Features Archive 2015

The home page on Ecology's website showcases a more in-depth look at the work we do on behalf of Washington's citizens. The following is a collection of these features.

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posted: October 30, 2015
program: Shorelands and Environmental Assistance Program

Fall rains may bring flooding

Washington is among the most flood-prone states west of the Mississippi River. In Washington, the costs of flood damages exceed the cost of all other natural hazards.

For more information, see:
> Flood info and resources
> Ecology's role during a flood emergency
> Floodplain management
> What you can do to prepare for winter weather

Washington Clean Air Rule

posted: September 21, 2015
program: Air Quality

Limiting carbon pollution through the Washington Clean Air Rule

On July 28, 2015, Governor Inslee directed Ecology to strengthen existing state pollution laws and set limits on greenhouse gas pollution. Inslee said Washingtonians have too much at stake to wait any longer for legislative action.

Department of Ecology formally began writing a rule that would require the state’s largest polluters to reduce their greenhouse gases. Ecology is considering businesses and organizations that are responsible for producing 100,000 metric tons or more of greenhouse gases be covered under the rule.

For more information, see:
> Limiting carbon pollution
> Getting Washingtonians involved
> Washington to set limits to help slow climate change (news release)

Drought: share your pics

posted: September 2, 2015
program: Water Resources

Record drought conditions call for water conservation efforts

The U.S. Drought Monitor has now classified all but a smidgen of Washington state as being in a “severe” drought (99.99 percent) and says that more than 31 percent of our state is in an “extreme” drought. It’s the first time the state has reached these conditions in a decade.

2015 is shaping up to be the worst drought in Washington modern history:
>> Almost 80 of our streams and rivers are running at below normal or record low flows.
>> The Walla Walla River went dry a week ago as measured by the USGS gauge near Touchet. This was caused both by the drought itself and by the large amount of water being diverted from the Walla Walla’s tributaries to fight the Blue Creek fire.
>> Ecology has curtailed the water use for almost 500 irrigators across the state to sustain stream flows. Some of these water rights date back to the 1800s.

Documenting the drought conditions: Send us your photos of what the impacts of drought look like near you.
Conserving water: Using water efficiently is not about sacrifice as much as it is about awareness. And it’s not hard to do, we just start by paying attention to our water use, one day at a time

For more information, see:
> Washington State 2015 Drought Photo Tour
> Save Water: How to live water-wise
> Water Conservation tips
> What does drought look like? Send us your photos!

Smoke from Wildfires

posted: August 14, 2015
program: Air Quality

Air quality suffers during drought season

Warmer and drier summer conditions mean increased wildfire risk is projected for 2015, and climate change modeling indicates these conditions are likely to become the norm in the decades ahead. Drier weather also contributes to dust storm conditions in Central and Eastern Washington.

For more information, see:
> Air Quality monitoring - real-time data
> High risk of wildfires due to drought & climate change
> Eastern Washington dust storms trigger report to EPA
> Wildfire smoke and your health (Dept. of Health)

Impacts to Puget Sound

posted: July 24, 2015
program: Environmental Assessment

Drought conditions cause problems for Puget Sound

Everyone in Washington is feeling the heat this summer, and Puget Sound is no exception. It's been hot and dry, with all kinds of weather records being set. These unusually hot temperatures don't end at the water's edge. We're also seeing the record-breaking warm water temperatures from “the Blob” of North Pacific Ocean water that made its way through the Strait of Juan de Fuca and into Puget Sound late last year.

Monitoring suggests that these warm conditions are having many negative consequences on the Puget Sound marine environment. This year we've seen increasing harmful algae blooms, increasing and early shellfish closures, lower dissolved oxygen levels, and unfavorable conditions for salmon and other cold-loving marine species.

For more information, see:
> Puget Sound waters left sweltering from drought and the Blob (ECOconnect blog
> Marine Water Quality monitoring
> Puget Sound/Salish Sea Modeling

Drought Relief Grants

posted: July 13, 2015
program: Water Resources

Emergency funding for drought relief

Drought relief money is now available across the state as hardships from water shortages really begin to mount for farms and fish.

With a $16 million appropriation from the Legislature, the Washington Department of Ecology is accepting grant applications for public projects to help relieve hardships arising from the drought. These funds can be used over the next two years to help protect public health and safety from effects of the drought, and reduce economic or environmental impacts from water shortages.

For more information, see:
> Emergency Drought Funding rule
> Grants for drought relief projects
> Drought in Washington State

Hot Weather Impacts

Hot weather impacts: photo of smoke from a wildfire in central Washington

posted: June 26, 2015
program: Agency-wide

Hot weather brings wildfires, smog, algae and drought

Recent blog stories about seasonal issues Ecology is working on.

For more information, see:
> Wildfire smoke information and maps [Twitter updates: #WAwildfire]
> Hot weather may cause air pollution issues in Washington
> Warm water & air + low rivers = harsh conditions for Puget Sound
> Summer drought is proving as bad as predicted

Algae Blooms

Freshwater Algae Blooms

posted: June 3, 2015
program: Water Quality

Freshwater and Marine Algae Blooms

Spring and summer are the time of year when sunshine and warm temperatures are contributing to algae blooms in our marine waters and lakes.

For more information, see:
> Washington State Toxic Algae program
> Report a possible toxic algae bloom
> Freshwater algae control
> Marine algae blooms

Washington Drought 2015

posted: May 15, 2015
program: Water Resources Program

Statewide drought declared by Gov. Inslee

Gov Jay Inslee on May 15, 2015, declared a statewide drought emergency. The declaration comes after the governor’s Emergency Water Executive Committee determined that 48 of 62 watersheds in Washington have water supplies of 75 percent of normal or below and water users are experiencing hardships from water shortages or are expected to experience hardships.

