News from our member organizations

Moving forward for a healthy Flint River

News from American Rivers - Tue, 07/08/2014 - 2:25am

When Georgia’s Flint River appeared on our America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2013 list, American Rivers and our allies were in the middle of a legislative battle that spanned two full sessions of the Georgia General Assembly. It was a long, hard fight, but in the end, Flint Riverkeeper and many Georgia Water Coalition partners including American Rivers were successful in bringing about major improvements to a bad piece of legislation, the Flint River Drought Protection Act. A vastly improved bill (though not an entirely necessary piece of legislation) passed the Georgia House and Senate in March of this year.

Flint River, GA | Joe Cook

That said, there is plenty of work still to do to set the Flint on a path toward recovery. The Most Endangered listing called attention to the over-allocation of the Flint’s waters—a fundamental problem that the Drought Protection Act doesn’t really address. But as soon as another dry year arrives, it will become even clearer that a long-term solution needs to be found.

Thankfully, this year has been relatively normal on the rainfall gauge so far. But now that it’s midsummer, the river is dropping. In the upper Flint, this means that very soon, the river will be too low to be worth paddling. In the past, this point typically arrived closer to autumn, but due to the damage the river system has suffered, it now arrives earlier in the year—even in a year with normal rainfall.

And that’s just one of many storylines we highlighted in our Running Dry report on the upper Flint River, which came out last year. What we’ve seen since then is that the Running Dry report has very effectively changed the conversation. It’s begun to focus decision-makers’ attention on the low-flow problems plaguing the upper Flint. We’re hard at work right now on taking the next steps, mapping out ways to begin restoring healthy flows in the river in collaboration with the water suppliers in the basin and a wide array of other partners.

It’s our hope that State of Georgia officials will see the need for a holistic, basin-wide, science-based approach to restoring flows in the Flint. We’ve got to manage the waters of the Flint River basin sustainably, and keep all of the many people who depend on the Flint in mind, for today and future generations.

Gila River: Exploring a little known landscape – and one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2014

News from American Rivers - Tue, 07/08/2014 - 2:15am

Rugged cliffs, juniper-speckled rolling hills, brilliant blue skies and a tumbling river – the landscapes west of the southern New Mexico town of Silver City harken back to a time of Geronimo and Billy the Kid – both of whom roamed these hills and hollows more than a century ago.

The Gila River once flowed to the Colorado. Now, not so much.| Sinjin Eberle, American Rivers

Take Action!

I recently visited the bustling copper mining town of Silver City, exploring the natural beauty and historic impacts to New Mexico’s last free-flowing river and one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2014, the Gila. Our mission was to explore the area around the river and see first-hand the threats that literally dry up the stream as it winds out of the Gila National Forest on its journey to Arizona and beyond.

The Gila historically flowed continuously all the way from the mountains of New Mexico through Arizona, where it would join the Colorado to continue its journey through the Colorado Delta to the Gulf of California. Today, the Gila is dried up in many sections along its path, and is essentially stopped cold at the Coolidge Dam near Globe, Arizona.

In New Mexico, the Gila originates in the Black Range, high in the Gila National Forest and the Aldo Leopold Wilderness area – the world’s first designated Wilderness (designated in 1924). It tumbles south out of the mountains near Cliff, New Mexico, where it turns west, heading to Safford, AZ and points west. But immediately after the river exits the mountains, it is heavily diverted for agriculture – often with manual techniques like earthen push-up diversions, which are hard on the river and choke the flows down to a trickle. Much of the water that runs through the fields comes back to the river as return flows, but still leaves entire stretches bone dry.

The Gila tumbles out of Gila National Forest near Cliff, NM | Sinjin Eberle, American Rivers

A more recent threat to the Gila is a pending proposal by the State of New Mexico to build a dam just as the river exits the mountains, diverting large amounts of water out of the Gila basin south to the town of Deming, New Mexico. This proposal would create an enormously expensive and unwise project, (and a new trans-basin diversion) which would dramatically impact the local agricultural community that depends on downstream flows, as well as the array of threatened and endangered wildlife, the lush, spectacular riverside vegetation, and the spiritual and historic character that the Gila provides in the valley.

