Lethal levels of marine biotoxins are appearing at new recreational shellfish areas in Washington marine waters

This news release is from the Washington State Department of Health. All areas are closed for the sport harvest of scallops. Totten and Eld Inlets are now on the list of closures, for oysters, in addition to scallops.

OLYMPIA – In the past week, an alarming number of Washington marine waters have reached dangerously high levels of marine biotoxins that cause paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP). These conditions have prompted additional shellfish harvest closures. PSP tests have revealed 16 locations that tested more than1,000 micrograms of toxin in the last week.

By far, the most dramatic level of toxin was detected at Port Ludlow in Jefferson County at almost 10,000 micrograms in mussels. The Food and Drug Administration’s level for closure, which the agency follows, is 80 micrograms. Oak Bay and Mats Mats Bay, just north of Port Ludlow had test results in the 1,400 to 1,500 microgram range.

The intensity of this bloom has surpassed the central Puget Sound bloom of last week, which is still going strong with 10 locations testing dangerously higher than the FDA action levels for toxins. The high toxin levels have been detected in a variety of shellfish species including blue mussels, manila clams, butter clams, pacific oysters and geoduck clams. New blooms have closed Discovery Bay in Clallam and Jefferson Counties and Port Gamble in Kitsap County.

Without an abrupt change in weather conditions more closures are expected in the days to come. Alexandrium, the algae that causes PSP grows rapidly when sunny and calm conditions persist over Puget Sound, which contributes to a stratified water column. Stormy conditions with strong winds will break up the stratification and help end the bloom.

Recreational shellfish harvesters must be very careful to only harvest on beaches listed as safe by the Department of Health. Commercially harvested shellfish currently on the market have been thoroughly tested and should be safe to eat.

Warning signs have been posted at high use beaches warning people not to collect shellfish from the closed areas. The closure includes clams, oysters, mussels, scallops, geoduck and other species of molluscan shellfish. Crab is not included in the closure, but the “crab butter” should be discarded, and only the meat should be eaten.

People can become ill from eating shellfish contaminated with the toxin. Marine biotoxins are not destroyed by cooking or freezing and can be life-threatening. Symptoms of PSP can appear within minutes or hours and usually begins with tingling lips and tongue, moving to the hands and feet followed by difficulty breathing, and potentially death. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek emergency medical help immediately.

The toxin is produced by naturally occurring algae that tend to be more common during the warmer months of the year. In most cases the algae that contain the toxins cannot be seen, and must be detected through laboratory testing. Recreational shellfish harvesters should check the Department of Health marine biotoxin Web site (www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/sf/biotoxin.htm) or call the agency Biotoxin Hotline at 1-800-562-5632 before harvesting shellfish anywhere in Washington.

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Editors note: Marine biotoxin closures are separate from the current closures for oysters due to Vibrio parahaemolyticus. More than 100 people have been sickened with vibriosis from eating contaminated raw oysters. For more information on those closures, call the hotline at 1-800-562-5632 or check the marine biotoxin Web site (www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/sf/biotoxin.htm).

President Bush Signs Bill Expanding Tax Incentives for Conservation Easements

According to the Land Trust Alliance, “Congress has approved a tremendous expansion of the federal conservation tax incentive for conservation easement donations.” On August 17, the President signed into law a pensions bill which dramatically expands the Federal tax incentive provision for donating conservation easements.

The new law:

  • Raises the deduction a landowner can take for donating a conservation easement from 30% of their income in any year to 50%;
  • Allows qualifying farmers and ranchers to deduct up to 100% of their income; and
  • Extends the carry-forward period for a donor to take tax deductions for a voluntary conservation agreement from 5 to 15 years.

It is also important to note that this only applies to easements donated in 2006 and 2007. However, there are many who area already working to make this change permanent.

The Land Trust Alliance is a good place to start, if you have ever considered donating a conservation easement. And, if you have never considered making such a donation, now may be the time to consider the benefits of a conservation easement. Your tax advisor or attorney can provide you with further details.

In the words of Rand Wentworth, President of the Land Trust Alliance, “Today we are celebrating a tremendous victory for conservation.”

Thurston County Planning Commission to Hold Public Hearing Thursday, August 3rd

The Thurston County Planning Commission is holding an important Public Hearing on Thursday, August 3 at 6:30 pm. The meeting, to be held at the Worthington Center, on the campus of St. Martin’s University, will take public testimony related to water quality protections, rural rezoning and clustered development regulations.

Public testimony can be given in person or by phone or email.

The County’s announcement of the event is here.

Futurewise has released a notice for the event, which reads, in part:

Thurston County is making big decisions about how to protect drinking water and the character of Thurston County for the future!

