Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Thurston County Commissioners Adopt Biomass Facility Moratorium

Thurston County Commissioners Adopt Biomass Facility Moratorium

By Janine Gates

The board of Thurston County Commissioners today approved an ordinance adopting a 12 month moratorium on new biomass facilities. The ordinance, which takes effect immediately, states that "adopting the moratorium is necessary for the preservation of the public health, safety and general welfare of Thurston County residents."

The moratorium language was created out of research conducted by county staff, along with information and public testimony recently received by the commissioners, largely regarding the biomass gasification facility proposed by The Evergreen State College (TESC) in Olympia.

Interim regulations were also adopted to define biomass facilities, biomass conversion and biomass gasification.

The board meeting was announced as a special meeting of the commissioners. Commissioners Cathy Wolfe and Sandra Romero were present - Commissioner Karen Valenzuela was unable to attend.

During the meeting, which lasted about ten minutes, Romero said that the moratorium is to give the county "breathing room" to study the biomass issue because it is not currently addressed in county code. The commissioners also found that the biomass issue is not adequately addressed in Lacey, Olympia and Tumwater urban growth area zoning codes.

"We don't have enough information - it's all anecdotal at this point. We don't want to be like other counties and get caught in a reactionary mode. There might not be enough wood, for example, to sustain this facility," said Romero in an interview this afternoon.

"We want to be ahead of the curve and not behind it....this could be terribly unhealthy for us. It's about clean air in many ways. It's not a narrow issue and it doesn't have to do just with Evergreen - it's the issue of biomass that we need to get a handle on. We have very little wiggle room before we're not in compliance with the Clean Air Act," said Romero.

Commissioner Cathy Wolfe also expressed concern about TESC's proposed fuel supply and issues related to health. The Commissioners also serve as the county's board of health.

"We need time to study the issue before we move forward with permitting...I want to learn a lot more - we're not taking a position at this time on the issue, but it's prudent to slow down. I'm so glad everyone's paying attention to this issue," said Wolfe in an interview this afternoon.

The use of biomass to create heat and electricity is an issue of national debate.

“This is not just a planning issue…we need to work with the health department and other jurisdictions to study the issue," said Jeremy Davis, Thurston County associate planner, who compiled background information and resources for the consideration of the commissioners.

“We’re planning to do a website in the next week about the moratorium so we can provide people information. This will be available at www.thurstonplanning.org. We are also required to have a public hearing within 60 days about the moratorium. The board has not officially set the date for the public hearing, but will at its next meeting," said Davis.

A tentative date for the public hearing has been set for February 7, at 5:30 p.m. in Room 152 at the Thurston County Courthouse, 2000 Lakeridge Dr. SW. The meeting date will be determined at the board's next meeting, January 4th, 2011.

The notice for the public hearing will also solicit comments for adding the item to the Commissioners 2010-11 Comprehensive Plan Amendment docket. The commissioners will study environmental and siting issues, propose amendments to the Thurston County comprehensive plan, if necessary, and propose amendments to the Thurston County code.

There are two circumstances in which the county moratorium can not prohibit siting such facilities: essential public facilities as defined by the Growth Management Act, and facilities that fall under the jurisdiction of the Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) energy facility certification process. Under Washington state law, the council could preempt local zoning regulations following its public hearing process.

Davis did not see that Evergreen's proposed facility is included in these circumstances at this time.

"If it's determined it is an 'essential public facility', then it would come in under those GMA provisions," said Davis. It is in TESC's hands as to what to propose to add to the state's capital facilities project list. Davis said it is unlikely that the TESC facility would fall under EFSEC's certification process since those facilities are usually very large.

"If they come in as an essential public facility, then there is a very long, public, special use permit process," said Davis. Since TESC has not yet submitted any application, it's hard to say what kind of facility it would be typed as, and what kind of permit process would follow, says Davis.

Four other, larger biomass facilities have been proposed, permitted or built in nearby counties. The facilities include the Adage and Simpson incinerators in Shelton, Mason County, the Port Townsend Paper incinerator in Jefferson County, and the Nippon incinerator in Port Angeles, Clallam County.

The Evergreen State College was asked to comment on today's moratorium. Jason Wettstein, TESC communications director, responded on behalf of several senior staff and administration members involved with the biomass facility project.

"We haven't had time to consider what this means for our project. Scott (Morgan, TESC's sustainability coordinator) found out about the meeting and went this morning prepared to provide the commissioner's with information, but he was not asked for it. It was really a bit of a surprise," said Wettstein.

Jeff Morris, economist and principal of Sound Resource Management with 25 years of professional experience in biomass issues, attended the Commissioner's meeting today.

"It was pretty amazing what they did - I think it's great. The process needed to slow down because TESC has never seriously considered alternatives based on any scientific life cycle research.