American Rivers is working with local landowners, conservationists, and local public officials to find solutions that keep agriculture sustainable, provides reliable water for people, and keeps the river healthy. With your support of our America’s Most Endangered Rivers effort, we are able to shine the spotlight on gems like the Gila, and work to restore and improve our most threatened rivers.

Be a hero for the Gila – take action today!

Stand against corporate lobbyists for a strong Clean Water Act

News from American Rivers - Tue, 07/08/2014 - 2:00am

Ask your Representative to oppose dirty water provisions | Photo by Rodney Campbell

Right now, corporate lobbyists for building construction and factory farm interests are putting pressure on Members of Congress to support attempts to block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers’ efforts to restore long-standing protections under the Clean Water Act.

The EPA and the Army Corps’ proposed Clean Water Rule would clarify what waters are – and what waters are not – protected under the Clean Water Act. Despite thirty years of comprehensive protections under the law, two Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006 made it unclear whether small streams and wetlands were still protected. This leaves the small streams and wetlands that contribute to the drinking water of 117 million Americans, store floodwaters, and filter out pollutants vulnerable to pollution.

Members of the House of Representatives are likely to take a vote on appropriations legislation that will contain either a policy rider or amendment to block efforts to move forward on the proposed Clean Water Rule, leaving in place a declining enforcement under the Clean Water Act where small streams and wetlands are vulnerable to pollution.

Don’t let the polluters be the only voice that’s heard. Stand strong for clean water and let your Congressional representatives know today how important clean water is to you. We’ve got a tough fight ahead against big corporate lobbyists and industry polluters who all stand to benefit from blocking this proposed Clean Water Rule.

We need your help today to ask your representatives to oppose these efforts. 

Maine Town Votes to Ban Lawn Pesticides on Public and Private Property, Becoming Second to Act in Last Year

News from Beyond Pesticides - Mon, 07/07/2014 - 10:33pm
(Beyond Pesticides, July 8, 2014) In another key victory for public health and the environment, last month residents in the small ocean-side community of Ogunquit, Maine (pop:~1,400) voted to become the first town in the state to prohibit the use of pesticides on public and private property for turf, landscape, and outdoor pest management activities. Ogunquit’s […]

NW Energy Coalition seeking half-time policy staff

News from NW Energy Coalition - Mon, 07/07/2014 - 4:24pm
The Coalition is seeking a half-time Policy staff person. The level of the position will be determined by experience and qualifications of the individual hired. This position can be located in Seattle or Olympia and will focus on energy efficiency policy and program implementation, as well as other utility regulatory issues.

President Obama, protect bees from pesticides

News from PAN - Mon, 07/07/2014 - 3:36pm
Not marked at Hot Topic

Did you hear? President Obama recently announced a new federal task force to "promote the health of honey bees and other pollinators." Let’s make sure it makes a difference.

read more

Seattle Times column: Energy efficiency becomes hot market for tech companies

News from NW Energy Coalition - Mon, 07/07/2014 - 2:54pm
Federal climate change initiatives create opportunities for tech companies to pursue energy efficiency innovations. New technologies will utilize databases that track customers' energy usage. The International Energy Agency projects that investments in efficiency technology will double over the next 20 years.

Colorado Water Plan Commenting: All the cool kids (might be) doing it!

News from American Rivers - Mon, 07/07/2014 - 1:50pm

Upper Colorado River, CO | Ken Neubecker

What do Peyton Manning, Goldie Hawn, and Neil Young all have in common?? If they live in Colorado, they might be commenting to Governor Hickenlooper on the Colorado Water Plan. What about Todd Helton, Jon Krakauer, or South Park creator Trey Parker?? Yup, they may have commented on the Colorado Water Plan as well.

The point is – all these celebrities, big names, great athletes, creative minds – they all have JUST AS MUCH of a chance to comment on the Colorado Water Plan as you do. And you know what is even better? None of these people are hydrologists, policy professionals, or government officials – they are people, just like you and me. Some of them probably even love Colorado because of its open spaces, iconic wildlife, and flowing rivers – just like you and me.

You enjoy Colorado as much or more than these stars – so can you take 5 minutes and click on over to http://www.waterforcolorado.org and let Governor Hickenlooper know that you want cities to be smart with their water, agriculture to have a sustainable future, and our state’s stunning landscapes and flowing rivers to remain free and healthy for everyone in Colorado?