It’s critical that we are there to speak up in support of strong protections!

Please arrive early!

Futurewise will be there at 5:30 (and have pizza at 6pm), before the hearing, to get people signed up to testify. Meet them outside of the side door to the Worthington Center (the right side of the building if you are facing the building, which is also outside of the kitchen area).

If you are unable to attend the hearing, please contact the Planning Commission at 360-786-5490 or email them at peterscs@co.thurston.wa.us to urge them to protect Thurston County’s quality of life.

Talking points:

As a Thurston County resident, I urge you to protect water quality and our quality of life. I’ve seen first hand the effects of irresponsible and poorly planned development on our community. Please strengthen the protections to keep Thurston County a great place to live, including:

  1. Additional policies and changes to the land use map should be added to protect water quality, especially Puget Sound and shellfish areas.
  2. Increase the amount of land in the Rural Protection 1:10 and Rural Protection 1:20 districts with an emphasis on lands that if subdivided would harm water quality, drinking water supplies, and oyster beds.
  3. Clustering provisions in the rural area are a good idea, as long as a range of rural densities (1:5, 1:10 and 1:20) are maintained and no rural densities exceed one unit per five acres.
  4. The urban reserve district boundary should be reduced in size – given the large size of the existing urban growth areas, it seems unlikely that so much urban reserve will be needed in the foreseeable future.

Upcoming Benefit Car Washes Of Note

There are two upcoming and local fundraising events which are worth mentioning. Both are car washes a week apart, so you’ll have no excuse to come away with a squeaky-clean car.

This Saturday, July 8, from 11 am to 4 pm at the Subway (6541 Sexton Dr NW and the freeway). This is a Car Wash to benefit two Griffin Middle School students.

Emma Messinger and Michael Walther, who are entering 7th Grade this next school year, were nominated by their teachers to attend the Junior National Young Leaders Conference this summer, in Washington, D.C. All donations will be accepted to help send these two to our nation’s capitol. In addition to the car wash, they will be selling cookies and other snacks.

Special thanks to Joe and Cheryl Williams, owners of the Island Market, and for Subway Sandwiches, for their support of this event.

Next Saturday, July 15, from 10 am to 3 pm, the Griffin Fire Fighter’s Association will hold their car wash. Proceeds benefit the Association. This is at the main Fire Station, 3707 Steamboat Loop NW. All donations accepted. And, they’ll have the fire equipment out, so you can take a look at their cool stuff, too.

Spend the Time to Learn About I-933

The “No on 933” campaign has assembled a web site that is well worth visiting, particularly if you are still on the fence regarding Initiative 933. It is located here.

I want to particularly take the opportunity to point out some of the points I believe are especially important to understand.

As a member of the GNA, I was particularly concerned about some of the points made by the No on 933 campaign’s page entitled “It’s Bad for Neighborhoods.”

  • I-933 Will Increase Taxes and Cut Community Services
  • I-933 Threatens Property Rights
  • Say Goodbye to Neighborhood Zoning – “The result will be ‘open season’ on neighborhoods across the state.”
  • Say Hello to more Sprawl and Congestion
  • I-933 Is Downright Un-Neighborly – “I-933 does NOT require any notice to neighbors before the regulations are waived.”
  • I-933 changes no “eminent domain” laws

I made a point also to read the page entitled “Debunking the Backers.”

Well worth also mentioning is this site, which assembled a series called “This Land: The Northwest Property Rights Movement“.

Initiative-watchers are pointing out that this initiative is similar to initiatives currently trying to gather steam in Idaho and Montana. Also similar is the rhetoric being employed: All make a big deal about the abuses of eminent domain. However, none of them do a single thing to address eminent domain. And all three measures use the same bait-and-switch tactic to mislead to voters. For those of you who may be curious about one of the prime movers in the multi-state effort which spawned I-933, this page will give you a great deal chew on.

If you’re as concerned as I am about the possible impacts of this ill-conceived initiative, please help focus the attention of your neighbors, friends and community groups on I-933. This stuff is complicated and the proponents are counting on our being unwilling to spend event the slightest amount of time to become informed voters. It happened in Oregon; let’s not let in happen in Washington, too.

UPDATE: Read the June 23rd article in The Olympian entitled “Land-use initiative attracts protest“.

Read the prior post about I-933, which was posted on this blog, here.

What are your thoughts about I-933? Click on the “Post a Comment” link, below.

Goodbye to the Blueberry Farm? – UPDATED!

Most residents of this area know of the 40-acre blueberry bog on Steamboat Island Road. It is on the right as you drive north on the peninsula in the vicinity of 49th Lane. It has been a U-Pick or free pick community resource for decades. St. Christopher Church’s Annual Blueberry festival began with church members picking at the blueberry bog.

