15 years of experience as a judge will be well appreciated on the Superior Court,” Inslee said in his announcement. “She is wise and has a strong commitment to service and to promoting justice. I know she will serve the community and the court exceptionally well.”

Earlier in her career, Montoya-Lewis taught legal research and writing at the University of New Mexico, represented Indian country governments as an attorney at Williams, Janov & Cooney, and served as a law clerk to New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Pamela B. Minzner.

Bellingham City Council member Roxanne Murphy, Nooksack, who is also assistant to the general manager of the Nooksack Tribe, wrote a letter to Inslee encouraging Montoya-Lewis’s appointment.

“She has handled some of our most complex cultural, political and societal issues and managed these cases with the utmost care, intelligence, timeliness and fairness,” Murphy wrote.

Murphy, the first Native American elected to the Bellingham City Council, added that Montoya-Lewis’ appointment would create another important role model.

“I still feel overwhelmed when I think about my campaign experiences and just how many people supported me [for City Council],” Murphy wrote. “This has meant so much to our tribes; to the City Council and our work; to the little girls on and off the [reservation] who tell me that they want to be on the Bellingham City Council; and to the general population that appreciates my ability to understand and work with so many walks of life.”

At the Puget Sound Partnership Leadership Council, Hepfer brings an indigenous perspective “as well as hands-on experience with the Elwha dam removal project and knowledge of what it takes to rebuild an ecosystem that welcomes salmon home,” Inslee said in his announcement. “His rich knowledge of the complex voices and issues involved in Puget Sound recovery work are a welcome addition to the Puget Sound Partnership’s Leadership Council.”

Hepfer’s term on the leadership council continues to June 25, 2018.

Hepfer’s career in natural resources began in 1995 as a water quality technician. He has served on the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission for 18 years and on the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribal Council for 16 years, formerly as chairman and now as vice chairman.

Hepfer is the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe’s delegate to the state Department of Social & Health Services’ Indian Policy Advisory Committee; and to the Coast Salish Gathering, an annual meeting of representatives from Coast Salish nations from the U.S. and Canada.

Sen. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, one of three Native Americans in the state legislature, said of the governor’s appointments, “I think these two are great appointments. I know the both of them will do a tremendous job.”

In a farewell column in the December edition of the Swinomish news magazine he edits, Vendiola wrote that in his new position in the state Office of Native Education, “I will get the chance to apply my academic and cultural skills to support Native education.”

Vendiola, Swinomish/Lummi, has been editor of qyuuqs, the Swinomish Tribe’s monthly news magazine, since November 2011. During his editorship, he expanded the magazine’s news coverage, elevated its graphic design and news presentation, and established features designed to improve the reader’s grasp of the Lushootseed language. He helped establish the communications department at the Swinomish Tribe.

In addition to serving as editor of qyuuqs, Vendiola has served as coordinator/activities adviser at Western Washington University since August 1998. He was director of student activities at Northwest Indian College from September 1995 to July 1998. He was recruitment and retention specialist at Skagit Valley College from August 1991 to August 1993. He also founded The Philomath Groove, a project that instills love of learning through the use of mixed media.

Vendiola earned a doctorate in educational leadership and policy studies in 2013 from the University of Washington. He earned a master’s degree in adult education administration in 1997 from Western Washington University. He earned a bachelor’s in American cultural studies in 1994 from Western Washington.



‘They Know Their Lands Better Than We Do’: Sally Jewell on Tribal Keystone XL Opposition

MSNBC screen shotU.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell tells MSNBC host José Díaz-Balart, 'They know their lands better than we do' when asked about the Keystone XL pipeline.
MSNBC screen shot
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell tells MSNBC host José Díaz-Balart, ‘They know their lands better than we do’ when asked about the Keystone XL pipeline.


By: Indian Country Today


U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell invoked not only tribal sovereignty but also environmental expertise when she spoke to MSNBC’s José Díaz-Balart about the Keystone XL pipeline, which many tribes oppose.

“I think the fact that the tribal nations are standing up saying, ‘We are concerned about this. We are concerned about water quality. We’re concerned about tribal sovereignty. We’re concerned about what this pipeline may do for our lands and our rights,’ needs to be heard,” she said when he asked her to put tribal opposition to Keystone in context.

“In my role as secretary of the interior we will make sure that there’s a platform for those tribal voices to be heard,” she said. “And I think they will make a very effective case because they know their lands better than we do.”

In the end it will all come down to the State Department, she said, which will make the pipeline decision “by listening to all of the facts and information they have,” including tribal voices.

