Sunday, March 19, 2017

Continúa búsqueda de fuente de brillo de aceite en el río Columbia

Columbia River Mystery Sheen

Equipos de respuesta de emergencia colocaron un auge en el Río Columbia, cerca de Wenatchee esta mañana para contener un brillo en el río. Los equipos han estado investigando desde el viernes y no pueden localizar la fuente de donde viene la sustancia.

El brillo del aceite primero fue descubierto en el río del viernes por la noche y se informó de un olor a diesel en la zona entre las calles Chehalis y Thurston en Wenatchee. Los esfuerzos para determinar de donde viene el brillo incluye inspecciones de un distribuidor de combustible cercanas, una estación de ferrocarril BNSF, una búsqueda rigurosa a través de arquetas y tubos de desagüe y una cámara. Ninguno de estos esfuerzos reveló la fuente. 

Los respondedores de derrames ecología recolectaron muestras del aceite para hacer pruebas con la esperanza de que ayudara a identificar la fuente.

Los equipos también realizaron una investigación sobre los impactos el sábado. Personal del Departamento de Washington de pesca y vida silvestre determinaron que ninguno de los animales de la cercanía parecía estar cubierto por el aceite.

"Queremos contener y recuperar el mayor contenido de la sustancia como sea posible," dijo Jay Carmony, respondedor del derrame que estuvo en las cercanías del rio. "Combustible Diesel y productos similares pueden ser difíciles de recuperar porque son ligeros y se evaporan rápidamente."

Carmony dijo que los vientos rápidos y fuertes han estado presentando problemas de seguridad para los equipos de respuesta, pero los esfuerzos continuarán y se están considerando nuevas estrategias para encontrar la fuente del brillo.

Boom placed on Columbia River to contain mystery sheen

Columbia River Mystery Sheen
Emergency response crews placed a boom on the Columbia River near Wenatchee early Sunday morning to contain an oil sheen that is mysteriously getting into the river. Crews have been investigating since Friday and are unable locate the source of the petroleum-like substance.

The oil sheen was first spotted on the river Friday evening and a diesel odor was reported in the area between Thurston and Chehalis Streets in Wenatchee. First responders included Chelan County Emergency Management, Chelan County Fire District 1, Chelan Pubic Utilities, City of Wenatchee, Washington Department of Ecology, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is supporting resources for investigation and clean up.

Efforts to determine where the sheen was coming from included inspections of a nearby fuel distributor, a BNSF rail-car switch station, a rigorous search through manholes and drain pipes, and an underwater camera. None of these efforts revealed the source. Ecology spill responders collected samples of the sheen for testing in hopes it will help identify the source.

Crews also conducted a day-long assessment of shoreline impacts Saturday. Help from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife was enlisted to determine if any fish, birds, or other wildlife were affected by the sheen. Ducks, geese, a river otter, and a marmot were seen and none appeared to be coated by the sheen.

“We want to contain and recover as much of the substance as we can,” said Jay Carmony, on-site Ecology spill response lead. “Diesel fuel and similar products can be difficult to recover because they are light and evaporate quickly.”

Carmony said that the fast-moving river and high winds have been presenting safety issues for response crews but that efforts will continue and new strategies are being considered to find the source of the sheen.

For ongoing updates about the incident, visit Ecology’s incident web page.


Camille St. Onge, Incident Information Officer, 360-584-6501, @ecologyWA, @WenatcheeCity

Friday, March 17, 2017

Commercial net pen aquaculture planning meeting March 23

You are invited to attend the next planning meeting for updating the Recommendations for Managing Commercial Net Pen Aquaculture in Washington’s straits and estuaries.

Join us in person or by phone

Those interested may attend in person or by phone. Directions on how to participate through the conference call are listed below.
When: March 23
Time: 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Where: Washington Department of Ecology headquarters auditorium
Address: 300 Desmond Drive SE, Lacey, WA, 98503

State employees learn more about day-to-day operations
from Keven Bright of Cooke Aquaculture Pacific.
Photo by Lori LeVander/Ecology.

Updating the planning tools for commercial net pens

We are working with the Washington departments of Fish & Wildlife and Agriculture to update the state's 30-year-old management guidelines for commercial net pen aquaculture.

Through this project, we aim to deliver modern scientific information to guide state agency, tribal and local government decision makers in siting, managing, and regulating net pens in Washington’s marine waters.

The final report will provide recommendations only - not a rule or law. Regulatory agencies will determine how these recommendations will be incorporated into their decisions around managing commercial net pen aquaculture. A key objective is to provide tools that enable decision makers to protect native Pacific salmon.