That’s all you have to say. But do it soon – time is running out to make your voice heard and be included in the bucket of names with these folks that the Governor sees when considering how to manage our water into the future.

And hey, if Peyton Manning (might) do it, why wouldn’t you??

Send Gov. Hickenlooper your message.

River Rebirth: Removing Edwards Dam on Maine’s Kennebec River

News from American Rivers - Mon, 07/07/2014 - 1:12pm

This article was originally published to celebrate the 2009 10 year anniversary of Edwards Dam removal. It was written by Andrew Fahlund, American Rivers’ Senior Vice President for Conservation at the time, and published by National Geographic.

Before and 10 years after removal of Edwards Dam, Kennebec River, Maine

Perhaps no other injury to a river is as profound as the construction of a dam.

On July 1, 1999, as  a church bell broke the stillness of the morning, I had the great privilege  of witnessing the rebirth of Maine’s Kennebec River as it flowed free for the first time in 162 years. Since then, I have had the opportunity to observe numerous other dam removals, but none quite as moving, successful, and ultimately transformative.

Edwards Dam was built in Augusta, Maine, in 1837 to ease navigation and harness energy. That act drowned 17 miles (27 kilometers) of riffles and rapids and the unique character of this magnificent river. The Kennebec River was once home to all ten species of migratory fish native to Maine—including Atlantic salmon, American shad, several species of herring, alewife, and Shortnose and Atlantic sturgeon—along with several thriving commercial fisheries. Damming the river not only transformed the natural landscape but it also ushered in an era of industrialization, pollution, degradation, and neglect.

By the mid-19th century, barging on the Kennebec was abandoned in favor of rail, and not long thereafter, the mills powered by the dam were closed. By the end of the 20th century, much of the pollution along the river had been cleaned up thanks to the requirements of the Clean Water Act, but the Edwards Dam endured as a reminder of the region’s industrial past. Generating a modest 3.5 megawatts of electricity annually, the Edwards Dam contributed less than one-tenth of one percent of Maine’spower supply and had been licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) with virtually no requirements for environmental protection.

With the dam’s license to operate set to expire in 1993, four environmental groups—American Rivers, the Natural Resources Council of Maine, the Atlantic Salmon Federation, and Trout Unlimited and its Kennebec Valley Chapter—intervened, along with state and federal resource agencies, to advocate the removal of the dam. Two earlier developments gave these advocates reason to hope.

First, in the early 1980s, the state of Maine had adopted a comprehensive plan for the lower Kennebec River. This plan established the goal of restoring several species of migratory fish to the lower Kennebec and specifically called for removing the Edwards Dam.

Second, in 1986, Congress amended the law governing FERC’s licensing of hydropower dams by requiring “equal consideration” of power and non-power values such as fish and wildlife and recreation. Coupled with its obligation to license projects “consistent with comprehensive plans,” this change in law opened the way for a new type of environmental advocacy focused on the restoration of America’s rivers.

After almost a decade of deliberation, on Nov. 25, 1997, FERC ordered the removal of the Edwards Dam. A subsequent settlement was reached to avoid a protracted court battle. Finally, on July 1, 1999, the dam was taken down. As a backhoe breached the dam, the water from the reservoir started to flow.

Within hours of the dam’s removal, I participated in the first descent of the newly free-flowing Kennebec River, over riffles and past islands that had not been seen since the days of Thoreau and Hawthorne. Within just a few weeks, vegetation was reappearing along the riverbanks, allaying fears that the drawdown of the reservoir would leave a muddy, unsightly mess.

A decade later, more than two million alewives returned to the Kennebec, the largest migration of its kind on the eastern seaboard. The entire web of life, from eagles to osprey to black bears, have benefited from the free-flowing river. Water quality classifications have been upgraded, and mayflies and stoneflies, rarely seen in samples before the removal of Edwards, have dramatically increased in number.

The removal of the Edwards Dam has been the keystone of Augusta’s efforts to revitalize its downtown. The 17-acre (7-hectare) riverfront parcel occupied by the former textile mill and dam has become a popular parkthat features a summer carnival, a weekly farmers’ market, a canoe and kayak launch, and a wooded riverfront nature trail.