Jewell also spoke about Native youth, the centuries of oppression that have led to the current state of affairs regarding mental health, education and poverty, and on how it is time to make things right.

“We have destroyed much of the hope and the pride and the future for a lot of Native youth,” she said. “This is the time to turn that around.”

Her full chat with Díaz-Balart can be seen at

The pipeline threatens many tribal lands, especially Sioux territory in South Dakota, given that the proposed route traverses the Rosebud Sioux Reservation. Last month tribal President Cyril Scott said that if the pipeline passes it would be considered “an act of war,” and promised to fight it all the way.

RELATED: Rosebud Sioux Tribe Calls House Keystone XL Passage an ‘Act of War,’ Vows Legal Action

Rosebud Leader on Keystone: ‘Test Us—You’ll See an Indian Uprising’



The Final Indian War in America is About to Begin

Lakota members during the annual Liberation Day commemoration of the Wounded Knee massacre. Photo: Deep Roots United Front/Victor Puertas
Lakota members during the annual Liberation Day commemoration of the Wounded Knee massacre. Photo: Deep Roots United Front/Victor Puertas


Notes from Indian Country, November 16, 2014
By Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji)
© Native Sun News

Source: Huffington Post

(Note: This column will appear before the Senate votes on the Keystone XL Pipeline. The House has already approved the construction of the Pipeline)

South Dakota’s Republican leadership of John Thune and Kristi Noem always march lockstep with the other Republican robots. Neither of them care that South Dakota’s largest minority, the people of the Great Sioux Nation, diametrically oppose the Pipeline and they also fail to understand the determination of the Indian people to stop it.

The House vote was 252-161 favoring the bill. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) who is trying to take the senate seat from Democrat Mary Landrieu, They are headed for a senate runoff on December 6 and Landrieu has expressed a strong support of the bill in hopes of holding her senate seat.

Two hundred twenty-one Republicans supported the bill which made the Republican support unanimous while 31 Democrats joined the Republicans. One hundred sixty-one Democrats rejected the bill.

Progressive newsman and commentator for MSNBC, Ed Schultz, traveled to the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota this year to meet with the Indian opponents of the Pipeline. Firsthand he witnessed the absolute determination of the Indian nations to stop construction of the Pipeline.

He witnessed their determination and reported on it. Except for Schultz the national media shows no interest and apparently has no knowledge of how the Indian people feel about the Pipeline nor do they comprehend that they will go to their deaths stopping it. What is wrong with the national media when it comes to Indians?

As an example of the national media’s apathy, the Lakota, Nakota and Dakota have turned their backs on the $1.5 billion dollars offered to them for settling the Black Hills Claim and although they are among the poorest of all Americans, the national media does not consider this news.

Why do they protest the XL Pipeline? Because the lands the Pipeline will cross are Sacred Treaty Lands and to violate these lands by digging ditches for the pipelines is blasphemes to the beliefs of the Native Americans. Violating the human and religious rights of a people in order to create jobs and low cost fuel is the worst form of capitalism. Will the Pipeline bring down the cost of fuel and create thousands of jobs?

President Barack Obama has blocked the construction of the Pipeline for six years and he said, “I have constantly pushed back against the idea the somehow the Keystone Pipeline is either this massive jobs bill for the United States or is somehow lowering gas prices. Understand what this project is. It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else. That doesn’t have an impact on U.S. gas prices.”

In the meantime Senator Landrieu conceded that it is unlikely that the Senate and the House will have the two-thirds majority needed to override an Obama veto.

Wizipan Little Elk of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and a coalition of tribal leaders from across the Northern Plains and the United States have pulled no punches on how they intend to fight the Pipeline to the death if that is the only way to stop it.

South Dakota’s elected leadership has totally ignored the protests of the largest minority residing in their state. They have also totally underestimated and misunderstood the inherent determination of the Indian people. This is a huge mistake that will have national implications and it is taking place right under their Republican noses.

What is even worse South Dakota’s media has also buried its collective heads in the sand even though Native Sun News has been reporting on the Keystone XL Pipeline since 2006. Award-winning Health and Environment Editor for Native Sun News, Talli Nauman, has been at the journalistic forefront of this environmental disaster about to happen from day one and she has been rewarded by the South Dakota Newspaper Association with many awards for her yearly series of articles on this most important topic. Until this issue became a political football, the rest of South Dakota’s media had been silent.

The Keystone XL Pipeline that is being pushed by TransCanada may well be the beginning of the final war between the United States government and the Indian Nations. A word of caution to TransCanada and the U.S. Government: please do not disregard the determination of the Indian people when they say they will fight this Pipeline to their deaths if need be. They mean it!