Learn more about the project on our Recommendations for Managing Net Pen Aquaculture webpage. Subscribe to the project listserv to receive email updates.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Weigh in on the Volkswagen settlement

Washington is eligible to receive $112.7 million in Volkswagen settlement money to reduce air pollution from transportation. Ecology has drafted a goal, guiding principles, and project priorities for the settlement money and wants you to weigh in. These will be included in the state’s plan for use of the money. 

An investigation by the EPA revealed, and Volkswagen admitted, the company manufactured diesel vehicles with software that cheated emission tests by only turning on the vehicle’s emission control systems when the car was being tested. As a result, the affected vehicles are emitting up to 40 times the permitted levels of nitrogen oxides. Volkswagen entered into multiple settlements with the EPA for violating the federal Clean Air Act. Washington has about 22,000 of the affected cars registered in the state.

Gov. Jay Inslee has designated Ecology as the state agency that will lead efforts associated with the settlement money. We are working in partnership with the Washington Departments of Transportation and Commerce to develop a plan that outlines how the state will use the money. 

There are multiple settlements. Which one is Ecology working on?

The settlement agreements that Volkswagen entered into have three different tracks: 
  • Mitigation Trust Fund: Reducing air pollution from transportation.
  • Zero Emission Vehicle Investment Fund: Investments in electric vehicle infrastructure and outreach to increase awareness of them.
  • Consumer Relief: Buy backs and repairs for owners of the affected vehicles. 

In this blog post we are focusing on the Mitigation Trust Fund and what we are doing Washington. Volkswagen will administer the other two parts of the settlement. To read more about the Mitigation Fund and the other settlements, visit the backgrounder page on our website.

Weigh in on our the goal, principles, and priorities

There are very specific requirements that states have to include in their plans. One of the
Link to survey
requirements is giving the public an opportunity to provide feedback on the approach states are taking for project selection. So, we want to hear what you think about the goal, overarching principles, and project priorities that we will include in Washington’s plan when we draft it.

We have launched a survey that gives people, governments, and groups an opportunity to weigh in. The survey closes 5 p.m., March 23, 2017. Take the 3-minute survey now!


  • Fully mitigate total lifetime excess of nitrogen oxide emissions from affected VW vehicles.


  1. Maximize air quality benefits and improve public health. 
  2. Ensure cost effectiveness.
  3. Benefit sensitive populations and highly-impacted communities. 

Project priorities:

  1. Air quality co-benefits (reducing other pollutants) beyond nitrogen oxide reductions.
  2. Leverage additional funds.
  3. Promote transformational change in vehicle emissions reductions.
  4. Accelerate adoption of electric vehicles.
  5. Use proven technologies.
  6. Accelerate fleet turnover to cleaner engines.
  7. Substantial additional emission reductions.

Funding projects and helping communities

As mentioned, the $112.7 million the state expects to receive has very specific ways the
money can be used. These requirements are clearly outlined in the consent decree. This money would be held separate from the state budget by a trustee and cannot be used to fund other state needs.  


Some communities bear a disproportionate burden of air pollution. By design, the consent decree requires that states fund projects in communities suffering from air pollution. 

As Ecology develops the state’s plan to use the money we will include considerations for suffering communities. And, we’ve incorporated this thinking into our principles we are asking you to weigh in on.


As mentioned, there are very specific requirements around the types of projects states and tribes can fund. 

Eligible uses of the funds include repowering or replacing the following with less-polluting options: 
  • Airport ground support equipment
  • Class 4-7 local trucks
  • Class 4-8 school/shuttle/transit buses
  • Class 8 local freight trucks and port drayage trucks
  • Ferries/tugboats
  • Forklifts and cargo handling equipment at ports
  • Freight switcher locomotives 
  • Shorepower for ocean going vessels
The funds can also be used for: 
  • Light duty zero emission vehicle supply equipment (limited to 15% of funds). 
  • Matching funds for projects eligible under the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA).
States are allowed to invest up to 15 percent of the funds in projects for zero emission vehicle infrastructure, like public charging stations for electric cars. Gov. Inslee has directed
us to maximize the 15 percent to improve electrification of our transportation system which will can reduce air pollution. This will also help achieve our state’s Results Washington goal of 50,000 electric vehicles on the road by the year 2020.  

What’s next and staying informed

There are several steps that need to occur before we can start funding projects. Visit our Volkswagen web page to take a look at the steps.  

