What 3.6 Degrees Means for Snowpack in the Western Cascades

Rising temperatures will reduce the peak snowpack in the Cascades slopes east of Eugene, Ore. by more than fifty percent, according to a climate study Oregon State University researchers published Thursday.

Climate models from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predict temperatures in the Pacific Northwest will rise about 3.6 degrees by the mid-century. That projected increase matters in the western Cascades, where a few degrees is often the difference between a snowy day and a rainy day.

Oregon State University Researcher Eric Sproles developed a sensitive model to predict how that temperature increase will affect the McKenzie River, which starts near Mount Washington and is a major tributary of the Willamette.

Sproles says the McKenzie River serves as a good representative example of a Cascades watershed, and that the river had a good historic record he could use to refine climate modes: 21 years of past data on snowpack, temperatures, and water levels.

Sproles found that climate change won’t affect the total amount of precipitation much. But it will reduce the snowpack that feeds the river in the spring and summer by 56 percent.

“The loss of snowpack is going to be 2.5 times bigger than the largest reservoirs that are in the basin right now,” he says.

Researchers with the University of Washington’s Climate Impact Group have modeled similar changes in the snowpack in the Washington cascades, with implications for rivers like the Columbia and Yakima.

Lara Whitely Binder, an outreach specialist with the Climate Impact Group, says numerous studies have predicted reductions in snowpack at moderate elevations, decreased summer flows in snowpack dominated river basins on the west side, and changes in the timing of peak flows in Northwest rivers.

“There’s a consistent story line emerging from these studies. It increases the robustness of the science,” she says. “For people working in the central Oregon area, it’s always helpful to have a study that relates to the watershed you’re working in.”

More than 200,000 people, including Eugene residents, depend on the McKenzie for drinking water, according to the McKenzie River Watershed Council.

The Willamette tributary also supports agriculture and salmon runs.

Sproles says he hopes his study can be used as a tool to help plan for the future:

“This is not a doom and gloom story; it’s more of a cautionary tale. We do not live in a precipitation limited environment by any means. The shifts in precipitation will be expressed in streamflow, but we’re fortunate. We have water. But we might have to change our decisions in how we use that water, especially the timing.”

Source: http://earthfix.opb.org/water/article/what-36-degrees-means-for-snowpack-in-the-western-/

Public Shows Overwhelming Opposition to Shasta Dam Raise at Workshop

By Dan Bacher. Crossposted from DailyKos

One thing became became clear from the public workshop regarding the proposed Shasta Dam raise held at the Holiday Inn in Redding on July 16 –  the vast majority of people, ranging from Winnemem Wintu Tribe members to local business owners, oppose the raising of the dam.

When one woman in the crowd asked for a show of hands of those who oppose the dam raise and those who support it, the overwhelming majority of the 250 people in the audience raised their hands in opposition. Only a small number of hands went up in support of the controversial plan. Continue reading

Federal reports confirm Delta tunnel plan not based on sound science

by Dan Bacher: crossposted from http://www.fishsniffer.com

In March, California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird claimed that the controversial Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDC) to build two giant peripheral tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta is driven by “science.”

However, on July 18, scientists from federal lead agencies for the BDCP EIR/EIS – the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Marine Fisheries Service – exposed the hollowness of Laird’s claims that the BDCP is based on “science.” Continue reading

Bay Delta plan costs triple

Sacramento, CA – Restore the Delta (RTD) coalition have warned that Gov. Brown’s administration – in its rush to build Peripheral Tunnels that would drain the Delta and doom salmon and other Pacific fisheries – is refusing to follow its own guidelines for determining whether a project’s benefits outweigh its costs.

The latest cost estimate for building Peripheral Tunnels has tripled from initial estimates, and not a shovel has yet been turned. “The first estimate was $4 billion, and is now more than $14 billion,” said Jane Wagner-Tyack, RTD policy analyst. “The cost keeps escalating and the benefits diminishing.”