“The breaching of the dam is leading to so many wonderful consequences for our community,” said Augusta Mayor Roger Katz. “From the Mill Park with its canoe and kayak launch and new pavilion to the looming Arsenal project, to our expected development of the old paper mill site, we are finally returning our focus to the river.”

Little did we know that the church bell that marked the end of the Edwards dam would herald a new era of river restoration. Conservationists came from Pennsylvania, California, and even Japan to see and learn from the revival of the Kennebec.

Over the past decade, more than 430 outdated dams have been removed nationwide, and the number of recorded dam removals grows each year, thanks to the work of American Rivers and its partners.

Dams will continue to play an important and valuable role in our economy and our society, but the removal of the Edwards Dam awakened us to the idea that rivers have a remarkable ability to heal themselves and that removing an outdated dam can bring a river—and a community—back to life.

11 Projects to Watch: Dam Removal Construction Season Kicks Off

News from American Rivers - Mon, 07/07/2014 - 12:44pm

Many of us associate summer with deciding which of the latest beach reads we’ll indulge in or plotting our next outdoor adventure. However, at American Rivers, summer also means the official kickoff to dam removal construction season!

Lower water levels and an end to the spring migratory fish runs often make this the perfect time of year to do active work in a river channel. Over the next five months, work will get underway at more than 16 of our dam removal and restoration sites.

These are 11 projects worth keeping your eye on this season:

Commodore Dam on Hinty Run in Indiana County, PA was removed in late June, providing fish passage for wild brook trout, as well as removing a safety hazard. The dam, classified as high-hazard, would have required $500,000 in repairs to ensure its safety. Green Township Water Authority chose to switch over to groundwater for public supply, and then work with American Rivers to remove the dam.

The removal of Moosup Dam #1 on the Moosup River in CT was also completed in late June. This is the first of several barrier removal projects and part of a collaborative effort to restore fish passage in the Moosup River.

Harvell Dam at low flow, Appomattox River, Petersburg, VA | photo by DGIF

The Harvell Dam Removal on the Appomattox River in Petersburg, VA will re-open 127 miles of upstream habitat for migratory fish, such as American Shad and river herring. The dam removal will also enhance recreational boating and fishing. The river is currently being diverted through the millrace with removal slated for later this month.

Plymco Dam Removal on Town Brook in Plymouth, MA is part of a watershed effort to restore the historic anadromous fish run at Town Brook and follows on the completion of the Off Billington Dam removal last year. In addition to providing passage for fish, replacing the Plymco Dam with an arch bridge will improve water quality through removal of contaminated sediment. American Rivers is funding this work through our national partnership with the NOAA Restoration Center.

Hospital Dam on Conewango Creek in Warren County, PA has claimed at least 5 lives in the past 30 years, but that will change when American Rivers removes this dangerous dam later this month. The partially breached dam causes perilous water conditions for boaters on this newly designated water trail.

Upper Wells River Dam Removal on Wells River in Groton, VT will open a total of 22.31 miles of stream, 6.4 miles of which is cold water habitat suited to Eastern Brook Trout. American Rivers is partnering with the Connecticut River Watershed Council and Keurig Green Mountain on this project.

Kladder Dam on a tributary to the Juniata River in PA is slated for removal in August in order to reconnect high-quality coldwater habitat for a wild brook trout population on this unnamed tributary.

Removal of the Byrnes Mill Dam on White Clay Creek later this summer will reopen 3.5 miles and 42 acres of spawning habitat along the National Wild and Scenic River for the passage of American Shad, Hickory Shad, and river herring in New Castle County, Delaware. This will be the first dam removal project completed for fish passage in Delaware. American Rivers is funding this work through our national partnership with the NOAA Restoration Center.

Heistand Sawmill Dam on Chiques Creek in PA is slated for removal in late August. In addition to restoring fish passage to over 3.1-miles of Chiques Creek, the project includes building a hiking and biking trail, as well as the potential to remove a small section of the stream from the state’s impaired waters list.