In the coming weeks and months we will be offering a variety of ways to stay informed and get involved. Opportunities range from roundtable discussions, webinars, listening sessions, and commenting on our draft plan. Please sign up to receive emails to stay informed. 

If you have specific thoughts you would like to share with Ecology about the Volkswagen settlement and development of the project selection plan, please email us at

Friday, March 3, 2017

Eyes Under Puget Sound: The voucher sheet project

The first page of a voucher sheet
for Lucinoma annulata.
This month, we’re taking a break from our regularly scheduled Critter post to tell you about an exciting venture we’ve been working on here in the benthic lab: the voucher sheet project.


Since 1989, our Marine Sediment Monitoring team has collected over 1,200 different types of sediment-dwelling invertebrates (also known as the benthos) from Puget Sound. As the team’s taxonomists, it is our job to put a name to each little face! We use several methods to be sure we have the names right, one of which is referencing voucher sheets. A voucher sheet is a short document that contains descriptions and photos of each species.

Sort it out

LEFT: A jar of marine worms gets emptied into a dish to
await identification. MIDDLE: In the process of morphotyping.
RIGHT: The completed sample, identified and labeled by species.
It all starts when we sit down at our microscopes and open up jars containing hundreds of tiny preserved animals from our monitoring work in Puget Sound. Each jar gets dumped into a dish, and the animals are “morphotyped” – sorted into piles of similar-looking species based on their physical characteristics. Some species are distinct, and we recognize them right away. Others require delving into books, journals, online references and any other bits of information we can find in order to unravel the mystery of their identities.

A completed voucher sheet for the ostracod Euphilomedes carcharodonta.


Detective work

Searching for taxonomic literature takes a LOT of time, and many references don’t contain illustrations. We’ve set out to help solve this problem by creating a set of Ecology publications called Benthic Invertebrate Voucher Sheets. It’s a large undertaking – we’ve completed 50 and have many more in the works!

A close-up of the feet of the marine worm
Cheilonereis cyclurus shows the tiny hairs
and other features that make it distinct.

What's in a voucher sheet, exactly?

After we do our review of the literature, we create a voucher sheet that includes a basic classification, a general description and most importantly, a list of diagnostic characteristics which set that species apart from other similar-looking species. Using cameras attached to our microscopes, we take photographs of these diagnostic characteristics, even features as teeny as the hairs on a worm’s foot! These high-quality images illustrate exactly what to look for when we examine a specimen.

Benefits for Puget Sound and beyond

By generating accurate data on what species are present in our samples, we can detect changes in the benthos over time as they respond to environmental stressors like those associated with climate change and pollution.

Dany uses a microscope and attached camera to
take a photo of a marine worm in the family Ampharetidae.
Voucher sheets not only help us correctly identify the critters we monitor, but they will also help other scientists doing similar work. Most species we collect aren’t limited to our region - many can be found all the way from Alaska to Mexico.

Scientists working in other regions can access our voucher sheets to help them correctly identify the invertebrates they collect. This is one way to improve taxonomic standardization – that is, making sure animals are identified the same way by taxonomists working in different areas – and expand the body of knowledge about our valuable biological resources.

By: Dany Burgess & Angela Eagleston, Environmental Assessment Program

Critter of the Month

Our benthic taxonomists, Dany and Angela, are scientists who identify and count the benthic (sediment-dwelling) organisms in our samples as part of our Marine Sediment Monitoring Program. We are tracking the numbers and types of species we see in order to understand the health of Puget Sound and to detect any changes over time.

Dany and Angela share their discoveries by bringing us a benthic Critter of the Month. These posts will give you a peek into the life of Puget Sound’s least-known inhabitants. We’ll share details on identification, habitat, life history, and the role each critter plays in the sediment community. Can't get enough benthos? See photos from our Eyes Under Puget Sound collection on Flickr.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Even on the 'dry side' we can have healthy streamsides

Eastern Washington riparian planting symposium a great success

Kent Apostol with Central Klickitat Conservation District shares current research on seedling survival.
Streamside vegetation is important, providing shade along a creek on hot days and refuge to fish and wildlife. Riparian vegetation, or buffers, not only keep streams cool, reduce bank erosion, and dissipate flood energy they can also improve water quality. This is especially true in the drier regions of eastern Washington. 

Naches River habitat restoration
So it isn’t a surprise that reestablishing healthy riparian corridors where they have been lost or degraded is a focus of many stream restoration efforts. 
In eastern Washington, riparian restoration experts face many challenges including poor seedling survival, slow tree growth, disconnected floodplains, livestock damage, and competition from noxious weeds.  And these challenges are all exacerbated in unique ways by the drier and hotter conditions east of the Cascades.

