Volunteer Frenzy!

Food Lifeline volunteers

Yes, that’s a heart-shaped potato our team found in this huge bin.

Six Hart Crowser staffers volunteered their time at Food Lifeline last week to kick off this year’s participation in Food Frenzy. Food Frenzy is a team-building competition between hundreds of socially responsible companies working to help end hunger for children in Western Washington.

This particular session involved bagging potatoes from huge crates into 5-pound bags. We earned points for the Hart Crowser Food Frenzy team and, in just two hours, helped Food Lifeline to provide 4,154 meals.

Volunteering is just one of many ways to earn points for Food Frenzy. Check it out here. The main event takes place during two weeks in July, and it’s a lot of fun. If your company wants to compete, contact Food Lifeline.

New SEPA Rules and More on the Horizon

Infill Project

Infill projects, like this new commercial property, will benefit from relaxed permitting requirements under the revised SEPA rules.

At 42 years old, Washington’s State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) needed a little makeover. It’s had nips and tucks (okay, amendments) before, but the most recent changes became effective on January 28. A little background: SEPA was put in place to help get agencies, applicants, and the public through a formal review of development projects—and the effects they might have—before government actions happen. Actions like construction permits, or adoption of regulations, plans, or policies.

Some highlights:

  • Streamlined regulatory processes make the program more efficient, while continuing to protect the state’s natural resources.
  • Process and documentation changes are better aligned with current technology.
  • Changes in the list of actions (and respective thresholds) that are categorically exempt from certain compliance requirements.
  • A useful table that better defines flexible thresholds for certain types of minor new construction in and outside of counties that use the Growth Management Act.
  • An electronic version of the environmental checklist form for disclosing and characterizing a proposal’s key features and for describing anticipated impacts and mitigation commitments.

What effect will these changes have on developers and communities? The elevated exemption thresholds will tend to increase the number of urban projects. For developers, this should mean less of a regulatory process, more predictability for project planning, reduced development costs, and shorter project timelines. Ultimately, this could make more affordable housing available, subject to market forces and demand.

While such benefits are encouraging, it’s important that the exemption thresholds don’t compromise key objectives of SEPA that ensure meaningful public review, project disclosure, informed decision-making, and protection of the natural and built environments. Existing regulations and reviews by various levels of government involving land use approvals, construction permit authorizations, and resource oversight and protection should continue to ensure that project-related impacts are properly considered and mitigated, and that meaningful public disclosure and input opportunities are maintained.

More comprehensive changes are scheduled to happen by December 31, 2013.

Details of the January 28 changes here.

Ecology’s New Freshwater Sediment Criteria

Sediment Sampling

The Washington State Department of Ecology has released Revised Sediment Management Standards that will become effective in September 2013. Differences from the existing Marine Sediment Criteria include:

  • Shorter list of compounds
  • Criteria are based on dry weight rather than organic carbon normalized
  • Total DDT (pesticide) and its degradation products are included. The compounds included in the totals are different from those used for marine sediment and soil criteria.
  • Criteria for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are based on totals rather than individual compounds. The compounds included in the totals are different from those used for marine sediment and soil criteria.
  • Total petroleum hydrocarbon (TPH) criteria have been established. Additional sample extraction and cleanup or alternative laboratory methods may be required to remove false positive results from naturally occurring organic matter.

Laboratory detection limits must be lower than criteria and, for non-detected results, both the method detection limit and the practical quantitation limit must be reported.

Ecology may require toxicity testing in the following instances where criteria may not predict sediment impacts:

  • Sediment with unusual geochemical or biochemical characteristics influencing toxicity (release or bioavailability of contaminants) including total organic carbon in environments such as bogs and alpine wetlands.
  • Sediment with pore water or overlying water that has unusual geochemical or biochemical characteristics influencing toxicity (release or bioavailability of contaminants) including pH or hardness.
  • Sediment impacted by metals mining, metals milling, or metals smelting.
  • Sediment impacted by other toxic, radioactive, biological, or deleterious substances.

More information is on the Ecology website.