When asked if he truly thought that a handful of Indians could stop the construction of the Pipeline, Little Elk simply said, “Try us!”

Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota, is the editor and publisher of Native Sun News. He can be reached at



South Dakotans fight TransCanada on their own turf

Photo of crowd yesterday at hearing, posted on DRA’s Twitter feed
Photo of crowd yesterday at hearing, posted on DRA’s Twitter feed


By Sara Sullivan, Climate Connections

Pierre, SD – The fight to stop TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline can add one more state to its battleground: South Dakota. A powerful coalition of local allies intervened in the certification of the pipeline permit at the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, and the battle for the open US Senate seat in South Dakota could be decided by voters strongly opposed to Keystone XL.

Four tribal nations and a number of grassroots Native groups, each belonging to the Oceti Sakowin, have petitioned to intervene. Those tribes are the Cheyenne River, Rosebud, Standing Rock, and Yankton Sioux Tribes. Dakota Rural Action, the Indigenous Environmental Network, and several South Dakota landowners have also petitioned to intervene. This coalition, called No KXL Dakota, is comprised of tribal nations, non-profit organizations, individual tribal citizens and non-tribal landowners, each dedicated to the protection of Mother Earth and the natural resources of South Dakota.

TransCanada opposed the intervention of several applicants to party status, including the Intertribal Council on Utility Policy and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Utility Commission Office, both Native entities dealing with energy issues in South Dakota.

This high-profile pipeline battle has intensified with the South Dakota congressional race. Republican candidate Mike Rounds is the only candidate fully endorsing the pipeline, while Democratic opponent Rick Weiland has gained local support because of his opposition to Keystone XL and Independent Larry Pressler has also courted the Native vote.

Lewis Grassrope of Wiconi Un Tipi: “We are here to ensure that this committee [the PUC] hears our voice on this opposition to the pipeline or any pipeline through these lands.”

Joye Braun of Pte Ospaye Spirit Camp: “Pte Ospaye Spiritual Camp mission is stand in opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline and the social evils that come with Big Oil, to educate the people about the KXL Pipeline, fracking, and the pollution that occurs with oil production. Pte Ospaye Spiritual Camp is located just outside of the Bridger Community on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation and 2.2 miles from where the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline proposes to go through. It is a hugely historic area known for centuries as a crossroads for Natives Peoples to travel through on their way to the Black Hills. It is ground zero for the Lakota people fighting this pipeline as it would have to pass through this area first to try and get to the other camps and Nebraska.”

No KXL Dakota allies have pledged to stand their ground and not back down in the now local battle over property, land, water, human trafficking, and treaty rights.

We can no longer allow the Salish Sea to be used as a dumping ground

Photos: Contributed – Blackwater Media
Photos: Contributed – Blackwater Media


By Bill Everitt,

Tribal representatives from both sides of the border spoke in unified opposition today against oil giant Kinder Morgan’s proposed oil pipeline.

Elders, fishers, leaders and youth presented testimony opposing the project to Canada’s National Energy Board in Chilliwack. The NEB will make a recommendation on the future of the pipeline to Canada’s federal government, the ultimate decision-making body for the project.First-Nations-protest-300x225

“We can no longer allow the Salish Sea to be used as a dumping ground,” said Swinomish Chairman Brian Cladoosby. “For more than 150 years we have lived in a pollution-based economy, and today face increased threat of an oil spill in our traditional fishing grounds on the Salish Sea—an event that would very likely lead to irreparable damage to salmon and shellfish habitat, and destroy our way of life along with it.”

The proposed oil pipeline would roughly triple the capacity of the existing pipeline, from 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000 per day. It would run alongside an existing pipeline that stretches from the Alberta tar sands oil fields to an oil shipping terminal in Burnaby, greatly increasing the traffic of oil tankers carrying diluted tar sands bitumen through Canadian and US waters.

“The proposed pipeline, if approved, will increase the risk of oil spills and cause more disruption of our fishing fleet. The Suquamish Tribe has a duty to stand up to further threats to our Salish Sea fishing grounds, which have sustained our people since time immemorial,” said Suquamish Chairman Leonard Forsman.