"TESC also hasn't addressed revealing what the emissions are (of the proposed facility) much less what the impacts of those emissions will be. I'm hoping this time-out will lead to the consideration of real scientific information that's available on ways to reduce our carbon and pollution footprints," said Morris.

In related news, The Evergreen State College did not receive the $10 million it requested for its proposed biomass gasification facility in Governor Chris Gregoire's transportation, capital, and economic development budget released last week. TESC did receive $10.8 million for other projects such as the renovation of the communications and science lab buildings.

Other funding TESC wanted, but did not receive, was for lecture hall renovation planning, acquisition of land to support TESC's Tacoma campus facility, and modernization of the original farm building at TESC's organic farm.

"We got less than we wanted...and we'll have to give our facilities extra TLC (tender loving care) at a basic maintenance level," said Steve Trotter, TESC budget director and Sustainability Council co-chair.

During the upcoming legislative session, Evergreen will continue to advance its funding priorities for its capital budget projects, which includes the proposed biomass gasification facility, said Trotter last week.

For more information:

About TESC's proposed biomass facility, see articles by Janine Gates at www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com.

Thurston County Commissioners: www.co.thurston.wa.us/bocc

Thurston County Planning Department: www.co.thurston.wa.us/planning or www.thurstonplanning.com.

Office of Financial Management (OFM)- OFM maintains the state list of essential public facilities: http://www.ofm.wa.gov/reports/default.asp and

MRSC information on essential public facilities: http://www.mrsc.org/askmrsc/pastinqsubject.aspx?sid=26#Essential Public Facilities

State of Washington Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council website: http://www.efsec.wa.gov/default.shtm

Thursday, December 16, 2010

TESC Responds To Misleading Biomass Testimony Given to House Capital Budget Committee

by Janine Gates

TESC Responds To Misleading Biomass Testimony Given to House Capital Budget Committee

Evergreen State College (TESC) vice-president John Hurley acknowledged today that his remarks to the House Capital Budget Committee last week about TESC's proposed biomass gasification facility may have unintentionally created some misconceptions about the college’s process regarding the project.

Hurley's letter to TESC's Sustainability Council is reprinted below.

Hurley optimistically told committee members last Thursday that TESC will begin the permitting process and that construction for the facility was expected to begin in the summer of 2011. He did not acknowledge that the feasibility study by TESC's Sustainability Council for the project was still ongoing.

TESC's sustainability coordinator, Scott Morgan, nor TESC's budget director, Steve Trotter, who is also TESC's Sustainability Council co-chair, have said they did not know Hurley was going to give the update to the committee.

Hurley gave the presentation to the committee as part of an update from recipients on grants received under the Jobs Act's K - 12 energy efficiency program. Evergreen received a $3.7 million grant in early October from the Washington State Department of Commerce towards the construction of a new biomass facility.

To reach carbon neutrality by 2020, the college is studying the issue in an effort to discontinue its reliance on fossil fuels to heat its buildings and produce hot water. TESC has also expressed interest in producing its own electricity using biomass. The use of biomass as an energy source is hotly debated within the state and around the country.

In a separate statement provided to this blog, TESC president Les Purce said he and Hurley are both committed to the process of the Sustainability Council in studying the feasibility of a biomass gasification facility.

“I want to assure you that both John and I are committed to the process the Sustainability Council is undertaking in the review of the biomass gasification proposal, and we look forward to their recommendations in early March. We are both committed to helping the college advance our sustainability agenda including our campus-wide carbon neutrality goals,” said Purce.

In an interview last week, Purce acknowledged the controversy around TESC’s proposed biomass gasification study.

“I realize that we cannot rest on our laurels, but I am surprised by the level of suspicion around Evergreen and the idea that we would do something that wasn’t in our best interest and would not move us closer to our carbon neutrality goals. I would like to add that Evergreen has a 40 year track record of leading on issues of social and environmental justice. We intend to uphold this long-standing tradition in the context of this biomass gasification feasibility study.”

Editor's Note:

The following emails from Steve Trotter, TESC's budget director and co-chair of the TESC Sustainability Council, and John Hurley were received today, December 16th.

They were sent to about 80 individuals, including the TESC Sustainability Council, members of the TESC Clean Energy Committee, and various TESC staff, faculty, students, and community members interested in the biomass issue:


On behalf of the Evergreen Sustainability Council, I wanted to forward to you John Hurley’s message to the Council regarding his recent testimony. I am also passing along a link our site that has links to the two presentations that you saw at our last Council meeting regarding the McKinstry feasibility report and the Sustainability Council’s draft schedule and process.

Evergreen’s Office of Sustainability Blog: http://blogs.evergreen.edu/sustainability/biomass/

McKinstry’s Power Point Presentation: http://www.evergreen.edu/sustainability/docs/bmg/mckinstry_presentation_120610.pdf

TESC Sustainability Council’s Draft Process/Schedule: http://www.evergreen.edu/sustainability/docs/bmg/council_process_update_120610.pdf

I hope John’s message speaks to some of your concerns and that these two documents provide context into the work we are trying to accomplish. John is aware of the misperceptions he may have fostered inadvertently in his testimony, and encouraged me to forward his full response to you for your blog. We hope that this will also provide background to the conversations you engage in via your blog and elsewhere in the community.