Many grant recipients of the Ecology Water Quality Combined Funding Program have developed new and creative ways to address these challenges.  But there are few forums for them to share what they’ve learned with other professionals, about what works, and what doesn’t.
This communication gap was the catalyst for the 2017 Eastern Washington Riparian Planting Symposium, held last month in partnership with Ecology (Central Region) and the Yakima Basin Fish & Wildlife Recovery Board.  The theme was, Addressing the Unique Challenges of Riparian Restoration East of the Cascades through Shared Ideas, Experiences, and Collaboration.

Weather didn't stop attendees
Originally planned as a small gathering of grant funded recipients, it quickly grew as the need for such an event became apparent.
Soon, we were getting emails from government agencies and the private sector asking if they could attend as well, and we couldn’t say no. The need for a place to share information about riparian planting east of the Cascades was clear, and we are all in this together.

The symposium, held Feb. 16th in Ellensburg, was attended by over 130 natural resources enthusiasts.  The harsh weather conditions across the state kept many more away, but the day was well worth the drive for those who did make it.
“(The symposium) addresses a real need for info sharing, networking, and increased collaboration,” said one attendee. “This area of restoration is evolving and the needs and challenges are changing, too.”
Plant selection, noxious weeds, LIDAR and bird habitat
Eight speakers presented on a wide variety of topics such as selecting plant materials, controlling noxious weeds, factors in seedling establishment, using LIDAR (light detection radar) in planting prioritization, and even bird habitat.

Mike Denny, a lifelong birder, spoke about the importance of riparian buffers to bird species. One attendee later shared that, “(Mike’s information) will help me explain to landowners the multiple benefits of riparian systems.”

Scott Nicolai, with the Yakama Nation, focused on failed projects he has worked on in the past, highlighting the importance of sharing these mistakes, not just our successes.  “Scott Nicolai put it very well about what we have done wrong,” commented one Conservation District attendee. “We cannot go forward without knowing where we have been.”
Another person commented that what they liked most about the day was, “getting to chat with folks on breaks, relating the presentations to work they are doing in other regions, and making contacts for how to integrate lessons learned from other areas into our future projects.”

"I took copious notes so I can share them with others" 

Many attendees commented that they look forward to taking the information back and sharing with others. “I took copious notes on the references provided by (Natural Resources Conservation Service plant expert, Richard Fleenor) so I can share them with others,” said one attendee. 

Ecology’s own Kelsey Collins (Water Resources, Central Region) spoke on water rights as they pertain to irrigating riparian plantings.  Access to water being one of the biggest challenges to planting success, one attendee said of her presentation, “Kelsey Collins really helped shed some light on water permitting that I hope to be putting to use in the near future.”

At the end of the day, a panel discussion with the presenters encouraged even more dialogue between them and the audience on additional topics like controlling reed canary grassl and deterring animal browsing. One participant appreciated hearing multiple solutions to restoration and the panel’s differentiating techniques and points of view.
Overall, the day was a great success and many connections were made. “Would love for this to be a yearly event!” and “Keep it going!” were common themes echoed in feedback we received.

We look forward to planning next year’s symposium!

If you would like to view the pdf’s of the presentations at the 2017 Eastern Washington Riparian Planting Symposium, go to:
If you are interested in being involved in next year’s symposium, please contact Heather Simmons,, 509-454-7207.

Heather Simmons, Water Quality Activity Grant Manager
Ecology, Central Region

Jennifer Hadersberger, Chelan County Natural Resources, talks about using LIDAR (light detection radar).

Scott Nicolai, Yakama Nation, speaks on forum panel led by Alex Conely, facilitating at the podium.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Fecal Matters: A No-Contact Advisory for Swimming and Wading in Kitsap County

BEACH Program Update

On 2/27/2017, Kitsap Public Health District issued a seven-day, no-contact advisory for the Kitsap shoreline of the Hood Canal area near Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, including Kitsap Memorial State Park. This closure is due to a 5,000 gallon sewage spill that was corrected on February 27, 2017. The public is advised to avoid contact with the water in the affected area.

Contact with fecal contaminated waters can result in gastroenteritis, skin rashes, upper respiratory infections, and other illnesses. Children and the elderly may be more vulnerable to waterborne illnesses.

Stay updated about water quality at your beaches by keeping up with us on our blog Fecal Matters, on Facebook, or join our listserv.

Julianne Ruffner, our BEACH Program Manager, is available at 360-407-6154 or for questions.