New Brand, New Content Coming

Over the next few months Cascadia will be working on an exciting new initiative that carries on our traditions in new ways.  You’ll see a new website brand with new content that tells the stories of our natural and cultural history.  We know that by better understanding the past, we can do a better job of sustaining our environment as well as our human communities.

STAY TUNED ! ! !

Central Kitsap County – Major Lands Map

To aid trail planning efforts in the Green Mt./Bremerton/Silverdale triangle, a map featuring the major public and private land ownerships was developed.  The map can be used as a hiking and riding companion guide by importing the map into the “PDF Maps” application which is available in the Apple Apps Store and the Google Play Store.  Once installed on a smartphone, the app will track your location on the map (see download link below), via the phone’s GPS.  In addition, users can set waypoints and placemarks, as well as recording tracks and performing measurements.  More information about the application is available at

http://www.avenza.com/pdf-maps

The DRAFT map is available for download here:

Central Kitsap County Major Lands Map (446)

 

 

 

Boulder: Grasping The Real Flood Potential

The real potential and scope of the recent flooding around Boulder, Colorado is readily apparent in this interactive map:


The red spots on this Google Map, prepared by Cascadia, represent structures within the FEMA floodplain or within 50 ft. of any stream or drainage/irrigation ditch.  As you zoom in on the map, you can begin to see individual structures.  Given these parameters, many structures will not be touched but the total number (from City of Boulder GIS data) tops 5000 buildings, large and small.

The people of Boulder will be in need of assistance for some time to come.  You can help through your service or contributions by visiting Boulder Flood Relief.

Puget Sound Fresh – Forest Products

Most of us Nor’Westers are acquainted with the benefit of locally grown food — it just tastes better.  But beyond the taste buds, local products help support our local economy, and in the bigger picture, it burns a whole lot less fuel than buying vegetables from the Central Valley in California.  OK, we get it.

But one sector of locally grown products that often gets overlooked is forest products.  Did you know that those few 2x4s for the DIY project from the big box store could have been grown hundreds or thousands of miles away from your home?   Forest products that are certified (ie, “green wood”) don’t necessarily come from “local wood”.

If you’re looking for products from NW forests, or “Cascadia Forests”, as we like to say, there’s a new way to find those products.  Cascade Harvest Coalition and Puget Sound Fresh have dedicated a website to finding locally grown products.  While the main emphasis of the website has been on farms, CSAs and Farmers Markets, Puget Sound Fresh is now promoting locally grown forest products.  These products could be anything from chanterelles to timbers.

Tree farms, mills and stores that market locally grown forest products are encouraged to advertise their products through listing on the Puget Sound Fresh website.  If you’re interested, you can submit a website listing form (click HERE for form and directions).

Happy hunting!

Dirty Coal And Algae Fuel: The Start Of A Beautiful Friendship

It seems like another chapter in a well-worn Northwest tradition.  But the continued hand-wringing by environmentalists and coal-port supporters has, in some measure, elevated environmental assessment beyond the tired partisan political talking points.  A recent set of articles in the Pacific Northwest media revealed that a former Executive Director of Washington Conservation Voters is now working with coal-port proponents and is, naturally, in favor of shipping coal to China via Northwest ports.  The Seattle Times article is linked here.

To add even more fuel to the fires of debate, more and more sources, including Cascadia, are pointing out the potential “clean” uses of coal.  One of the more promising uses involves algal synthesis.  You can probe old posts about algae here at Cascadia or explore a newer article by Co.EXIST that mirrors other articles in regard to carbon capture and coal powered energy:

“At first glance, a marriage between algae and coal-fired power plants seems unlikely. One is a natural source of healthy fish oils and biofuel; the other spews greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. But OriginOil, a company that helps algae growers with the incredibly difficult process of extracting oil from their product for commercial use, is bringing the two together as part of a carbon capture project at a coal plant in Australia–and it could be an alternative to risky and expensive underground carbon capture and storage (CCS) schemes.”  The remainder of the article is here.

It’s like a fresh, rain-washed morning in the Northwest when the discussion of these important environmental and economic issues is elevated beyond the simplicity of a “D” or “R” check box.

Kitsap Trails . . And a Non-Motorized Highway

Kitsap County residents have long struggled with the dichotomy of living in a rural setting while at the same time having very few opportunities to enjoy the outdoors on trails.  Kitsap County is attempting to fix this situation with a planning effort that will connect trails from one end of the county to the other.

It’s important to note that this current planning effort is not a plot to take over road and highway capacity for walkers and bikers.  But it may represent a real step forward in the livability quotient of Kitsap County, just across Puget Sound from Seattle.  More details from the Kitsap Sun:

PORT ORCHARD — By the end of the year, Kitsap County will have a comprehensive trail plan outlining routes for walkers, cyclists, and even equestrians from the south end of the county to trails already approved for North Kitsap.

The trail system would include direct routes between Kitsap’s cities and unincorporated population centers to make it safe for bicyclists to get to and from work, as well as routes that spur off from the main connector trails to link to parks and recreational areas.

