ecology

Can "Eco-Industrial Districts" help make Seattle sustainable?

A potentially far-reaching step toward making Seattle and its economy truly sustainable went unrecognized by news media this week: King County declaring its intention to partner with the city to create "Eco-Industrial Districts." A likely first candidate: The Duwamish River corridor in south Seattle, home of a Superfund site but also some grand visions by environmentalists, community activists and others.

The King County Council, prodded by councilman Larry Phillips, passed a resolution Sept. 13 that was welcomed by Seattle City Council President Richard Conlin:

"Seattle’s industrial core is a unique and extremely valuable resource and critical to the long term economic health of the region. The City Council’s interest in (eco-industrial districts) has a dual purpose, both to strengthen our industrial core and to improve the environmental quality of the Duwamish river corridor."

It's been a few years since the city council passed an ordinance intended to help preserve easily gentrified industrial areas. It's a threat we explored in our 2007 series on the Duwamish. But the city hasn't done a whole lot since then to proactively encourage high-wage industry to stay in town.

The whole idea of these eco-industrial districts is that new and cleaner industry can dovetail with efforts to green up -- literally and figuratively -- some of the city's grittier and yet economically important areas. Here's how the county's press release conceputalizes them:

Saving salmon means spreading risks among diverse populations, important new study says

Saving imperlied salmon in the Pacific Northwest means focusing a lot more on the genetic quality of the fish and a lot less on the quantity of fish cranked out in hatcheries, suggest the authors of a groundbreaking new study in the prestigious science journal Nature.

The notion that spawning lots of salmon in hatcheries could actually impede efforts to bring back struggling wild runs is not a new one. The science on that is solid. But the new study, which focused on the success of salmon runs in Alaska’s hatchery-less Bristol Bay, is “a game-changer,” according to the University of Washington team that produced the research.

Here’s why: The new study documents how Bristol Bay for more than half a century has consistently produced fishable sockeye salmon runs. That’s because in a natural system like Western Alaska, the existence of so many different runs that reproduce in different nooks and crannies of the ecosystem ensures that – whatever happens – some salmon runs will thrive. Runs that do well in cold, wet years are winners sometimes. Other times, when temperature and rainfall are relatively mild, runs better suited to those conditions will boom.

But every year, at least some runs will do well. It’s all about spreading out the risk.

Think of the varied salmon runs of Bristol Bay like a financial portfolio well-positioned to endure whatever goes down on Wall Street: stocks that take advantage of upturns, bonds that hold value in down times and maybe some real estate or pig belly futures or gold bullion thrown in for good measure.

Car washing can harm fish, WA regulators say

Saying soap, metals and other pollutants in runoff from car-washing can make their way into streams and harm fish, Washington environmental regulators are requiring residents to keep that runoff out of storm drains. The Washington Department of Ecology is requiring cities to adopt ordinances saying car washing wastewater has to stay  on the washer’s property. Officials say the best way to do that is to wash the car on gravel or grass rather than pavement – or go to a commercial car wash. Local governments are likely to try to get the word out through public education campaigns. Doug Navetski of King County’s water-quality division told Phuong Le of the AP: “Are we going to have car wash police out there? No.”