I also want to reaffirm that Evergreen remains committed to the process you saw outlined during our last Council meeting.

Thanks Janine,

Steve Trotter

John Hurley’s message is below:

Dear Members of the Sustainability Council:

Last Thursday, December 9, I testified in front of the House Capital Budget Committee to report on Evergreen’s ongoing efforts to reduce its energy costs and usage. Part of this testimony included a brief report on the status of the biomass gasification initiative at Evergreen, for which the Department of Commerce has awarded us grant funding. In the process of providing this testimony, I unintentionally created some misconceptions about the college’s process and where we are in that process. I’d like to clear those up and send a clear message that I have been and continue to be committed to the college’s process for evaluating the appropriateness of biomass gasification as a tool for reducing our carbon footprint.

In the context of this testimony, I referred to the draft feasibility study which has been prepared by McKinstry. The draft version of this study provides encouraging data on energy savings, fuel and emissions. I was asked to provide the Capital Budget Committee with a timeline for the proposed project, and while I did provide a preliminary timeline to the committee, it was not meant to imply that our study process is finished or that we have reached a conclusion. The decision to move forward with the biomass initiative is still dependent on several critical factors, including the receipt of a favorable review from the Sustainability Council. I remain committed to the Sustainability Council’s process and timelines.

One of the concerns that has been expressed is that I did not mention the additional elements which are being studied by the Council in my testimony. I hope all of you understand that I was given only a few minutes to provide testimony, which didn’t leave much time for discussion re: our process. I focused my report on the concrete measures that Evergreen is taking to reduce its carbon footprint because this is the information the Capital Committee needs to conduct its work.

On reflection, it would have better if I had woven more information about the process into my testimony to prevent creating any misconceptions about where we are in that process. The fact that I didn’t shouldn’t be interpreted as a lack of commitment to the ongoing work of the Sustainability Council, including its ongoing efforts to determine whether this initiative would in fact result in a reduction of our carbon footprint. Satisfactory answers to the key questions being studied by the Sustainability Council will need to be found before the college makes a firm commitment to the construction of a biomass facility, and I did not intend to imply otherwise in my testimony.

That being said, I am enthusiastically looking forward to receiving the Council’s recommendations in early March to help bring this process to an essential milepost. My comments to the committee should be interpreted in this context. If the reviews by the Council, the VP’s and the President, and the Board of Trustees are favorable, indicating that the project will help us meet our sustainability goals, we would begin to move to secure permits shortly after the concluding recommendations from the Sustainability Council are received in March.



John A. Hurley, Ed.D.
Vice President for Finance and Administration
The Evergreen State College
360.867.6500 Office
360.867.6577 Fax

For more information about TESC's proposed biomass gasification facility, see other articles on this blog at www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com by using the search button and typing in key words.

Monday, December 13, 2010

TESC's Biomass Project: "This facility is expected to begin construction in 2011...."

Above: TESC vice-president for finance, John Hurley, explains the biomass gasification process at a community meeting held on campus in July.

TESC's Biomass Project:
“….This facility is expected to begin construction in 2011.…”

By Janine Gates

Senior staff of The Evergreen State College (TESC) gave members of the Washington State House Capital Budget Committee an update on its proposed biomass gasification project on Thursday, December 9.

After reviewing recent TESC energy conservation and efficiency successes, TESC vice-president for finance, John Hurley, briefly explained its biomass feasibility study process - which is still ongoing - then confidently told committee members, “We will begin our permitting process and this facility is expected to begin construction in 2011 - the summer of 2011....”

TESC director of facilities Paul Smith joined Hurley in the presentation, but did not speak.

Committee members held the work session to hear updates from recipients on grants received under the Jobs Act’s K-12 energy efficiency program.

Evergreen received a $3.7 million grant in early October from the Washington State Department of Commerce towards the construction of a new biomass gasification plant. It was the highest amount of any project awarded by the Governor’s $31 million grant under Commerce’s “Jobs Act” to create jobs and for energy cost savings.

TESC estimates that their proposed biomass gasification facility will cost about $13.9 million to build.

McKinstry Deems TESC Biomass Facility "Feasible"

According to McKinstry, an energy services company, The Evergreen State College’s biomass gasification project is feasible. McKinstry staff revealed their draft findings to TESC’s Sustainability Council in a meeting on campus on Monday, December 6.

TESC contracted with McKinstry in April of this year to study the feasibility of the project in terms of finances, adequate fuel source availability and conceptual design. McKinstry also assured TESC that project savings can be guaranteed.

According to McKinstry, TESC could save $583,000 net per year in fuel savings by converting from natural gas to biomass.