Three separate analyses of the costs, benefits and financial burdens of the proposed Bay-Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), and its Peripheral Tunnels all found it costs more than its benefits, and that it will impose a heavy financial burden on California businesses and families. Analysis by ECONorthwest suggest that the project could cost a typical Los Angeles family up to $9,000.

Read more at http://www.restorethedelta.org/restore-the-delta-calls-for-cost-benefit-analysis-of-bdcp/


Environmental assessment reveals true costs of Shasta Dam raise

A Water Resources Investigation Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SLWRI DEIS) released by the United States Bureau of Reclamation can not hide the destructive impacts of the proposed increase in the height of the Shasta Dam, argues Friends of the River in a recent briefing. These include the threats it poses to the Winnemem Wintu Homeland for a second time.

The Bureau claims that spending more than a billion dollars to raise Shasta Dam by 18.5 feet will provide additional water that will be used to provide cold water downstream for threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead.

The report ignores the history of the Sacramento River salmon that only began their downward spiral towards extinction when Shasta Dam was completed in 1945, thereby blocking the river’s historic spawning grounds for salmon and steelhead.

It is also contradicted by research, referenced in the DEIS, by a report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) that states unequivocally that raising the dam will have negligible benefits for endangered fish. According to the USFWS, the raised dam will provide no fishery benefits 90% of the time. That’s because dams don’t produce water, they simply capture it when rain falls from the sky and flows downhill. If the rain doesn’t fall (as often happens during California’s chronic drought periods), there will be little or no additional water stored behind the raised dam to benefit salmon.

Friends of the River also note that the report reveals the real reason for the dam raise – “every extra drop of water stored behind the raised dam will be sold to federal water contractors downstream, with 77% of the water sold for export south of the Delta.” Which means the Shasta Dam raise is directly tied the proposal by water contractors and Governor Jerry Brown to build enormous twin tunnels under the Delta, which will divert large amounts of fresh water from the Sacramento River (much of it stored upstream behind Shasta Dam) for export to large corporate farms in the San Joaquin Valley and Tulare Basin.

The Winnemem Wintu tribe lost both their villages and many sacred sites when the Shasta Dam was erected. A dam raise of about 18-feet would permanently or seasonally flood an estimated 39 sacred sites along the McCloud River, including Puberty Rock, and would essentially end their ability to practice their culture and religion.

Ratepayer advocates, fluoride foes seek to take water oversight away from Portland council

PORTLAND, Oregon — A coalition of ratepayer advocates and water-purity activists filed an initiative petition Thursday to take the management of Portland’s water and sewers from the City Council.

If approved by voters, an elected board of seven unpaid representatives would oversee the city’s water, sewer and storm-water systems.

What role would be left for Mayor Charlie Hales and the four city commissioners? “None,” said Kent Craford, one of the chief petitioners. “That’s the point. We’re removing professional politicians from any oversight or involvement into Portland’s water and sewer system.”

Advocates must collect almost 30,000 valid signatures to get the initiative on the May ballot.

Water and sewer rates have each jumped by 160 percent since 2000, and advocates assign partial blame to expensive failures — like $30 million lost on a failed billing system — and politicians dipping into Water Bureau funds to pay for projects unrelated to water-and-sewer service, such as downtown public bathrooms.

“We’re really confident that ratepayers are ticked, and they’re ready to do something about it,” said Craford, who is also the director of the Portland Water Users Coalition, which includes Portland businesses that use lots of water.

Supporters of cheaper rates are joined in the initiative by activists who thwarted the city’s effort to put fluoride in the drinking water and are upset by the city’s recent decision to stop fighting a federal mandate to cover open reservoirs.

City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, the only member of City Council who wants to keep battling on the reservoir issue, said in a statement that she opposes the proposed Portland Public Water District, even though she has voted against rate increases the past three years.