There are two owners of parcels involved in development plans. MC Construction (working for the owners, Michelle and Danaher Dempsey) and an organization calling itself Blueberry Farms, LLC (represented by Michael Welter) is now in the process of gaining approval for 8 large houses to be clustered on the forested upland portion of the blueberry farm. This is that beautiful section of Evergreen woods that you can see emerging from the blueberry fields at the North center of the bog.

Click here to view copies of the two applications associated with these projects.

Developers plan to log the woods, approximately 8 acres of them, which is where the houses will be built.

Last year the developers created a site plan that showed eight home lots plus two large resource parcels (the blueberry fields themselves), which they intended to donate to a nonprofit so that it could remain a community blueberry farm forever.

Unfortunately, at some point and for some reason not known to us, MC Construction changed their mind and submitted development plans that call for the blueberry fields to be divided into two parcels, each of which includes a small portion of high ground so that a house can be built on it.

In other words, the blueberry fields are about to become someone’s back yard.

To see MC Construction’s web page, promoting this project, click here.

A while back, at the time the blueberry farm owner applied for open space tax designation, the County put a public access requirement on the blueberry fields for the purpose of allowing blueberry picking. However, it appears that loophole clauses (which allow exceptions in the event of owner liability concerns, etc.) will make it unlikely that public access will actually occur once the two parcels belong to individual homeowners.

This could happen prior to this years’ picking season.

Please spread the word that our beloved community farm is endangered.

Because the development was submitted as two separate 4-lot short plats rather than one 8-lot long plat, there is comparatively little opportunity for public input.

However, a flood of letters might get their attention.

UPDATED July 1:

Your comments have helped! The County has transferred both applications to the City of Lacey, for review (since Mr. Welter, one of the applicants involved, is also the County’s Director of Development Services).

Please write or e-mail the new planner in charge of the development:
Ryan Andrews, Associate Planner
City of Lacey Community Development
PO Box 3400
Lacey, WA 98509
Phone: (360) 491-5642
Fax: (360) 438-2669
randrews@ci.lacey.wa.us

Mention the two project numbers: 2005103734 and 2005103728

As the City of Lacey to:

  • Be fair and impartial: Start the development approval process over from the beginning.
  • Specify that the blueberry bog be permanently preserved as community open space.
  • Require that the blueberry fields be platted as separate un-developable critical areas tracts.
  • Require a conservation easement for the blueberry fields to be held by a nonprofit or govt. entity

Ask to be added to the notification list.

Ask that your comments be put on the record for all permit applications associated with the projects. Pending permits include road clearing and grading, forestland conversion, short plat, and SEPA determination. There may be others as well.

You may want also to contact MC Construction to let them know how you feel about their change of plans:

MC Construction Consultants, Inc
PO Box 8478
Lacey, WA 98509
(360) 456-6307
julie@mcconstruction.com

UPDATED June 20: Click here for a copy of our flyer regarding this development. Thank you for any assistance you can provide with the distribution of this flyer to your neighbors and to local organizations with which you may be affiliated.

UPDATED June 30: The Thurston County Agricultural Advisory Committee has weighed in with a letter expressing concern over the use and access of the portions of the blueberry farm contained within the two resource parcels of these development applications. Read their letter here.

Thanks for taking the time to preserve what’s good about our neighborhood.

Not All Shellfish Harvesting is Good for the Sound

It is recognized that healthy shellfish beds are a sign of a generally healthy shoreline. Along our shorelines, residents enjoy not only recreational clamming, but many homeowners either lease their shorelines to shellfish harvesters or seed their shorelines themselves. However, not all harvesting methods are created equal. In particular, Griffin Neighborhood Association member Paul Allen has brought attention to the effects of intensive geoduck harvesting. What he has discovered vividly demonstrates the undesirable effects of intensive aquaculture, both in the short term, in the form of reduced recreational value of the shoreline and in increased risks to public safety, but also in the long-term deterioration of shoreline health and water quality.

Before you lease your shoreline or engage in intensive geoduck harvesting yourself, give some consideration to others who live along and use the shorelines and the ill effects of your harvesting operation on the health of the Puget Sound. In at least one instance, also, we are hearing from a real estate professional the result of intensive geoduck harvesting will be diminished property value.

According to Paul Allen, “From a purely economical standpoint, I will earn more equity over 4-5 five years by keeping my shoreline as pristine and desirable as possible, than I ever could by degrading it for the purpose of short term financial gain associated with intensive geoduck farming.”

We’ll continue to pass more information on to visitors of our web site at http://www.griffinneighbors.org/ as we obtain it.