McKinstry contracted with a Vancouver company, LD Jellison, which determined that Evergreen can be consistently supplied with fuel. This supply is potentially available from Washington State Department of Natural Resource (DNR) lands, Ft. Lewis, and members of the Northwest Natural Resource Group (NNRG).

According to its website, NNRG’s priority is to support the growth of a profitable, sustainable, and environmentally sound timber industry in Washington State, primarily through its northwest certified forestry program for small landowners.

Scott Morgan, TESC’s sustainability coordinator, Morgan says, “We haven’t talked to anyone yet about supplying us (TESC’s biomass gasification facility), we’re just assessing what’s out there.

"For working forests, biomass is a waste stream. Some leave more than others on the ground and some is inaccessible. LD Jellison determined what is available for use,” said Morgan in an interview last week.

TESC’s efforts to study the issue of biomass gasification to heat its buildings and produce hot water is part of its stated goal to be carbon neutral by 2020. The use of biomass and whether it is carbon neutral, is being hotly debated on a national and international scale.

McKinstry also suggested that Evergreen, in a future phase of the biomass gasification project, could produce its own electricity.

“There is a potential for heat and power applications here, but it would cost another several million dollars," says Morgan.

"The University of British Columbia in Vancouver is just kicking out a pilot project doing this. It’s not something we can pursue right now, but if the technology is there, we’ll pursue it and use the same amount of energy more efficiently.

“There was federal money available for combined heat and power projects but we’re not ready and I don’t think we could have qualified. The money was mostly for utilities and municipalities. The Commerce grant was specifically aimed at schools, because they had been shut out up to now.”

TESC Sustainability Council Crams To Show Their Homework

TESC appears to be scrambling to show their homework on several fronts to beat several financial deadlines that are already in play.

At TESC’s Sustainability Council meeting on Monday, December 6, Morgan outlined a long laundry list of fundamental process and study issues that still need to begin, and resolved, in a very short timeline and with a small budget of $115,000.

This list includes a comparative survey of renewable energy options, a project specific analysis of carbon neutrality question, a project specific emissions analysis, an analysis of likely regional impacts on forest health, an analysis of the community impacts of the biomass facility proposal, a plan for long-term monitoring, a blueprint for a learning lab to support academic engagement, and the creation of an ongoing science review and advisory panel.

A draft TESC report on the project’s next steps says, “Despite many conversations around the values and details of these concerns and extensive, but uncoordinated, literature research by various members of the Sustainability Council there has been no formal agreement on who should be completing these study elements.”

Because of state restrictions on hiring consultant services, TESC is looking in-house to accomplish some of these tasks. The report goes on to say that the council is limited by “our lack of personal expertise in the particular issues in question, our lack of time to dedicate to developing that expertise, and limited time to physically perform the research necessary to inform our final decision.”

It had been suggested in a community meeting last month that TESC hire University of Oregon forest science professor Mark Harmon to do an analysis of TESC’s carbon balance question. Harmon has since responded that he may not have the time to do this, but could help find someone who can assist the college.

To answer another key environmental concern, Morgan suggested sending out an emissions analysis of several tons of local slash to determine what is in our local wood source to determine what is in it. TESC would have to create a specific list of what should be analyzed, such as dioxins, furans, heavy metals, radionuclides and nanoparticles. This could be a very expensive test.

Morgan suggested inviting Kirk Hanson of the Northwest Natural Resource Group as well as TESC faculty to do a study of regional forest health impacts on source forests, and determine the impact of TESC’s participation in the biomass supply equation.

Sustainability council member, faculty member Rob Knapp, commented that it is getting near the holidays and accomplishing these tasks could be difficult.

The Sustainability Council was not briefed during last Monday’s meeting that college vice-president Hurley would be providing his ambitious sounding report, three days later, on the project to the House Capital Budget committee.

The Sustainability Council has been meeting once a month for the last year, according to Morgan. “Council meetings were reduced to one time per month last year while we were going through our re-budgeting.”

As for meeting minutes about the biomass feasibility study discussions, they are almost non-existent. “I kept them for a while, but it got to where I couldn’t run the meeting and keep minutes, and there was no other staff,” says Morgan. Due to budget cuts, Morgan’s position is three-quarters time.

The next Sustainability Council meeting is January 10, the same day as the legislative session is scheduled to begin.

TESC Follows the Money

Evergreen’s tight timeline to accomplish a lot of work appears to be money-driven. In February, the council anticipates a need to submit a contract with McKinstry and/or the Washington State Department of Commerce to remain eligible for the $3.7 million jobs and energy cost savings grant TESC received from Commerce in October.

March is the anticipated deadline for the council to make a decision and recommendation on biomass to TESC vice-presidents. In April, the legislative session is scheduled to end and TESC will find out if it receives any portion of the $10 million it requested in state appropriations to build the gasification plant.

