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Monday, March 30, 2009

Newport, Oregon Chapter Releases Report Card for Pulp Mill Permit

The Newport Chapter of Surfrider Foundation recently released its “report card” for the Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) reconsideration of the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) wastewater permit of the Georgia-Pacific Pulp Mill in Toledo. The state reissued the permit with two new special conditions which will no longer allow inappropriate waste streams like Marion County leachate to be processed at the facility and require an ocean monitoring study.

Surfrider gives the agency high marks for determining that landfill leachate from Marion County and other external waste streams are inappropriate for discharge off Nye Beach in Newport. Surfrider also commends DEQ for requiring an environmental survey of the ocean discharge, but bemoans the lack of specifics for the design of the study, and third party objectivity. However, Surfrider flunks the agency for flaws in its scientific assessment and modeling, and determining compliance with discharge criteria for turbidity and bacteria.

The science required on the ocean side of the discharge zone to determine the long-term impacts of the effluent plume on nearshore marine life and public health has been neglected”, said Newport Chapter’s Joe Haxel. “DEQ’s requirement for an environmental survey is a good opportunity to begin these ocean environment observations. This study needs to be well-designed and executed to provide sufficient evidence for the 2010 permit renewal process.”

Surfrider Foundation was one of four groups that successfully petitioned the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in 2006 to reconsider the terms of the permit, based on non-compliance with state and federal laws that protect water quality. In March of 2008, Surfrider’s Environmental Issues Team developed a report of science-based recommendations to address the permit’s deficiencies, and help bring the agency closer to compliance with the Clean Water Act. The purpose of the report was to be constructive, and provide DEQ with a roadmap for addressing the issues raised in the petition.

Some of the report’s recommendations focus on the need for enhanced monitoring of marine species and the nearshore environment in the vicinity of the mill’s ocean outfall. Other recommendations provide guidance and data resources for improving the assessments used to identify potential ecological and public health impacts.

“This is primarily about holding Oregon accountable for implementing laws that protect water quality. It’s about a better permit to protect our marine ecosystems and ensure public health for ocean users in Newport,” says Charlie Plybon Oregon Field Coordinator for Surfrider Foundation. DEQ has not convinced local Surfrider members that they are upholding water quality laws for this permit. “We’re disappointed in DEQ’s poor scientific determinations, but encouraged by the local process to address concerns collaboratively with Georgia Pacific. We have done a lot of research and allocated resources to continue working on ocean monitoring. We’re currently engaged with Georgia Pacific and hopeful we can be a resource for a collaborative and community approach to the ocean monitoring study DEQ has required in the reissue. The approach, evaluation and communication of the ocean monitoring study will be critical in resolving questions and concerns of local ocean users.”

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Blue Vision Summit in Washington DC

On March 9 -11, Surfrider Chapter members from DC, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, California, Texas, Oregon and elsewhere congregated in Washington DC for the Blue Vision Summit. The goals of the conference included strengthening the nationwide network of ocean activists and promoting passage of effective federal ocean legislation. On the third day of the Summit, conference participants met with their federal representatives to communicate the importance of national leadership on ocean issues, including passage of Oceans 21, reauthorization of the Coastal Zone Management Act, funding for the Federal BEACH Act, etc. Special kudos to the Capitol (DC) Surfrider Chapter which was an official sponsor of the Blue Vision Summit and hosted a terrific ‘Celebration of the Sea’ reception for conference attendees. In the coming months, stay tuned for more updates on federal legislation as the 111th Congress moves forward with addressing ocean issues under the new administration.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


Palm Beach, FL –Administrative Law Judge Robert E. Meale ruled late yesterday that the Town of Palm Beach be denied a Joint Coastal Permit to nourish Reach 8. One year ago in March 2008, the Surfrider Foundation, Snook Foundation, and three individuals filed suit against the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for approving a Joint Coastal Permit for the Town of Palm Beach to dredge-and-fill Reach 8. The Town of Palm Beach intervened on behalf of the DEP, and the City of Lake Worth and Eastern Surfing Association intervened in opposition of the project. The trial lasted three weeks, ending in October of last year.

Reach 8 is one of eleven reaches of beach within the County of Palm Beach. The Town of Palm Beach nourished Reach 7 two years ago costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. Reach 7 caused substantial environmental harm to the local coastal resources and has already significantly eroded away.

The Town of Palm Beach was proposing more of the same in their attempt to dredge-and- fill Reach 8. Reach 8 extends 1.8 miles and includes beaches within the Town of Palm Beach and the City of Lake Worth. The Town of Palm Beach proposed dredging offshore and filling in 700,000 cubic yards of fill material on Reach 8 directly burying seven acres of nearshore hardbottom reef.

The City of Lake Worth maintains a public park within Reach 8 and opted out of the Joint Coastal Permit due to the projects’ potential to harm their environmental resources and local economy dependent on them.

“This is a tremendous win for Florida’s Beaches,” said Chapter Chair Greg Lyon. “To our knowledge, this is the first time that any court in the US has flatly rejected the permitting of an approved dredge-and-fill project due primarily to the potential negative environmental impacts.”

The five petitioners proved the dredge-and-fill project would destroy the beach and coastal environment by directly burying reefs, killing marine life, including endangered seaturtles, and overall destabilizing fishing, diving, surfing and other valuable recreational uses of the area.
“The Judge clearly grasped the significance of the geological and biological coastal systems in this area and their rarity. His ruling focused extensively on the overwhelming data from numerous experts that supported the denial of this permit,” said attorney Jane West, whose firm Collins & West, P.A. represented the five petitioners.

Rob Young, Director of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines at Western Carolina University and an expert witness in the case expressed admiration for the judge’s ruling. "Judge Meale took a very hard look at the numerical computer model used to predict where the nourishment sand would go, and he strongly criticized its use," Young said. "This same model, GENESIS, is used all over the country for the design of beach nourishment projects. The Judge’s ruling is a serious indictment of that practice."

“We look forward to working with our experts and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to re-examine its policies on beach management and realize these dredge and fill projects can be detrimental to the coastal environment they are alleged to be protecting,” said Ericka Davanzo, Surfrider's Regional Manager in Florida.

Judge Meale’s ruling is an order of recommendation to Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Michael Sole, who will now have 45 days to issue the final order.

Check out the Chapter Blogto see the case details!