Conservation Notes, April 2019

The first four numbered items below are on the Skagit Audubon board meeting agenda for April 2, 2019.

  1. Audubon Washington priorities for the 2019 WA legislative session

For updates by the Audubon state office staff, go to http://wa.audubon.org/conservation/legislative-session-2019 and click on “Weekly Legislative Updates”. The updates also describe other legislation Audubon is supporting or opposing. The following notes are derived from updates prepared by Adam Maxwell, Audubon Washington’s Government Relations Director.

  • 100% clean energy standard

      Several more committee votes are needed, but this legislation continues to move ahead. It sets targets for phasing out fossil-fuel generated electricity in Washington.

  • Clean fuel standard

            HB 1110 has been scheduled for a public hearing in Senate Transportation Committee on Thursday, April 4. Because this bill will face an uphill battle in the Senate, Audubon   Washington is calling on all Audubon members to send a customized email to their Senators asking them to support Clean Fuels.

  • Enhanced building efficiency standards

            HB 1257 is expected to come to the floor for a full vote in the coming days.

  • Fully funding the Department of Fish and Wildlife's budget request

      Audubon Washington supports WDFW’s 2019-2021 budget request as essential for supporting recovery of listed species and protecting wildlife diversity. At this writing legislation (HB 1708) is moving forward that would modestly increase license fees for    hunting and fishing to supplement revenues from the state’s general fund. Write your   state legislators urging support for this bill. Audubon has information about the WDFW budget and HB 1708 at  http://wa.audubon.org/sites/g/files/amh546/f/static_pages/attachments/dfwbudget_impact s_3.28.pdf .

  • Cap and Trade

      Senator Reuven Carlyle introduced a bill (​SB 5981) that would create a cap and trade system on carbon emissions in Washington state linking to cap and trade markets in other            jurisdictions. Adam Maxwell writes, “Audubon Washington is eager to work with stakeholders to continue to develop this policy to equitably maximize emissions reductions.”

As a member of the Environmental Priorities Coalition (EPC), Audubon Washington also supports the coalition’s priorities. The 100% clean energy standard on the EPC list is the same as the similarly named item on Audubon’s list above. The other items on the EPC list include:

  • Orca Protection

            The bills in this package are still moving forward. They relate to increasing the number of chinook to support the diet of orcas, reducing toxic pollution in the Salish Sea, and reducing vessel noise.

  • Plastic Bags Ban

            SB 5323 passed out of the House Environment & Energy Committee on Monday, March 26 and is scheduled for a public hearing in the House Committee on Finance on April 2.

  • Oil Spill Prevention

​HB 1578 passed out of the Senate Committee on Environment, Energy, and Technology and has been referred to the Senate Ways & Means Committee.

On any of these bills it would be helpful to contact your state senator and representatives asking for their support. Use the state legislature’s website (http://leg.wa.gov/. “How to comment on a bill”: https://app.leg.wa.gov/pbc/) or during working hours call the legislative hotline (1-800-562-6000). The legislative session is scheduled to end April 28th.

  1. SWIFT Center environmental clean-up and other Vaux’s Swift matters

(SWIFT, Sedro-Woolley Innovation for Tomorrow Center), is the official name for the former Northern State Hospital property now owned and managed by the Port of Skagit.)

I attended the March 27, 2019, public meeting in Sedro-Woolley at which the Department of Ecology and consultant Maul, Foster, Alongi outlined the results of investigating the old Northern State Hospital site for toxic pollutants and presented initial plans for clean-up. Test holes through the pavement near the power house and smokestack revealed petroleum residue from spills over the years. Because the area is capped with pavement, it is likely the contaminated soils, which are not leaching, will be left in place, and there will be no disturbance to the stack.

The significance of the stack adjacent to the powerhouse, from an Audubon perspective, is that it is a designated Important Bird Area because of its use by Vaux’s Swift as a migratory roost site. Although the swifts have apparently not used the site during the last several springs and falls, they could resume doing so any year, and we should continue to check at least several times each migratory season. As each year, I wrote to the Job Corps Director, whose program controls the site, and obtained permission for entering the area to do swift surveys. As in the past, it is mandatory to check in and check out at the security office and to not wander into areas other than the vicinity of the powerhouse. I should note that volunteers are also needed to do swift checks and, we hope, counts at the Sedro-Woolley Post Office and Vic’s 66 antique store in downtown Sedro-Woolley where swifts have used the stacks at least to some degree the last few years. We should begin counts in April and continue through May.

On March 13, I attended a meeting of the Save Our Swifts Committee, headed by Vaux’s Swift expert extraordinaire Larry Schwitters, and comprised of representatives from Seattle, Pilchuck, East Side, and Skagit Audubon societies. Larry presented an overview of some migratory roost stacks along the route between California and Washington where swifts face problems, such as blocked entrances, threats of stack demolition, etc., and what is being done about those problems. Overall, Vaux’s Swift numbers seem to be holding fairly steady. In regard to their not using the Northern State stack, there was