In May, college president Les Purce and staff will present the college’s draft 2011-13 capital spending plan, which may or may not include funding to build the biomass gasification facility, to TESC Board of Trustees. In June, Purce will present his recommended budget to the Trustees, who will make their final decision.

The next Board of Trustees meeting is January 19, 2011. The public is invited to make comments to the Trustees during the public comment period.

Speakers Address Thurston County Commissioners About Biomass

As the community becomes more aware of TESC’s proposed biomass facility, several speakers addressed the Thurston County Commissioners during its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, December 7.

Janet Jordan, who hosted a show on Thurston County Television in September about biomass issues, spoke about TESC’s proposed biomass facility. In part, she was concerned about Evergreen contributing to the overall dependence on local wood supplies.

“TESC has said that its biomass gasification plant will use only 12,000 tons of fuel a year and will draw its supplies from forests within a radius of 30 - 50 miles around the college….it will be competing with the Adage plant currently planned for Shelton. The price of fuel and the effect on the forests will come from the total demand of all the biomass plants in the area,” Jordan said.

“We used to burn wood to heat our houses back in the 18th century. We got away from that because there were not enough forests in the world to fill the demand, and because we understood how many other irreplaceable services forests served. These lessons are still valid. Let’s not let our thinking go backwards to a time when we didn’t understand them.”

Barb Scavezze, coordinator of the Cool Thurston Campaign, thanked the commissioners for their role in reducing Thurston County’s carbon footprint. She urged the commissioners to not allow biomass incinerators in Thurston County.

“Wood waste energy releases carbon into the atmosphere - more than fossil fuels - and contributes to climate disruption. We need to transition away from burning carbon fuels for energy to renewable energy forms….”

Allen Gutman, a retired local physician who lives near The Evergreen State College, also registered his opposition to Evergreen’s proposed biomass facility. “Use your best judgment and your care for our environment. I don’t know why they’re considering biomass…It claims it’s carbon neutral but it’s not - it’s not renewable. It’s not safe, there’s toxic emissions that aren’t regulated…it produces dioxins…we do have other solutions.”

“We’re Tree Huggers, not Tree Burners!”

Above: Connie Simpson outside the Thurston County courthouse in Olympia on December 7 after her testimony to commissioners about TESC's proposed biomass gasification project.

Connie Simpson, a retired registered nurse who lives in Mason County and a TESC alumna, told the commissioners that she developed asthma in the 1990’s after she moved to Shelton. She said she believes her asthma and other health issues is caused by living near the Simpson Lumber and Olympic Plywood industrial sites. Connie Simpson is not related to the Simpson Lumber family.

Simpson told the commissioners that three of her grandchildren who live in Shelton have upper respiratory problems. She questioned whether or not the Environmental Protection Agency, Washington State emissions regulations or the Olympic Regional Clean Air Agency has protected her from the consequences of inhaled pollutants, such as carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, and particulate matter from diesel trucks carrying timber, and emissions from the downtown factories.

“…so, I was astounded when I learned that my alma mater, TESC, was proposing a biomass plant. We’re tree huggers, not tree burners!” said Simpson.

Simpson questioned the college’s proposed need for two truckloads a days of biomass, for the facility. “Diesel trucks will log and load the trees, trucks will haul the fuel to the college with their attendant diesel emissions affecting every living thing they pass…TESC is merely spreading out their footprint, not eliminating it.”

Later, Simpson said she will no longer contribute to the Evergreen Foundation if TESC builds a biomass gasification plant. She also said she has started a group called Grandmothers Against Pollution.

For more information about TESC's biomass gasification study project, read “Biomass Issue Becomes a Public Relations ’Biomess’ for The Evergreen State College,” November 24, 2010, at www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com.

To view the House Capital Budget Committee work session and TESC’s report to members on December 9, 2010, go to: http://www.tvw.org/media/mediaplayer.cfm?evid=2010121014&TYPE=V&CFID=1638937&CFTOKEN=55582746&bhcp=1

To contact TESC College President Les Purce or the Board of Trustees, write them at The Evergreen State College, Olympia, Washington 98507, or call (360) 867-6100. For more information on Board of Trustee meetings, go to: http://www.evergreen.edu/trustees/meetings.htm

The TESC Sustainability Council’s website is being updated: http://www.evergreen.edu/sustainability/sustainabilitycouncil.htm or go to http://www.evergreen.edu/sustainability/biomasshome/htm

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Olympia City Council Votes for Urban Waterfront - Housing Zoning for Isthmus

Above: City of Olympia Planning Commission Chair Roger Horn, left, chats with Councilmember Steve Langer during a break after tonight's vote to rezone the isthmus to UW - H 35.

Olympia City Council Votes for Urban Waterfront - Housing Zoning for Isthmus

By Janine Gates

After a public hearing on the issue, the Olympia city council voted tonight, five to two, in favor of rezoning downtown’s isthmus area to Urban Waterfront-Housing (UW - H) and limiting the height to 35 feet.