Centreville Dam, Gravel Run, Centreville, MD | American Rivers

The Centreville Dam on Gravel Run in Centreville, MD will be removed later this fall in an effort to restore upstream habitat for perch, river herring, and American Eel.

Implementation of the Monongahela National Forest Ecological Restoration, surrounding Lambert Run, in WV continues this summer and fall with a holistic suite of restoration activities, including soil decompaction, wetland restoration, woody debris loading, and planting of native trees, to restore 2,600 acres of the Lambert Run watershed for the federally protected Northern flying squirrel and native brook trout. American Rivers and the EPA are partnering to fund a portion of this project through our Potomac Highlands Implementation Grant Program.

What projects are you looking forward to this season?

Five reasons to ditch the playground and take your kid to the river

News from American Rivers - Mon, 07/07/2014 - 11:52am

Kober family plays at the North Umpqua River | Amy Kober

Our family just spent a weekend on Oregon’s North Umpqua River. Watching my four year old play on the riverbank, I saw over and over again how rivers are the best playgrounds.  The unstructured time for play, discovery, and relaxation reminded me that visiting a river is a great way to de-stress, get exercise, spend time together, and reconnect.

Make it a family tradition. Make it a habit. It’s fun, and you and your kids will be healthier and happier for it.

Here are five reasons why rivers are the best playgrounds: Move and explore

River and stream banks have everything a kid needs to move and play at his or her own pace and style:  beaches, fallen trees and logs, and rocks. The Umpqua River has some great bedrock ledges, some smooth, some rutted, some with little potholes of rainwater. It’s a natural playground inspiring all kinds of motion –balancing on the mossy logs, climbing over and under branches, hopping around the bedrock, splashing in the puddles.

Make a friend

Typical playgrounds don’t have the variety of wildlife you can find on a river. We watched water striders in the calm shallows, and cheered a duck as it paddled through a little rapid. We enjoyed the background chorus of birdsong and tried to guess which animals live in the little holes, caves, and cracks under rocks and logs.

Playing with sticks – Kober family at the North Umpqua River | Amy Kober

Play with sticks

Kids love sticks. Dig with them, whack something with them, wave them around in the air. My little boy loves stick swords and we had some good ninja battles on the river bank. Driftwood chunks come in all shapes and sizes and are great for pretend play.

Learn

Where does all this water come from? Where is it going? We talked about how the river sculpts the banks and how it moves sand, gravel, even big boulders, downstream.

Dream

We all need beauty, something bigger than ourselves that captures our hearts and minds. Kids (and adults, too) need places where our imaginations are free to soar. Rivers give us all of this. Sit and watch the light dance on the water or hike to a waterfall. Kids understand river magic.

Efficiency-boosting mechanism for PSE moving ahead

News from NW Energy Coalition - Mon, 07/07/2014 - 10:25am
Thurston County Superior Court Judge Murphy has rejected the primary challenges to an historic regulatory ruling that will allow Puget Sound Energy to reduce consumers’ energy use without undermining its financial health. PSE will be on a course to increase electricity savings by at least 5% from its already robust conservation programs. PSE will make available an additional $500,000 for weatherization of low-income homes. The order also requires the utility to increase its low-income bill assistance funding by $1.5 million.

Ushering in a new era of conservation

News from American Rivers - Mon, 07/07/2014 - 9:02am

This article is a joint opinion piece co-authored by Tom Vilsack and Matt Rice. Tom Vilsack serves as the 30th U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. Matt Rice is the director of the Colorado River Basin Program for American Rivers. This article was first published in the Sante Fe New Mexican.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack

Last week, the United States Department of Agriculture launched the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, a new effort that will expand partnerships and boost investments in clean water, soil and wildlife conservation projects.

The concept behind the Regional Conservation Partnership Program is simple: To feed a growing global population in the face of climate change, we must ask a lot of our land and water resources. Here in the Colorado River Basin, we are faced with historic drought conditions and water supply pressures — 33 million people across the region, including farms, ranches and local communities share water from the Colorado River. These challenges also place considerable pressure on the health of rivers, streams and aquifers throughout the basin.

Conservation has never been so critical, yet no single farmer, organization or government entity has the resources to take on these enormous challenges alone.