“If the pipeline is approved, there will be a massive increase in tanker loadings,” said Tulalip treasurer Glen Gobin. “This increased traffic will directly interfere with access to traditional and treaty-protected fishing areas, and put the safety of tribal fishers at risk—not to mention drastically increase the chance of a catastrophic oil spill,” he said. “My father, Bernie Gobin, fought side by side with leaders such as Billy Frank Jr. to ensure that salmon, the very essence of who we are as Coast Salish peoples, live on from generation to generation. We fight for our past and our future.“

Canada’s Coast Salish First Nations also oppose the oil pipeline, and testified before the National Energy Board last week. Those tribes included Shxw’owhámel First Nation, Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Kwantlen First Nation, Musqueam Indian Band, Peters Band. Katzie First Nation and Hwlitsum First Nation also provided testimony.

“Like the sea, Coast Salish people acknowledge no boundaries. We are united to protect the Salish Sea,” said Chemainus First Nation member Ray Harris. “It’s a danger to the environment, a violation of aboriginal fishing rights, and a threat to all people who call this unique place home,” he said.

“We do find lots of support from far and wide, actually surprising support from the Mayors of the Lower Mainland, huge environmental groups that are on our side. I got lots of faith in the future. Hopefully that’ll be there for our kids and grandkids.”

Tulalip councilwoman Deborah Parker said she hoped the protest would be a day for healing.

“Really my hopes are that the NEB and Kinder Morgan will hear our words. and I know they will be some pretty powerful words,” she said. “The words need to keep coming forward so we’re not living in this fear and in as much pain we have been.

“I hope today is not only a day to hear and to listen, but a day to heal.”

Coast Salish peoples are the indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest, and have traditionally lived along the coasts of Oregon and Washington in the United States, and in British Columbia, Canada.

The Salish Sea is a network of waterways between the southwestern tip of British Columbia and the northwestern tip of Washington State, and includes the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Haro Strait, the Strait of Georgia and the Puget Sound.

Suquamish Tribe, agencies restore eelgrass beds on Bainbridge Island


An eelgrass transplant consists of tying five eelgrass rhizomes together with a twist-tie and attaching it to a landscaping staple. The staple is then buried in the subtidal area where eelgrass is expected to flourish. More photos can be viewed by clicking on the photo.
An eelgrass transplant consists of tying five eelgrass rhizomes together with a twist-tie and attaching it to a landscaping staple. The staple is then buried in the subtidal area where eelgrass is expected to flourish. More photos can be viewed by clicking on the photo.

By Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

Work will begin this week on the final phase of a major eelgrass restoration project located just outside Eagle Harbor on Bainbridge Island.

The project is at the site of the former Milwaukee Dock, near Pritchard Park. The dock, removed in the early 1990s, historically served the Wyckoff creosote plant; the area is now a Superfund cleanup site.

The dock was constructed in a dense subtidal meadow of eelgrass, which was further impacted by navigation channels that left two large depressions too deep for eelgrass to grow and flourish.

Eelgrass is recognized as one of the most valuable ecosystem components in Puget Sound. This project will contribute to the Puget Sound Partnership’s goal of increasing the amount of eelgrass habitat by 20 percent over the current baseline by 2020.

“The importance of eelgrass meadows to salmon and other fish and invertebrates is well documented,” said Tom Ostrom, salmon recovery coordinator for the Suquamish Tribe. “The depth of these depressions is what has prevented eelgrass from growing. Because the surrounding eelgrass is so dense and so robust, it makes this site a prime candidate for restoration.”

The Elliott Bay Trustee Council, which includes the tribe, began restoring the smaller of the two depressions in 2012; work begins this week on the larger depression. The work is being coordinated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The work takes place in three stages: The existing eelgrass is temporarily transplanted from the edges of the depression to nearby areas. The depression then is filled with clean sediment. After the sediment settles, the eelgrass is re-planted in the filled depression and is expected to fill out the former bare area.

SCUBA divers from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Sequim (PNNL) have transplanted eelgrass back into the smaller depression and begun removing eelgrass from the larger depression in preparation for filling.

PNNL scientists will monitor the restoration site annually for at least five years to document how well the transplanted eelgrass is growing and to assess the overall success of the project.

The first phase of the project, restoring the smaller depression, was funded by the Elliott Bay Trustee Council from funds set aside for restoration efforts under a legal settlement with Pacific Sound Resources. The settlement addressed natural resource damages resulting from the contamination at two Superfund sites in Puget Sound, including the Wyckoff facility in Eagle Harbor.

Most of the funding for restoration of the larger depression is from a $1.76M grant awarded to the Suquamish Tribe from the Puget Sound Partnership through the Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration Fund, a state

fund program that targets high priority restoration projects that benefit salmon recovery. The grant is administered by the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will manage filling the larger depression.