Mayor Doug Mah and Councilmember Craig Ottavelli opposed the zoning designation, preferring Urban Waterfront (UW). In voting against the motion to approve UW - H 35, Mayor Mah said that he "had doubts in the UW - H zoning's ability to get rid of blight or change the condition on the isthmus. UW has a slightly better chance..."

In support of the motion, Councilmember Rhenda Strub reminded the council that last January she wanted UW - H via a text amendment. "There was a level of trust missing at that time - I hope we're past that...." She added that her vote for the UW - H designation "has nothing to do with a single parcel or making the property attractive for purchase for those who want it to be a park."

Councilmember Stephen Buxbaum said that an additional refinement of land use can occur in the comprehensive plan process and vision for making the isthmus a beautiful asset for downtown Olympia.

Councilmember Steve Langer thanked the planning commission for their efforts saying, "I do think that this part of Olympia is of statewide importance. It's not just a piece of land...this area is special and having view corridors will bring people downtown and achieve some of those things - economic development - that people want."

Twenty people spoke during the public hearing portion of the evening.

City staff had recommended that the council adopt the city’s Planning Commission UW-H 35 recommendation.

Planning Commission chair Roger Horn was pleased with the outcome. “The Planning Commission went through an extensive process. It indicates the kind of vigorous debate that we had in trying to bring a balanced recommendation to the council that reflects the wishes of the community,” said Horn.

In their meeting deliberations, several planning commissioners expressed concern regarding some of the permitted uses in the UW zoning type, so UW - H was recommended to prohibit objectionable uses. Some of these uses include light industry, welding and fabrication businesses, recycling facilities, on site hazardous waste control facilities, equipment rental services, and more. The commission has asked city staff for a full review of allowed uses for all zoning types as part of the comprehensive plan update process.

The commission also asked to receive and review code information regarding the additional 18 foot height allowance for mechanical portions of a structure. “Having this real-world information would help the commission and council in balancing transparency in the code, public expectations and the need of the development community,” says a planning commission report.

Planning commission members James Reddick and Paul Ingham did not agree with the commission's UW-H 35 majority recommendation, and produced a minority report. In the report, their position is to permit a zero building height and to implement a sub-area master plan for the affected isthmus properties.

“Contrary to the majority’s claim of merely “rolling back” the height to 35 feet, the majority’s rezone does not address the many important urban problems and issues that arise from the isthmus rezone to UW-H 35,” the report says.

Such issues include compliance with capitol campus architects Wilder and White’s 1912 plans for the isthmus, the screening of roof equipment from adjacent Westside neighborhoods and the state capitol campus, and the proximity to high-traffic volume arterials involving noise and pollution.

Two speakers specifically agreed with the commission's minority report.

In testimony, Westside resident Roger Polzin supported the UW - H 35 designation, citing sea-level rise and earthquake and liquefaction issues. "We have to look at short and long term issues...the city is built on fill....We should not be encouraging high intensity uses downtown."

Above: View of the isthmus, Budd Inlet and the Olympics from the Washington State Law Enforcement Memorial on the state Capitol Campus. The owners of the nine-story building, above, currently called "The Views on 5th Avenue," have recently submitted a land use application to the city to convert it from office use to a hotel.

Other speakers supported the UW - H 35 zoning on the grounds of the unique views to and from the state capitol campus and Budd Inlet.

"This vista is the most important in the state of Washington," said land use attorney Allen Miller, whose testimony represented several Washington state governors, former secretary of state Ralph Munro, Friends of the Waterfront, and the Black Hills Audubon Society.

The evening's zoning issue became a little muddy due to the revelation by this blog that the owners of the nine-story former Capitol Center Building recently submitted a land use application to the city to change the building's use from office to hotel. The building, now called “The Views on 5th Avenue,” is located on the isthmus.

Community member Chris Stearns testified that he is not against hotels, but is concerned about increased traffic on the Fourth and Fifth Avenue bridges. "This is not the right location for intensive development."

Scott Shapiro, an owner of the building, spoke during the public hearing, supporting the Urban Waterfront zoning designation. Hotels are not allowed under UW - H zoning.

Shapiro cited the economic benefits a hotel would have for the city in terms of construction, sales, property and lodging taxes, and jobs.

Neil Falkenburg, asset manager for The Views on 5th Avenue said in his testimony that the ownership group is choosing to invest money in the building and the community. He said there would be an estimated 15,000 hotel customers each year that would benefit downtown.

The owners submitted a tenant improvement application to the city on November 10th, which was denied in a site review planning meeting composed of the city’s community development and planning members on December 1. Glenn Wells, architect for the owners, submitted a land use application later that same day.

Wells also testified at tonight's hearing, saying, "Our downtown businesses are struggling. What's the cause? A lack of free parking? A lack of housing? Bottomline, there's not enough shoppers. We need a viable downtown core."