That’s where the Regional Conservation Partnership Program comes in. The program allows the USDA to bridge the gap between those partners and leverage more support for what works in conservation. It allows nontraditional conservation stakeholders, such as companies and other for-profit groups, to jump on board with funding and other support for conservation projects designed by local partners, like farmers, ranchers and foresters. The program builds on the momentum of conservation partners already engaged right here in the region, and allows them to access more funding and technical support than they could on an individual basis.

This program is a prime example of how government can serve as a catalyst for private investment to help meet the specific needs of local communities. By elevating fresh, new approaches, offering support for proven, successful conservation efforts and bringing together a larger consortium of partners and monetary support, the program allows us to more effectively accomplish our shared goals of keeping the land resilient and water clean.

The Regional Conservation Partnership Program initiative in the Colorado River Basin will demonstrate what can be achieved by combining strong partnerships, sound science and funding to solve natural resource problems at a watershed scale. These efforts will help Colorado River Basin farmers and ranchers mitigate and adapt to drought conditions and water supply disruptions by improving irrigation infrastructure and water delivery reliability, enhancing operational flexibility and irrigation water management, and adopting innovative agricultural water conservation measures that produce mutual benefits for working lands and rivers.

In addition to supporting local conservation goals, conservation investments also propel economic growth. Conservation work includes building terraces in fields and restoring wetlands, which means new local jobs. The resulting cleaner water and enhanced fish and wildlife habitat also expands opportunities for hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation. In the Colorado River Basin alone, the outdoor recreation economy supports 234,000 direct jobs, $3.2 billion in federal, state and local taxes, $10.4 billion in annual earnings, salaries and wages, and $26 billion in overall spending each year.

The USDA expects to invest $1.2 billion in projects across the country over the next five years. With partners investing alongside the USDA, we hope to double that investment, leveraging a total of $2.4 billion for conservation. We can’t achieve these goals without partners of all kinds — farmers, ranchers, private companies, universities, local and tribal governments, and nonprofit organizations like American Rivers — at the table providing technical assistance, brokering partnerships and mobilizing support. Together, we will forge a new era of conservation partnership that more effectively confronts the growing threats to our natural resources, keeps our land resilient and our water clean and plentiful for generations to come.

Create Adventure: Lopez Island Bike Camping

Today’s guest blogger is Rebecca Roush of Seattle. She is a bike commuter and edits the blog Seattle Bicyclist Portraits.

 

Want to bike #SanJuans? RT this Mount Vernon/Anacortes/Lopez #biketouring trip to put it on your #bikeit list: http://t.co/xsTwYGrWDy

— Washington Bikes (@WAbikes) July 10, 2014

 

Q.  What happens when five women want to try bicycle camping, and they work with a woman who’s done it?

A.  A six-woman bicycle camping trip!

Washington Bikes board member Kirste Johnson took five of her coworkers from Sound Transit on a post-Bike Month tour and camping trip that she made sure was well-planned and well-supplied. It was a big success, and an added bonus is that we all became better friends.

The trip went from Seattle to Lopez Island and back over three days, and due to work schedules and a funeral, we met up at different points along the way. How did people do this before smart phone technology?

Riding quiet back roads to Bow.

Kirste and I took the train from Seattle to Mount Vernon. She showed me how to “process” my bicycle for loading on the train (well worth researching prior to taking a bicycle on Amtrak). Kate boarded the train in Edmonds. Sue drove from Tacoma to Mount Vernon, and once there, the four of us rode our bicycles to Bow to camp at Harmony Fields, an organic farm run by Kate’s friends. This was a leisurely and lovely ride on Skagit County roads through farm country with little traffic. That evening we rode to The Edison Inn for dinner, and the ride back to the farm was extraordinary because of the sunlight, the blueberry farms, and three young men performing Tex Mex music in a garage.

We pitched our tents in a lawn with some mole hills. In the middle of the night, I could hear something moving underground under my pillow. I’d hit the ground with my fist and it would stop for a few seconds, and then take up the scurrying again. Ah, country living!

The next morning we broke camp and rode to the Farmhouse Restaurant on Highway 20 for farm-worker calories and to meet Candace, who took the train that morning with her new bicycle built by her sister. She rode by herself from Mount Vernon to meet us. We were all proud of her and admired her bicycle, which she said was “Awesome!”