For more information, see:
> Interactive drought response map (REQUIRES newest browser version)
> More details on Ecology's drought page
> Governor's statewide drought emergency declaration

Live Heron webcam

Live heron webcam

posted: May 1, 2015
program: Padilla Bay Reserve

Spring activity at the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Reserve

The live heron cam on March’s Point in Padilla Bay is back! The springtime spectacle began in mid-April when the fuzzy baby herons began making their entrance into the world.

The live cam is one of the many installations at the Breazeale Interpretive Center at the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Reserve, which is administered and managed by Ecology.

For more information, see:
> Watch baby herons on the March's Point web camera
> Blog: Baby herons make their entrance
> Learn about the coastal training program
> Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve

Washington Drought 2015 - update

posted: April 17, 2015
program: Water Resources Program

Governor Inslee extends drought declaration areas

On April 17, 2015 Governor Jay Inslee declared a drought in 13 additional river basins in Washington state. This brings to 24 the total number of Washington’s watersheds in drought emergencies, 44 percent of the total area of the state.

For more information, see:
> Washington Drought 2015
> Governor expands drought emergency to include more Washington river basins (Governor's news release)
> Twitter updates about #WAdrought
> Water Conservation: It all starts with you

Earth Day 2015

posted: April 6, 2015
program: Communications

Earth...Pass it on - Earth month promotions

In honor of this year’s Earth Day on April 22, Ecology continues with the same “Earth … pass it on” theme we featured last year.

The concept is simple – everyone can do something, even a simple thing, to help pass on our one, precious planet to future generations. Much of Ecology’s work is grounded in this concept. This year, a number of us talked about what more we could do to broaden and extend our outreach efforts related to Earth Day.

Ecology's social media campaign highlights some of the good work we do to improve and protect Washington’s environment, resources, and communities. Join us!

For more information, see:
> Participate on Earth Day - tips, events and more
> Join us in spreading the word about Earth Day
> Twitter updates about #EarthPassItOn
> Show us how you celebrate the Earth, on Instagram

Washington Drought 2015

posted: March 13, 2015
program: Water Resources Program

Drought declared in three state regions

On March 13, 2015, Governor Jay Inslee announced drought declarations in three regions of Washington state. The declarations open up funding opportunities for drought relief in those areas of the state experiencing record low snowpack. Ecology is beginning its drought-relief work in the three regions where drought has been declared.

For more information, see:
> Governor declares drought in three state regions
> Washington drought updates
> Twitter updates about #WAdrought
> Water supply information, data and maps

Oil Transport Study

posted: March 2, 2015
program: Spills Program

2014 Marine & Rail Oil Transportation Study

Washington Department of Ecology delivered the final oil transportation study to state legislators outlining key recommendations to improve public safety in response to the rapid increase of oil transportation through Washington. The final Marine and Rail Oil Transportation Study, requested by the 2014 Legislature, provides recommendations to improve the safety of oil transportation throughout the state.

Ecology coordinated with the Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) and the Washington Military Department’s Emergency Management Division (EMD) to research and compile the report.

The recommendations include enhancing emergency response efforts with planning, training, equipment and resources; ensuring oil companies and transporters can pay for a spill; and giving more authority to the state to increase rail inspections.

For more information, see:
> Oil Transport — moving oil through Washington
> 2014 Marine and Rail Oil Transportation Study
> Read the final study report
> Final oil transportation study delivered to Legislature (news release)

Protecting Our Water Supplies

posted: February 13, 2015
program: Water Resources Program

Partnerships secure the future of Lake Tapps and the White River

The White River is benefitting from the largest trust water donation in Washington state history. It’s enough water to fill a football field 130 miles deep! The donation by Cascade Water Alliance was made in conjunction with the CWA’s purchase of Lake Tapps for a municipal water supply and the CWA’s agreement to protect and support flows in the river while keeping Lake Tapps filled for generations to come.

For more information, see:
> People and fish benefit from White River/LakeTapps partnerships (ECOconnect blog)
> White River trust water donation
> Instream flows and water rights

Soil Cleanup Program

posted: January 26, 2015
program: Toxics Cleanup Program

Tacoma Smelter Plume: Yard Sampling and Cleanup Program

Over the past few months, our work crews completed soil cleanup on 53 residential yards in Tacoma and on Vashon-Maury Island in the Yard Sampling and Cleanup Program (Yard Program). This is part of Ecology's ongoing work to clean up arsenic and lead contamination from the former Asarco smelter in Tacoma.

For more information, see:
> What's all the ruckus in north Tacoma and on Vashon Island? (blog)
> Yard Sampling and Cleanup Program
> Dirt Alert - protecting our children from toxic exposure

Water Quality Standards

posted: January 7, 2015
program: Water Quality Program

Improving our water quality, reducing toxic pollution

The proposed water quality standards for toxics lay the groundwork to better protect Washington’s people, waters, and economy. The proposed update is tied to toxics-reduction legislation Gov. Inslee is proposing to address toxics that enter the environment from unregulated everyday sources, such as consumer products.

“Together, the rule and toxics reduction proposal will address larger pollution challenges than the federal Clean Water Act can solve,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “If we truly want cleaner water that reduces health risks for our communities, this is the approach we need to take.”

For more information, see:
> Updating the water quality standards
> Reducing toxic threats & what Ecology does
> Rulemaking: Water quality standards for surface waters