More information about the Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration program

The Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration (PSAR) program was created in 2007 to help implement the most important habitat protection and restoration priorities. Funding is appropriated by the Legislature through the Salmon Recovery Funding Board, based on a request from the Puget Sound Partnership (PSP). PSP works with local entities to identify and prioritize the highest impact, locally-vetted, and scientifically-rigorous projects across Puget Sound. This funding is critical to advancing the most effective projects throughout our region.

Eelgrass Facts

  • Scientific name: Zostera marina
  • True flowering plant
  • Eelgrass meadows have very high primary production rates and are the base of numerous food webs
  • Roots and rhizomes stabilize the seabed
  • Meadows contribute to local oxygen budget, both above and below the seabed
  • Utilized for foraging, spawning, rearing, and as migration corridors by many commercially important fish and invertebrate species, marine mammals, and birds
  • Sequesters carbon, thus ameliorating the effects of ocean acidification

Elliott Bay Trustee Council

The Elliott Bay Trustee Council consists of The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce; the U.S. Department of the Interior, represented by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe; the Suquamish Tribe; and the Washington departments of Ecology and Fish and Wildlife.

Squaxin Island tribe snorkeling for juvenille coho

Candace Penn and Michael West, Squaxin Island tribal staff, look for juvnille coho that might be using a small stream in the Deschutes watershed.
Candace Penn and Michael West, Squaxin Island tribal staff, look for juvnille coho that might be using a small stream in the Deschutes watershed.


By Northwest Indian Fisheries

The Squaxin Island Tribe is conducting snorkel surveys throughout the Deschutes River watershed, looking for stretches where coho go to feed and grow.

Each spring for the last three years, the tribe has released 100,000 juvenile coho into the Deschutes. They then follow up for months with snorkel surveys to see where the fish go. “What we’re looking for is coho habitat to protect and restore,” said Scott Steltzner, salmon biologist for the tribe. “And, obviously, the coho know where the best coho habitat is.”

The problem, however, is that low runs of coho to the Deschutes in recent decades mean there aren’t even enough coho to fill the available habitat. “We can guess what sort of habitat coho want, but the best way is to get out there and find out first hand,” Steltzner said. “But, to find where the good coho habitat is in the Deschutes, we need to put some coho in the river first.”

Because coho salmon spend an extra year in freshwater before heading out to the ocean, they are more dependent on river habitat than other salmon species.

In the past, the Deschutes River was the largest producer of coho in deep South Sound. Coho have been returning in low numbers for over 20 years since a landslide sent tons of sediment into the river. “The landslide wiped out coho in their main stronghold on Huckleberry Creek and they haven’t been able to re-establish themselves,” Steltzner said.

New forest practice rules put into place since the landslide would likely prevent the same type of catastrophic event from happening again.

The tribe will use the information from the snorkel surveys to plan on-the-ground restoration and protection efforts. “Finding where salmon rear in the Deschutes is the single largest data gap in proceeding with much-needed habitat work,” Steltzner said.

Because the upper Deschutes River is relatively undeveloped – less than 10 percent has been paved over – it’s still possible to restore salmon habitat and productivity. “There is a chance here to restore salmon productivity to historic levels,” said Andy Whitner, natural resources director for the tribe.

“Our way of life, our culture and economy have always been based around natural resources,” Whitener said. “Protecting and restoring salmon habitat is the most important thing we can do to restore salmon in the Deschutes and protect our treaty right to fish.”

Coastal First Nations Support NDP Bill to Protect Pacific Northwest


By: Derrick, West Coast Native News

(Vancouver, Sept. 23, 2014) – The Coastal First Nations supports a federal NDP [New Democratic Party] bill aimed at putting in place a law that would prohibit supertankers from on the North Coast.

Skeena-Bulkley Valley NDP MP Nathan Cullen introduced a private members bill, An Act to Defend the Pacific Northwest, that would also give communities a stronger voice in pipeline reviews and consider impacts of projects on jobs.

Executive Director Art Sterritt said for too long the concerns of our people and the majority of British Columbians have been ignored. “The bill addresses some of our major concerns with Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline.”

The pipeline review process with First Nations has been lacking. “This bill will ensure that our voices and concerns are heard.”

Sterritt said the bill will allow for more sustainable and long-term jobs. “We have spent more than a decade developing a sustainable economy.”

The Coastal First Nations are an alliance of First Nations that includes the Wuikinuxv Nation, Heiltsuk, Kitasoo/Xaixais, Nuxalk, Gitga’at, Haisla, Metlakatla, Old Massett, Skidegate, and Council of the Haida Nation working together to create a sustainable economy on British Columbia’s North and Central Coast and Haida Gwaii.