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March Conservation Update

By Charlotte Persons

Mount St. Helens

USFS Decision to Permit Exploratory Drilling—Please see What You Can Do Today to Prevent Mining at Mount St. Helens for more info on mining on the Goat Mountain on the northeastern boundary of the MSH National Monument.

Pollution into the Green River--Good news! Cascade Forest Conservancy was previously unsuccessful in tracking what happened to the report last October about Acid Mine Drainage in a tributary to the Green River near the proposed Goat Mountain mining site (see Winter 2017 issue of the Whistler). The original report to WA DOE was sent to the federal EPA, and we could not trace it further. On January 25 MSH National Volcanic Monument Manager Ted Huffman told me that the EPA passed the obligation to respond to the report to him. He stated that the U.S. Forest Service will send a team to investigate in the spring when the roads are passable. 

Spirit Lake Access–Another version of the EA will soon appear, perhaps with a new lake tunnel maintenance route proposed by scientists studying the Pumice Plain.

Port Westward Expansion

In 2014, Port Westward proposed doubling its area by converting 837 acres from farmland to industrial uses. Columbia County approved the re-zone. However, Columbia Riverkeeper appealed, and the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals denied the re-zone. Now the Port has initiated the same action again, and on November 29, 2017, Columbia County approved it. In January the County appropriated funds to fight an appeal, but Envision Columbia County has raised funds for that appeal, helped by a generous donation from WHAS. We hope the outcome will repeat that of 2014!

Kalama Methanol Plant

Following the successful appeal of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) by Columbia Riverkeeper, Sierra Club, and Earthjustice, Cowlitz County and the Port of Kalama are now writing a draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS). The FEIS only considered the greenhouse gas emissions of the methanol production process; the draft SEIS will consider life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions, from fracking in Montana to arrival by ship in China. Comments on the scope of that draft SEIS will be accepted Jan. 30, 2018, to March 1, 2018. See http://kalamamfgfacilitysepa.com/. You can also help by sending an email or call to Gov. Inslee, who will be the final arbiter for this project. For talking points, go to Columbia Riverkeeper’s webpage at http://salsa4.salsalabs.com/o/50797/p/dia/action4/common/public/?action_KEY=24033

Long Term Conservation Strategy for Marbled Murrelet

In the Fall 2017 issue of the Whistler I explained some of the next steps in creating the FEIS for this 50-year habitat plan. One proposal by Commissioner Hillary Franz was a Solutions Table, a task force to advise on how to protect MAMU and not negatively affect rural counties’ timber revenue from state trust lands. As of Feb. 8, the state legislature is considering HB 2285 that creates such a task force. It has passed through committees and will next have a floor vote. More about this bill is at http://app.leg.wa.gov/billsummary?BillNumber=2285&Year=2017

Skookumchuck Wind Energy Project

There is no news about when the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for this project in Lewis/Thurston Counties will be published. The Trump administration has issued a “legal opinion” that accidental take of migrating birds is not a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This may affect whether the project’s design will protect migrating eagles and other raptors, but fortunately Marbled Murrelet in nearby habitat will be protected by their federal listing as threatened and state listing as endangered. This article, despite its misleading title, explains more about the project and the concerns of WHAS and other conservation groups:

http://www.chronline.com/black-hills-audubon-society-backs-skookumchuck-wind-turbine-project-notes/article_0c0fc53c-f829-11e7-846d-37551c5c8283.html

Other Conservation Issues:

We are still waiting for further developments on two proposals:  Millennium Coal Terminal in Longview and Pacific Coast Fertilizer Gas-to-Ammonia Plant in Longview.