“Portlanders may assume I’d favor the proposed Utility District,” she said. “Nothing could be further from the truth. I do not support the creation of a new experimental body which would take control of our precious Bull Run watershed, and of our water and environmental management systems that are the envy of the nation.”

Under Portland’s commission form of government, the mayor and four city commissioners share executive branch duties, with each running at least one city bureau. Commissioner Nick Fish took over the Water Bureau last month, and Fritz said he deserves a “fair opportunity” to stabilize rates and improve accountability.

Fish said he’s confident voters will see the initiative as a “misguided effort” when its merits are debated in the spring.

“We have the best drinking water of any city in America, and for 115 years we’ve been good stewards of the Bull Run watershed,” he said. “What’s the problem we’re trying to fix? Is it a disagreement with the EPA over reservoirs? Well, occupy the EPA, but why create a new layer of government.”

Source: http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/abd9ba3fbbef4abcb6f485b7496c2f99/OR–Portland-Water

Judge upholds Klamath Tribes’ water rights

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. — A Klamath Falls judge denied a request Tuesday to keep the state of Oregon from shutting off irrigation water in the upper Klamath Basin.

That leaves intact a state decision recognizing the senior water rights of the Klamath Tribes.

The water-rights decision came down this spring, as drought began to sap the water supplies in the high-desert basin.

The tribes have used their water rights to protect threatened fish, and state workers have been shutting off irrigation water in the upper basin where ranchers use the water to green up pastures and grow hay.

Judge Cameron Wogan ruled Tuesday against putting the water-rights decision on hold while it’s appealed. He said that could take five to 10 years.

A stay would give the ranchers water in violation of the “first come, first served” principle of Western water law, he said.

Granting a stay, Wogan said, “would elevate petitioners over everyone so they would be the only ones to get extra water if downstream rights are curtailed as they request.”

The ranchers have four cases before Wogan. He rejected stay requests in two. He said the plaintiff in a third may want to consider withdrawing to avoid exposure to liability for damages if a stay were granted but the appeal eventually failed. He set a hearing next week to schedule arguments in a fourth that still has a chance to make arguments for a stay.

The water-rights decision from the Oregon Water Resources Department came after nearly four decades of litigation, and it gave the tribal group a dominant position in the basin’s long water struggle.

It also turned the tables on upper-basin irrigators. During a drought in 2001 that brought national attention to the Klamath Basin, irrigators in the lower basin bore the brunt of irrigation cutbacks, while the upper-basin irrigators had the water they needed.

But this year, because of the water-rights decision, the upper-basin irrigators have less senior water rights and are facing shut-offs.

Source: http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2021405593_klamathbasinxml.html


Niagara Bottling, LLC, Plans to Bottle Tacoma Water

The News Tribune, Tacoma, Wash.

Pierce County officials announced Wednesday that California-based Niagara Bottling LLC has plans to develop a $50 million, 311,000-square-foot bottling plant on 18 acres at the privately owned Randles Business Park in the Frederickson Industrial Area.

Published: June 27, 2013 at 12:14 a.m. PDT — Updated: June 27, 2013 at 12:14 p.m. PDT

Pierce County officials announced Wednesday that California-based Niagara Bottling LLC has plans to develop a $50 million, 311,000-square-foot bottling plant on 18 acres at the privately owned Randles Business Park in the Frederickson Industrial Area.

Following the expected approval by the board of Tacoma Public Utilities and the Tacoma City Council, construction might begin as early as this fall with an opening early next year.

To begin, the plant will provide 36 jobs with the expectation of future expansion.

The deal came as a result of a partnership between state, county, utility and development officials.

“Financially it made good sense from a transportation standpoint, and the proximity to our customers,” said Pamela Anderson Cridlebaugh, Niagara’s director of legal affairs, on Wednesday.

The company sells its own brand of bottled water, but the bulk of its business concerns bottling water under private labels for major retail chains.

