News Release: Caspian tern research project ends early

Leslie Ann Rose sylph at
Sun Jun 3 07:21:11 PDT 2001

Actually, there is a lot more to the story than the press release indicated.
The truth is, neither the barge or the observation tower underwent the
required permitting processes. We would require these processes to be
closely followed for any type of over-water or shoreline activity. The
devil is in the details and one cannot pick and chose when and when not to
adhere to a regulatory process that we rely upon to manage and protect our
shoreline and aquatic resources.

The area where the barge was moored is a Natural Resources Damage Assessment
Trustee (NRDA) site that was acquired through monies received as part of the
damage assessment for Commencement Bay Superfund settlements and represents
the only holding and growing habitat for juvenile salmon who have left the
estuary but have not moved out into Puget Sound. It is also within an area
of Commencement Bay with a Conservancy status as designated by the City of
Tacoma's Shoreline Management Plan. The land where the observations
structure was built is private property and no permission was sought from
the owner -- in this case the Puyallup Tribe.

The Asarco site where the Terns have nested in previous years is, in fact,
stockpiles of soils contaminated with arsenic, lead and other wonderful
stuff which have been removed from their source and will be disposed of into
an onsite containment facility (CDF). Asarco is under a very strict
timeline which is carefully monitored by EPA and they either finish by
12/31/05 or face extreme penalties. Frankly, summer is the very best
construction period for the Asarco site cleanup and they already are forced
to observe an fish out-migration window for in-water work that goes from
March through June. Allowing the terns to continue to use the Asarco site
means that we also risk losing July and August for critical cleanup work.

Personally, I deplore the loss of the eggs. It is indeed a sad situation.
However, the devil is in the details and there were a lot of details that
were disregarded in this particular instance. However, after speaking
directly with a number of those involved in the incident, I have to agree
that there was no other way. The next time, and I certainly hope there is a
next time, hopefully the project proponents will learn from this instance
and scrupulously observe all the regulatory details necessary to allow for a
successful project and nesting season.

Leslie Ann Rose
Commencement Bay
Tacoma, WA

----- Original Message -----
From: "Jon. Anderson and Marty Chaney" <festuca at>
To: <tweeters at>
Sent: Saturday, June 02, 2001 1:49 PM
Subject: Fw: News Release: Caspian tern research project ends early

> Hi folks -


> Here's some news on the Tacoma (Commencement Bay) Caspian Tern colony.


> last couple of years, the colony was nesting on the ASARCO smelter site,


> plastic-covered piles of contaminated soil. ASARCO determined to not


> the terns to nest this year, and WDFW set a barge out into Commencement


> to entice the terns to nest on an 'alternative' site, to study their diet,

> etc. Of course, WDFW and others didn't want these birds moving down to


> colony near the mouth of the Columbia where they might prey on

> ESA-"endangered" salmon/steelhead, rather than the merely "ESA-threatened"

> Puget Sound chinook (as well as the Muckleshoot Tribe's 'enhanced'



> I realize that no one wants a bunch of fish-eating birds in their

backyard -

> politically, it gives the development-oriented Rush Limbaugh screaming

> meanies the 'out' of saying "why come after our land uses, when these

> protected birds are eating the fish". Mind you, they'll say that, whether

> it's the seals, Indians, sport fishers, commercial fishers, drought, etc.

> When it comes push to shove, the birds will lose out to the fish, and the

> fish will lose out to power production (Seattle City Light, Tacoma,

> PacifiCorp, Bonneville, etc. will all operate their dams as usual and the

> fish will be sucking hind teat so that the "power crisis" will not

> inconvenience us - or the Californians needing thier air conditioned....)


> There's no easy answer to competing resource needs, especially when one

> protected resource is impacting another protected resource. The politics


> the charismatic mega-fauna is such that Salmon have better press around


> than do the Terns. In the long view, the fish AND the birds suffer from

> our poor land-use practices, poor water-resource management, and from our

> mis-management of the human population glut in Puget Sound. I think that


> sucks that the WDFW knuckled under to the Tribes' whining that the birds

> would eat too many of their hatchery fish, and I just don't believe that


> terns were impacting the "threatened" chinook enough to have our Resource

> Protection Agency destroy 1,000 eggs of these magnificent birds.


> I am saddened that this portion of the largest remaining population of

> Sterna caspia appears to be so unwelcome that they aren't allowed to

> complete nesting. I imagine that, after we've spent enough time


> them from Puget Sound, at the mouth of the Columbia, and wherever else


> might move where they might eat our precious ESA-listed fish, and their

> population begins to decline, they may end up on the Endangered Species

> List. Then, we can spend millions of dollars to recover the Caspian

> Tern.....


> Jon. (Disgruntled) Anderson

> Olympia, Washington

> festuca at





> 600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, Washington 98501-1091

> Internet Address:


> June 1, 2001 Contact: Rocky Beach, (360) 902-2510

> Craig Bartlett, (360) 902-2259


> Caspian tern research project ends early


> OLYMPIA The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has


> short a research project on Caspian terns in Commencement Bay due to

> concerns raised by tribal fisheries co-managers about the birds'


> of area salmon.

> WDFW Director Jeff Koenings said those concerns were supported by

> preliminary findings of the project itself, which showed that salmon made


> 78 percent of the diet of the terns attracted to a research barge since

> April 13.

> "We can understand the tribes' concerns, given that they have a major

> hatchery facility on the nearby Puyallup River," Koenings said. "We also

> share their concerns for wild salmon stocks in the area, which have been

> listed under the Endangered Species

> Act."

> Nevertheless, Koenings underscored WDFW's commitment to continue

> cooperative research on terns with federal and state agencies, and to

> develop a regional plan to protect the species and minimize its impact on

> endangered salmon

> stocks.

> "We will be sitting down with our partners within the next few

> weeks to discuss strategies and determine our next step," Koenings said.

> The project came to a close Thursday (May 31), when a team of


> biologists scared off hundreds of the birds that had been attracted to


> barge that had been anchored off Brown's Point as a floating roost.

> Approximately 1,000 eggs were recovered, which WDFW plans to


> to research institutions and museums. Biologists had expected to find no

> more than 300 eggs.

> Rocky Beach, WDFW wildlife diversity manager, expressed


> that the project ended three months ahead of schedule, but noted that it


> already yielded critical information about tern management.

> "The most important finding was that we can attract nesting terns to


> temporary site in this case, a floating barge," Beach said. "That opens


> a range of new options for managing these birds in ways that are


> with protecting both salmon and

> terns."

> Beach noted that birds on or near the barge represent a significant

> share of the estimated 700 to 1,000 terns in Commencement Bay this year,

> down from 2,000 birds observed at the ASARCO site last year. That site is

> currently in the process of being cleared one reason why attracting the

> birds to an offshore site was initially proposed, Beach said.

> Koenings explained that his agency is required by law to protect and

> manage both salmon and terns, the latter of which are protected by the

> Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

> "The tern issue really puts us between a rock and a hard spot,"

> Koenings said. "The only way we can gather the information necessary to

> manage terns and salmon effectively is through scientific research. This

> project, in particular, has helped to advance our knowledge of terns in


> that will contribute to the development of our tern management efforts

> throughout the state."

> ###



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