Crossing Fidalgo Bay on the Tommy Thompson Trail.

Kirste guided us to Anacortes, which is impossible to do without travelling a few miles on Highway 20. While it’s unpleasant, there is a wide-enough shoulder to feel safe. This was made up for by the stunning Tommy Thompson Trail into Anacortes, which warns bicyclists to watch out for the pieces of clam shells left by seagulls, and the possibility of punctured tires. Along the way we passed an inlet at low tide that was full of fishing Great Blue Herons. It was “herondous”.

In Anacortes, Kirste met a friend for lunch at the Adrift Restaurant (510 Commercial Avenue) in old town Anacortes while the rest of us bought picnic food for dinner from the local farmer’s market and The Market at Anacortes, a fabulous local grocery store. We put air in our tires at bikespot, a small bicycle shop (210 Commercial Avenue) and headed for the ferry. By the time we left Anacortes, our panniers were bulging.

We pedaled to the ferry terminal, which took us through older residential neighborhoods with charming houses and yards. The shoulder along this busy route varied in width and quality. It was good to have a ride leader who pointed out scars in the shoulder. If we’d had more time, we would have stopped to visit Causland Memorial Park which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Its stonework structures are sometimes likened to that of Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi.

Our last group member, Jan, was hightailing it by car from Silverdale, and just squeaked onto the ferry in time. I was waiting at the loading dock after everyone else had boarded, with her ticket in my hand. She breezed by with a grin on her face and grabbed the ticket, leaving me the last to board.

The route from the Lopez Island Ferry terminal is a steep one for the first mile, so after our deboarding, the ferry crew had us wait to the side until all cars had unloaded before our continuing to Odlin County Park, where we had reservations to camp.

Kirste had smartly made two campsite reservations. The campground was packed with kids, families, partiers, and other camping bicyclists. We set up camp, checked out the park, ate our picnic dinner with wine made by Jan and her husband, and settled in. We all sat at a picnic table and loved being there in the sunset’s rays, drinking wine, getting to know each other better and laughing as Candace and Jan imitated various regional accents from around the eastern seaboard. They was wikkit.

The next morning, Jan, Sue and I rode into the village on Lopez Road and discovered that the park in the village has showers and restrooms. Good to know as bathing opportunities at the campground were nonexistent.

Once we were all packed, we headed to the ferry landing. There had to have been 30 bicyclists waiting for the ferry with about 30 different kinds of bikes; so many that the ferry personnel appeared to be overwhelmed and ended up having us stow the bikes between cars on the upper deck. When the ferry landed in Anacortes, there was a steady stream of bicyclists unloading and heading up the hill.

We kept a good pace getting back to Mount Vernon, pedaling by the refinery in Anacortes, a bit on Highway 20, and past more acres of blueberry fields. We had a few hours to kill before the train, so Sue headed back to her car, some of us went to Skagit River Brewery, and some of us hung out in the comfortable lounge area in the Skagit Valley Food Coop  – a bronze level Bicycle Friendly Business.

At the train station, we scrambled to load our bikes on board (we were waiting at the wrong end of the platform) and once settled on the train, pretty much collapsed.

A few days after our return, I tested the waters by inviting the other five to a lunch-time planning meeting for our next bicycle camping trip. All immediately accepted the invite. Now that we’re seasoned camping bicyclists, we’re already wondering what our next trip might be.

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Our Latest Wish List

News from Bat Conservation International - Mon, 07/07/2014 - 6:32am
Global Rapid Response: Bats of magazine Mine.

NRDC: EPA Should Ban Bee-Killing ‘Neonic’ Insecticides

News from NRDC - Sun, 07/06/2014 - 10:00pm
WASHINGTON (July 7, 2014)—The government should move as quickly as possible to ban a major class of insecticides that scientists say is a primary cause of the massive decline of bees and other crucial pollinators, the Natural Resources Defense Council said today.