Wells said that peak hour traffic is the building owner's primary concern and that an analysis stated that an office building would generate 110 peak hour trips versus the 81 trips generated by a hotel. "A hotel will bring in tourist dollars...one million dollars into the downtown business core and will put tens of thousands of people a year downtown at night," said Wells.

Some people have questioned whether the owners are “vested” in the property by submitting an application on November 10th in an attempt to get possible approval before the city council met to possibly change the zoning for the isthmus property.

In real estate development, a project is considered to be “vested” if it is determined that a landowner has proceeded financially far enough down the path of development of their land that the local government should not be allowed to enforce newly enacted zoning ordinances against them.

Asked prior to the meeting whether or not the proposed hotel project is “vested” by current owners, Brett Bures, associate city planner answered, “We’re deeming the application complete and it will be reviewed under the zoning that was in place when the application was submitted."

According to Todd Stamm, city planning manager, a land use application typically goes through two, 60 day review cycles. There is a gap in between those two cycles for the city to ask questions of the applicant and to allow the applicant time to respond.

Asked if existing permits would transfer to new owners should the current owners decide to sell the property, Stamm said yes.

The new zoning designation will go to final reading at next week's city council meeting.

See article posted on December 2 at www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com, “Hotel Project Application Submitted for ‘Mistake on the Lake’ Building - Public Hearing on Isthmus Rezone on Tuesday” and other articles on this blog for more information about the isthmus.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Hotel Project Application Submitted for 'Mistake on the Lake' Building - Public Hearing on Isthmus Rezone on Tuesday

Above: The view of the state Capitol Building from the ninth floor of The Views on 5th Avenue, aka "The Mistake on the Lake."

Hotel Project Application Submitted for 'Mistake on the Lake' Building - Public Hearing on Isthmus Rezone on Tuesday

By Janine Gates

It took less than five minutes yesterday morning for the city of Olympia’s planning department to deny a "tenant improvement" permit application to convert downtown's nine-story ‘Mistake on the Lake’ from an office building to a hotel.

The project was submitted to the city's planning department on November 10th. Tenant improvement applications are usually used for straight-forward interior remodel projects.

Nothing about the former state Department of Corrections building, now called "The Views on 5th Avenue," however, is straight-forward.

So, later that same afternoon, project engineer and architect Glenn Wells submitted a new application, a land use application, for the proposed hotel project.

According to the applicant's plan, the first floor of the nearly 75,000 square foot building would include a lobby, swimming pool, fitness center, dining/lounge area, a kitchen, laundry and meeting areas. The second to ninth floors would have 16 rooms per floor for a maximum of 128 rooms.

For comparison, the nearby three-story Phoenix Inn has 102 rooms and an indoor swimming pool and the eight-story Governor Hotel has 119 rooms and an outdoor, seasonally open swimming pool.

Todd Stamm, city planning manager, says he put the item on the city's site review planning agenda as a public courtesy due to the controversial nature of the area. The city's site review planning group meets on Wednesdays to review presubmissions for proposed land use projects.

The tenant improvement permit application denial appeared to be a no-brainer for staff members.

“Short version: this permit application has substantial issues for fire and police,” said Stamm. Other staff concurred. The city’s lead building official, Tom Hill, agreed, saying that the application has multiple issues that need to be addressed.

“Yes, we need a land use application,” said Hill.

Wells was not at yesterday's early morning meeting, saying later that he actually wasn’t notified that it was on the agenda. Wells says he didn’t know if his tenant improvement application would be accepted or denied, and had a land use application ready to submit.

“There’s no reason why the city would deny a change of use from office to hotel and not issue us a building permit,” said Wells.

A tenant improvement application can often be easily handled by city staff when it involves changes to the interior of a building. A land use review combines State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review, the design concept, a site plan review, and triggers an opportunity for public comment.

Asked to comment today on the hotel proposal, Jerry Reilly, chair of the Olympia Capitol Park Foundation said, "This has always been a concern in the background that someone would develop the building and we'd have to live with it for the next 50 years. Hopefully, this may give impetus for efforts to acquire the building for demolition purposes and incorporate it into an isthmus park."

The Olympia Capitol Park Foundation is raising funds to acquire a portion of the isthmus for a public park.

Above: From this viewpoint from Budd Inlet, the building in question partially obscures the state Capitol Building.

City Council Public Hearing Next Tuesday: Decision Will Determine Path of Project

The current zoning for that parcel allows a hotel on that site. However, a critical city council public hearing scheduled for next Tuesday, December 7, will determine the path of the proposed hotel project.

In January 2010, the Olympia City Council adopted an ordinance for the interim rezone of certain properties on the isthmus between the southern end of Budd Inlet and Capitol Lake. The interim rezone reverts back to the zoning that existed prior to January 1, 2009. The newly adopted rezone is intended to last until the end of 2010. The zoning is now Urban Waterfront (UW) and limits building heights to thirty-five (35) feet.