“It’s looking at creating a nonmotorized highway down through the county and the opportunity to branch off to get to these outside destinations safely,” said county planner Dennis Oost. “The point is not to get in the car to do anything. You can get on your bike or walk from your house.”

This isn’t the first time the county has embarked on a cross-county trail planning effort.

There was the Kitsap Greenways plan, completed in 1996 but never approved by county commissioners. There also was a plan mapping bicycle routes completed in 2001, and later a Mosquito Fleet Trails plan.

Those plans, plus the recently adopted North Kitsap Trails Association plan, will be used in the current effort, Oost said. A draft of the plan will need to be ready for the county’s planning commission by September, Oost said, but using the work of previous planning efforts should mean the group won’t have to reinvent the wheel.

Kitsap County commissioners directed Oost to complete the plan this year after they approved the North Kitsap Trails Association plan in November. Trails association members took years to complete that plan, which was previously called the String of Pearls.

The NK plan aims to connect different parts of the north end using trails across land owned by Pope Resources, land donated by private property owners, county rights of way and property like the North Kitsap Heritage Park.

After approving the north-end plan, the commissioners asked county planners to develop a similar plan for the central and south end communities. Commissioners want to include a regional trails plan in its comprehensive plan amendments at the end of 2012. Including the trails plan in the county comprehensive plan will make it easier to apply for grant funding, Oost said.

The plan will provide guidance for where to locate and build new trail connections, but it will also identify priority areas where connections already exist but need safety improvements or extensions of bike lanes and shoulders.

The county held its first trails planning meeting Thursday at the Long Lake community meeting room. Fifteen people attended — most of them cyclists and many of them members of the West Sound Cycling Club. Because of the interest in cycling, the meeting focused on setting goals and policies to improve road safety for cyclists and identifying a direct route through the county for cyclists.

Trail planning meetings will be held most Thursdays and will alternate between Central and South Kitsap. The content of the meetings will overlap so people don’t have to drive out of the area to stay informed. The next meeting will be Thursday in Central Kitsap. A meeting location and time are still being finalized. For more information email Dennis Oost at DOost@co.kitsap.wa.us.

PRKC and SiA at the Finish Line

Partnership for Rural King County (PRKC) and Stewardship in Action (SiA) are approaching completion of the Patterson/Raging Focused Stewardship project. Below is a “clickable/zoomable” map that lists the status of each land parcel, as of August 27, 2011. A lot of farms and forests have benefited from planting, restoration and other productive land practices AND hundreds of landowners have had the opportunity to get expert advice from local resource professionals!

Wood-Burning Power Plants: Carbon Neutral – Really?

In recent months,  forest biomass (wood burning) power plants have received positive press for their ability to turn waste wood into electic power.  However, there’s an on-going debate in the power/environmental community relative to the carbon footprint of conventional biomass power.  Power plant proponents claim that these plants release no more carbon than a healthy forest ecosystem over time.  Opponents are quick to remind us that this is misleading, in that, forest ecosystems release carbon over many decades, whereas power plants release carbon (as carbon dioxide) in the very near term.

One alternative that has been presented elsewhere here at Cascadia are carbon neutral (or even carbon negative) solutions for power plant projects that employ algal synthesis or “algae farms” to both 1) capture carbon dioxide emissions, and 2) produce oil and feed stocks in return.  If you’re interested in reading more about this process, just click “Algae” in the post cloud on right side of this page.

Back to the question of whether or not these conventional biomass power plants are carbon neutral:  Below is an excerpt from a recent article in Scientific American which details the thinking in regard to these power plants.

Wood-Burning Power Plants–Carbon-Neutral or High Carbon Emitters?

Environmental groups are pressing the EPA to backtrack on its plans to exempt biomass from climate regulations, arguing that such a step would spark an uptick in unregulated carbon emissions

By Dina Fine Maron and ClimateWire | Wednesday, April 6, 2011 | 14

Image: California Energy Commission

Environmental groups yesterday pressed U.S. EPA to backtrack on its plans to exempt biomass from climate regulations for the next three years, arguing that such a step would prompt more fuel switching to biomass and spark an uptick in unregulated carbon emissions.

The Natural Resources Defense Council and Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) opposed a proposed rule from EPA that would allow facilities burning woody waste, landfills and ethanol facilities to be exempt from carbon regulations for the next three years.

The proposal would “provide incentives to fuel switch” in order to avoid climate regulations, said Navis Bermudez, deputy legislative director for SELC. The exemption would leave these emitters unregulated, and could result in higher greenhouse gas emissions than using coal, she said at a public hearing on the rule, echoing the sentiments of several other environmental organizations that spoke.

At the heart of the matter is a controversy over carbon accounting and the length of time required to replenish carbon reservoirs.

Past federal regulations have accepted the premise that facilities fueled by woody waste are “carbon-neutral” — merely speeding up the carbon cycle that would naturally occur as plants decompose.