Intersex Fish in Pennsylvania Watersheds Linked to Agricultural Run-off of Endocrine Disruptors

News from Beyond Pesticides - Sun, 07/06/2014 - 9:01pm
(Beyond Pesticides, July 7, 2014) A study led by the U.S. Geological Service (USGS) finds intersex fish in three watersheds of Pennsylvania and shows strong connections between these occurrences and increased pollution in waterways from endocrine-disrupting chemicals. The study, Reproductive Health Indicators of Fish from Pennsylvania Watersheds: Associations with Chemicals of Emerging Concern, examined three […]

Instagram Weekly Roundup: Summer Hiking

News from Washington Trails Association - Fri, 07/04/2014 - 1:40pm

With the summer hiking season officially underway, this week's shots and stories on our Instagram roundup revolve around everything that makes summer in Washington so amazing.

Whether it's in your latest trip reports or on your Instagram feed, we love exploring Washington's wild places through your eyes. On Instagram? Follow us @washingtontrails and tag #washingtontrails when you're out adventuring this summer!

Artist Point, Mount St. Helens, Mount Rainier Roads Open to Hikers

News from Washington Trails Association - Thu, 07/03/2014 - 12:40pm

Roads leading into three great recreation areas—Artist Point, Mount Rainier, and the east side of Mount St. Helens—have opened in time for the Fourth of July weekend. Get the details and remember: just because a road may be open, it doesn't mean hiking trails will be clear or snow-free.

Artist Point is open

On  July 1, WSDOT crews finally cleared the last of the snow from the road to Artist Point. Artist Point is located at the very end of Mount Baker Highway, State Route 542 and boasts 360-degree views of Mount Shuksan and Mount Baker, as well as access to a variety of trails.

If the clouds cooperate, the views from the parking lot are stunning. But right now, there's still tons of snow still up there (trails and restrooms are still buried in snow). You're better off waiting about a month for the really great Mount Baker hiking, and spend the next month enjoying lower-elevation North Cascades hiking.

If you do go, the nearby Heather Meadows Visitor Center (and restrooms) open July 4.

Get more information on the road and conditions

Mount Rainier roads open

The road to Sunrise opened June 27. At 6,400 feet, Sunrise is the highest point that can be reached by vehicle at Mount Rainier National Park. What it means for hikers: there's still patchy and melting snow on trails there.

This time of year, trail conditions vary wildly in the park depending on where you are, and road status can change quickly.

Access the east side of Mount St. Helens

Forest Road 99 is open, allowing access to Mount St. Helens east-side attractions such as Windy Ridge, Meta Lake and the Miner’s Car as well as east side access to the Mount Margaret Backcountry.

A visit to Mount St. Helens may not have been on your hiking radar, but it should be. Hikers always wish they had visited the Monument sooner. And because of snow, the window on the east side is a short one. The road accesses remote and unique locations deep within the blast-zone, where visitors can see the impact and recovery from the 1980 eruption.

 

Meta Lake is a short, easy trail great for families and wheelchairs. Photo by raring2hike.

Members Matter

It’s easy to stop and smell the daffodils when you’re on a bike.

This is my 20th year with Washington Bikes. That’s two decades of advocating for better and safer places for all of us to ride our bikes. And I feel the blood, sweat and tears are paying off. In every neighborhood and every community I visit in our state I see people biking!

So why do I bike? Plain and simple: it’s joyful! Riding a bike puts a smile on my face, a song in my heart, and lifts my spirits. Riding a bike keeps me connected to my inner child and reminds that simple pleasures are the best ones.

Why do I support Washington Bikes as a member? I want future generations to have the opportunity to experience the same joy that I experience today. As happy as I am to see the uptick in bicycling, I know things can be even better. I know that some of our kids do not get to experience the same joy and freedom on a bike that I did as a child.

My membership in Washington Bikes is also an investment in my own biking future. I want to ensure that the trails and bike routes that I use and enjoy today remain accessible and safe. I want stronger penalties for distracted driving and enforcement of those laws. I want other cyclists to follow the rules of the road and trails.

Washington Bikes works hard to pass policies and legislation that make our streets safer for biking, encourages safe behavior among all users of our streets, and makes it easier for folks to hop in the saddle for a pedal to the store, a park or a cross-state adventure.

I am proud of this organization and its contributions to preserve and enhance our quality of life in Washington. I will continue to support Washington Bikes and I hope you will too. Join us today and be counted. Members matter.

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