Read more about the effects of intensive geoduck harvesting on one community’s shoreline at Save Our Shoreline.

UPDATE: Here’s an additional web site, from a group near Zangle Cove, which details the issues around commerical geoduck farming.

More information on the overall state strategy to protect shellfish areas in Puget Sound is available on the Puget Sound Action Team’s Web site.

Unsustainable growth is easier than the more intelligent alternative

The headline “Growth vs. Sound’s Health” (The Olympian, April 30, 2006) speaks volumes about the problem of growth management. There is no growth – no long-term, sustainable growth – without a healthy Puget Sound. I add to that list healthy groundwater supplies and rural habitat.

I realize the value of my property only exists in my ability to some day find a buyer for it. If I allow development that will despoil groundwater, remove animal habitat or pollute the sound so severely as to kill off most aquatic life, the value of my property will decline. We will have killed the goose that laid the golden egg; the very things that attracted us to this spot will be gone.

Like many of The Olympian’s readers, my property is my home. It’s where my family and I live, and not merely a parcel I own from afar and from which I will some day log every stick of lumber and sell off for development of high-density housing.

The pro-development position of politicians such as Kevin O’Sullivan and the overheated rhetoric of the farm bureau and Olympia Master Builders lack any vision for a future beyond the next election cycle or the next year’s profit margins.

Unsustainable growth is easy. Sustainable growth is the more intelligent approach. If it really does come down to “Growth vs. Sound’s Health,” then we’ve already squandered our property values and it’s just a matter of time before some of us will be left holding the bag with all roads leading out of Thurston County.

Mark Messinger, Olympia
reprinted from The Olympian, May 16, 2006

Evergreen Students Solicit Support for Composting Toilet Project

My name is Jillian Simpson and I am a sophomore at The Evergreen State College in the Ecological Agriculture program. This quarter we are studying composting systems. Two other students and I (Stephanie Techner, a junior, and Christine Burgess, a graduating senior) are working on an independent project to install a composting toilet.

Although students have tried to install a composting toilet for many years on campus, this is the first time it has been approved across the board. In the past, students have only been granted the right to install a composting toilet as a demonstration or educational toilet, and the public would not have access to it. Our project has been approved to install the composting toilet in the community garden.

The community garden is an area of the 24-acre organic farm that is designated for use by community members and students to grow their own food, and there is currently no toilet facility available nearby. The composting toilet system that is allowed by law is expensive and we currently are short on funds.

Our system is being purchased from National Sanitation Foundation (NSF), who has agreed to discount the toilet by $598.00. The Thurston County Health Department has a rebate offer once the toilet is installed, for $350.00. This leaves us with a minimum cost of $1046.00 for the toilet system.

We have designed a permanent structure to house the composting toilet system in which, according to permitting, must be constructed of new, rather than recycled materials. We designed the structure to find the lowest cost option while still allowing for expansion and portability, to meet the needs of future generations. The school has donated solar panels and minimal funds for building materials. The structure will be constructed by students in the Practices of Sustainable Agriculture program who will be educated about proper building techniques. We have requested and received donations and are holding a fundraiser for the remaining costs of the building materials.

The purpose of this communication is in request of your financial assistance, or your assistance with informing others who can assist us financially. The installation of this composting toilet will benefit you directly by providing you with assurance that students and community members will be educated about ecological methods of managing their waste. It will also assure that community garden attendees will have composting toilet facilities nearby.

We are really addressing a major problem: More often we are educated about natural foods and then we avoid our waste by flushing it away. Inside our structure will be educational material pertaining to topics such as: ecological and human health risks associated with using the conventional human waste system, and information and directions for home composting toilet options.

We planned on having the project completed by the end of the quarter, which is June 9th 2006. Because of the brevity of our timeline, our lack of funds, and the importance of this project, we are requesting for your consideration in assisting us. The total amount of funds we are lacking is $1046.00.

Contributions would be tax deductible if desired.

If you can assist, please contact either myself, Jillian Simpson, at (360) 292-0231, or our academic advisor, Dr. Steven Scheuerell, at (360) 866-6000 ext. 6063.

Thank you again, for taking the time to review our request.

Congressman Brian Baird to Hold Online Town Hall Meeting Wednesday, May 24

Congressman Brian Baird will be holding his first online town hall meeting, or e-town hall, this Wednesday, May 24th from 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. PST. Baird is encouraging interested citizens to submit questions in advance by visiting his website, www.house.gov/baird and clicking on “E-Town Hall.”

You can then participate live by going to his website from 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. PST on Wednesday, May 24.

If you are unable to participate in the live e-town hall, a full transcript of the online town hall meeting will be available on his website at the conclusion of the meeting.