“Ninety percent of our customers have a private label,” Cridlebaugh said.

At full production, the company will become Tacoma Water’s third largest customer, said Chris Gleason, Tacoma Public Utilities spokeswoman.

Current customers need not worry about a shortage, she said. In fact, Niagara’s business might mean a reduction in future water rates.

“We’re talking about one million gallons a day,” Gleason said. Only Simpson Tacoma Kraft, at 16.06 million gallons daily, and the City of Fife, at 1.41 million gallons, consume a larger amount.

The average commercial customer consumes 1,258 gallons daily, while the average residential customer consumes 241 gallons, she said.

A contract put before the utilities board on Wednesday mandates a minimum monthly payment of $9,614.43, with a discount for the first 7.9 million gallons per month rising to the established commercial rate after that amount is used.

“We will be making money for sure,” Gleason said.

The utility, she said, has “got a lot of extra water. If we don’t sell this water, it’s just going to sit in a pipe. Eventually, this will help lower the price for everyone. It won’t be immediate, but over time, yes.”

“Pierce County was extremely welcoming,” Cridlebaugh said. “It seemed like an easy place to do business, with permitting, and the county seemed very transparent.”

The company searched several sites in the Northwest, she said. An Oregon location was the primary final competition with at least two others in Pierce County.

“We’re really excited,” Cridlebaugh said. “We take our expansion search seriously. Pierce County meets our needs geographically, and also has that community fit, that intangible. (It) seems to match well our mission and principles.”

Established 50 years ago, Niagara operates a dozen bottling plants in nine states from California to Florida. The Frederickson plant will be the first in the Northwest.

“It’s a great company, and it’s going to be a good addition to the county,” said Susan Suess, senior vice president of the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County.

“My first inkling that they were interested was last December, and it was not from the company but from the real estate community. A broker out of King County had a client that was looking. They contacted Tacoma Water and the county directly, saying they wanted to find a place that had adequate water. We didn’t know who the client was.”

In February, she said, the local team met with 10 Niagara representatives who had come north to visit a potential site.

“They were as interested in having a good fit with our community as with the site itself,” Suess said.

Other meetings followed, she said.

“We did a back-and-forth look at each other, and it became clear that they are a company that has great values. There’s still a bit of due diligence to do before the deal is finally inked.”

In a county news release Wednesday, Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy said, “Niagara Bottling is a great addition to the local business community. Niagara is a national leader in the industry, and building a bottling plant in Pierce County provides great access to the Northwest market.”

Gov. Jay Inslee stated in the release, “Other Northwest states were in the running for this innovative operation and these great jobs. Our Commerce Department worked in close partnership with Pierce County, the EDB for Tacoma-Pierce County and our business community over seven months to demonstrate the reasons why this community is a perfect fit.”

C.R. Roberts: 253-597-8535
Kathleen Cooper: 253-597-8546

The Last Breath


 Photograph by Kseniya Saberzhanova, 17, of Russia.

National Geographic, Your Choice Public Vote winner.

National Geographic sponsors a children’s photograph contest, whose goal is for children to share how they see the planet through photographs.

Anacortes mayor’s debate focuses on proposed Tethys bottling plant

Skagit Valley Herald
Mount Vernon, Wash.

Friday, July 12, 2013


Anacortes mayor’s debate focuses on jobs, Tethys 


ANACORTES — The four candidates for Anacortes’ mayoral seat offered their views on strategic planning, economic development and the Tethys water bottling plant proposal Thursday afternoon during their second debate leading up to the Aug. 6 primary election.

Hosted by the Anacortes Chamber of Commerce, the debate focused largely on how candidates Brian Geer, Mitch Everton, Laurie Gere and Mayor Dean Maxwell plan to bolster the local economy and bring living‑wage jobs to Anacortes.

A rift emerged between candidates on what has become the largest issue of the election: The proposal by Tethys Enterprises to build a 1-million-square-foot beverage bottling plant south of March Point.