But a study commissioned by Massachusetts last year and conducted by the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences indicated that burning wood for energy generally results in greater emissions of greenhouse gases per unit of energy than using fossil fuel, based on the efficiency of tapping each resource.

The study rested on a number of caveats — including geographic area, how forestlands are managed and if tree refuse or entire trees were utilized, but its results suggested that moving from coal plants to biomass could actually boost Massachusetts’ carbon emissions in the next several decades (ClimateWire, July 12, 2010).

That finding has been a touchstone for environmentalists concerned that the carbon footprint of such plants is not being addressed.

EPA contends that providing a three-year deferral on the issue will allow it to perform scientific analysis considering to what extent — if at all — these emitters should be included in regulations.

Some in industry worry about uncertainty

The agency will examine the science around biogenic carbon dioxide emissions and develop a rulemaking on how these emissions should be accounted for in future permitting requirements, it said in the proposed rule. The agency is accepting comments on the issue through May 5.

Biomass advocates including the National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO) and the Biomass Power Association yesterday hailed EPA’s decision to study the matter and reiterated that climate regulations that kicked into effect in January and affect large stationary sources should not apply to them.

Support for biomass as a renewable energy source would be undermined by considering it a carbon polluter, said Dave Tenny, president of NAFO.

Tenny, whose group originally asked EPA for the exemption, argued that it would be impossible to measure how woody waste would be used if it were not used in biomass facilities; thus any calculations could not fully settle questions of carbon accounting.

Meanwhile, Bob Cleaves, president and CEO of the Biomass Power Association, urged the agency to move faster than the proposed three-year timeline on its final decision to exclude biomass — in order to provide market certainty for potential biomass investors, he said. “Delays will cause regulatory uncertainty and economic harm in areas of the nation that continue to suffer from high unemployment and anemic economic growth,” he said in prepared remarks.

The hearing comes on the heels of an announcement last week from Dominion Virginia Power that it expects to convert three of its Virginia coal-fired plants to run on biomass.

Dominion would have moved forward with its fuel-switching plans regardless of whether EPA granted the three-year delay request, Dominion spokesman Jim Norvelle said in an email. The company expects its biomass plants will be online by 2013 if its plans are approved, and said the facilities would help the company meet Virginia’s voluntary renewable portfolio standard.

Richard Wiles, senior strategist at the Partnership for Policy Integrity, a group focused on applying science to public policy issues, blasted the proposed exemptions yesterday, stating that EPA does not need three years to study this matter. “The state of Massachusetts did a fine job of it in nine months,” he said, referring to the Manomet study. “Waiting three years will have serious real world effects,” he said. “As things stand now, every plant built during that time will be a permanent carbon polluter.”

Patterson/Raging Basins: Focused Outreach and Stewardship

Partnership for Rural King County (PRKC) is completing a joint venture with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and King County to connect rural landowners in two rural watersheds (map below) with stewardship advice and funding sources to complete needed stewardship projects on their land.  Over one thousand landowners in the two basins have been contacted, resulting in hundreds of farm and forest owners being connected with the stewardship assistance that they have requested. All in all, a winner for rural landowners in King County.  You can find out more at prkc.org.

 

Time For A Fiscal Diet?

The Stanford University Public Policy and International Studies Programs just published a study that rates the relative fiscal health of national economies around the world.  How did the U. S.  rate?  According to the Sovereign Fiscal Responsibility Index (SFRI), the United States ranks 28th out of the 34 countries studied.

*** Results Here ***

The fiscal diet solution?  As usual, the diet is simple:  spend a lot less public money.  It’s interesting to note that Scandinavian counties and former British colonies (like Australia and New Zealand) have led the world by passing fiscal reforms that limit government spending.

More about SFRI:

“Our fiscal index provides unique and useful insight into the fiscal sustainability of countries across the globe by incorporating a wide range of important factors,” said David M. Walker, the Founder and CEO of the Comeback America Initiative. “It is clear that there is great potential for a fiscal crisis in many countries, including the United States, if they don’t start addressing the structural deficit challenges that lie ahead. The index reinforces the fact that the U.S. needs to engage in comprehensive and timely reforms to restore fiscal responsibility and sustainability and to avoid a debt crisis that would be felt around the world.”

Walker continued, “The index also shows that countries that engage in dramatic and comprehensive reforms can dramatically improve their fiscal prospects. New Zealand ranks number two after engaging in such reforms in the early 1990s when it faced a currency crisis. And the U.S. ranking would improve to number eight if the Congress and the President worked together to enact fiscal reforms that had the same ‘bottom line’ impact as those made by the National Fiscal Responsibility and Reform Commission.”

The SFRI is the result of a Master’s Thesis project completed by a team of Stanford University graduate students under the guidance of the Hon. David M. Walker, the former Comptroller General of the United States. The SFRI incorporates both quantitative and qualitative metrics, based on several authoritative sources, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to define ‘fiscal responsibility’ and carry out cross-country comparisons. Specifically, this index was intended to illustrate where the United States is, where it is headed, and how it compares to other nations in the area of fiscal responsibility and sustainability.