Maxwell has received some criticism of how he handled the Tethys proposal.

Without public input, the Anacortes City Council in 2010 agreed to a contract with the company to provide it 5 million gallons of water per day from the Skagit River through 2050. Anacortes has rights to 55 million gallons of water per day and currently uses approximately 21 million gallons per day.


“Tethys was terrible policy,” candidate Mitch Everton said when asked about the proposal during the debate.

“To tell the community that their input is inappropriate to me is just wrong,” Everton said. Everton said his support for the Tethys proposal rests on how many living‑wage jobs the plant can support.

He said Tethys hasn’t yet provided enough information on the plant to make an informed judgment about whether it will benefit the community. But he said the process is likely past the stage where citizens will have any meaningful effect on its outcome.

“Our mayor unilaterally thought Tethys was a good idea for Anacortes, and that’s why it’s coming here,” Everton said.

At an Anacortes Chamber of Commerce meeting last September, Tethys CEO Steve Winter said the plant would provide at least 540 jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the national average salary for beverage manufacturing workers at $40,250 annually, though Winter said that salary would be slightly higher in the Pacific Northwest.

Gere said one of the city’s failures regarding the Tethys proposal was that no strategic plan existed to determine whether the plant would provide what the community wanted or needed before it came to Anacortes.

Like Everton, she raised concerns about the plant’s possible environmental effects and how additional trains could affect traffic. She said the lack of communication between City Hall and citizens also is problematic.

“It’s not that it’s a good or bad idea; it’s that we were never asked,” Gere said.

Maxwell defended his actions in helping bring the Tethys proposal to Anacortes by saying that the city’s municipal utility has an obligation to provide water to businesses that locate there. He said the contract was put in place to make sure the company sets up a local manufacturing facility instead of transporting the water elsewhere.

Maxwell acts as mayor, city administrator and head of the city’s water utility.

He said he took the opportunity when it was presented and is looking toward further environmental and project reviews for the company to make more specific plans about the plant known.

“It’s six miles out of town. It’s in the perfect place. You’ll never see it … ” Maxwell said. “It is our future.”

Geer, who has served as an Anacortes city councilman for eight years, said he has supported the Tethys proposal since the beginning because it would provide living-wage jobs.

“If we want to move forward and have family-wage jobs, we have to have facilities to support it. And those facilities require truck and rail traffic,” Geer said.

He agreed with Maxwell that the city has an obligation to provide water to businesses that locate there.

Geer said he voted to move the process forward to get a better idea of what was being proposed.

Economic development plans 

Other questions at the debate focused on how candidates will support the creation of family-wage jobs in Anacortes and how larger economic development plans would be structured.

Everton said the first step is to develop a strategic plan that includes the community’s vision for desired industries and development, a road map and goals and strategies needed to achieve a successful outcome. He said his focus is to target entrepreneurial CEOs in those industries, streamline the business approval processes and consider forming an economic development organization.

Gere said she wants to form a two-part marketing strategy for the city; one is an individual or firm actively seeking new businesses to locate there, while another is installed in City Hall, making the transition to Anacortes as easy as possible.

She said she wants to emphasize Anacortes strengths by expanding development in health care, information technology and marine manufacturing.

Like the other challengers, Geer said a strategic vision for the city is needed first.

The Port of Anacortes already is working in economic development, and the Chamber of Commerce is doing a good job bringing business to the city, he said. Broader community development would help leverage the city’s current assets.

Maxwell said over the past 19 years he’s been mayor, incremental improvements to infrastructure — including a new library, police station and water treatment plant — have provided a good basis for economic development. He said taxes from the refineries have supported schools and police and fire departments, while extremely low property taxes have provided incentive for businesses to locate here.

Ballots for the primary election go out to voters on July 17, and the primary election is held Aug. 6. The two top candidates will then square off in the general election Nov. 5.