The reason for quickly adopting the interim ordinance last January was to prevent the filing of any new development applications under the zoning in effect at that time while allowing sufficient time to further evaluate the appropriate long term uses and allowable building heights for the area.

The city's Comprehensive Plan update is currently underway. To create a permanent rezone, the council will need to adopt a final rezone and comprehensive plan amendment by the end of the year.

In a November 1 meeting of the city’s Planning Commission,the Planning Commission recommended the creation of a new zoning category, urban waterfront-housing (UW-H), but with a height restriction of 35 feet. Simply put, it’s a new category in an existing zone.

On Tuesday, the city council will hold a public hearing and take action to consider two proposals for the isthmus: their own urban waterfront interim rezone ordinance or the planning commission’s new one, urban waterfront-housing with height restrictions.

“We’ll see what they do. The Urban Waterfront (UW) zone allows a hotel. If the interim ordinance were to lapse, it would revert back to Urban Waterfront - Housing (UW-H), which would not allow a hotel,” says Brett Bures, city associate planner.

The Views on 5th Avenue property is owned by a limited liability corporation and includes partners Jim Potter and Scott Shapiro. The area next door is the parcel owned by Triway Enterprises and is the site of the proposed "Larida Passage" project.

Shapiro, contacted by telephone to comment on the new land use application said, "A hotel is the highest and best use for the property right now - it's best for it to be occupied and would provide tax revenue to the city. I think it would be a win-win situation for everyone."

Above: The men's bathroom on the ninth floor. Hey, at least it's clean.

The owners estimate that it will cost $1.8 million in construction costs to structurally retrofit the building so that it will be suitable for a possible hotel. Asked to comment on this figure and the proposed hotel, Shapiro said, "It will be a sizable investment....it will create construction jobs in the short term and jobs for the long term. Environmentally, we are recycling an existing building as opposed to demolishing it and putting it in a landfill." Shapiro said the owners will be seeking LEED certification and that the facade will look "much nicer." LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a green building certification system.

Above: The Views on 5th Avenue - International Style.

Neil Falkenburg, asset manager for the property provided a tour for this reporter yesterday afternoon of the years-vacant, gutted-out former state Department of Corrections building. Taken to the ninth floor, Falkenburg showed a poster of what the building would look like after a remodel.

“At the time we were envisioning the property to be an office building, the city’s design review committee wanted us to stay true to the building’s original design, called an 'International Style.' It (the design) will not change as a hotel - it’ll stay the same," Falkenburg said.

Another building near the property, a single story building covering 17,000 square feet, is owned by a related partner group, but is not part of the current permit request, says Falkenburg.

Pacific Real Estate Partners agent Troy Dana says the property, which has a spectacular 360 degree view of Olympia, Budd Inlet and the state Capitol Building, is currently on the market for $9.5 million.

Asked if he will now try to market the property to various hotel chains, Dana said, “It depends on what the owner asks me to do - I don’t think we’ll limit ourselves to any one market segment. I’m not actively marketing the property right now…I’m just waiting for Scott (Shapiro) and Jim (Potter) to give me my marching orders.”

For more information, contact Brett Bures, associate city planner, at 753-8568 or Todd Stamm, city planning manager at 753-8314 or go to www.ci.olympia.wa.us.

For more information about the Olympia Capitol Park Foundation, go to www.oly-wa.us/OCPF.

For more information on the city of Olympia's isthmus zoning issues, the city's Planning Commission, or Olympia City Council actions, see other articles on www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com and type keywords into the search engine.

Specifically, see www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com, October 19th, “Planning Commission Tables Isthmus Rezone Discussion” for recent background information

Above: The current interior of the building on the ninth floor on "The Views on 5th Avenue."

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Biomass Issue Becomes a Public Relations 'Biomess' for The Evergreen State College

Above: Evergreen's iconic campus clocktower expresses its opinion in late October.

by Janine Gates

The Evergreen State College (TESC) was awarded a $3.7 million grant in early October from the Washington State Department of Commerce for the construction of a new biomass gasification plant. It was the highest amount of any project awarded by the Governor's $31 million grant under Commerce's "Jobs Act" to create jobs and for energy cost savings.

The grant is a partial amount needed for the college to install a biomass gasification plant that will allow the college to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and replace failing steam converters, steam valves and condensate piping. TESC estimates that the facility will cost about $13.9 million to build.

Meanwhile, the college is still studying the feasibility of biomass gasification in an effort to heat its campus buildings and produce hot water, and be carbon neutral, by 2020.

Governor Chris Gregoire and the Washington State Department of Commerce announced Evergreen's selection along with 45 other public school facilities across the state. The total cost for all of the projects is almost $88 million, including more than $52 million of non-state funding. An estimated 870 jobs will be created by this construction spending.

“This is a great example of Washington state getting our economy moving in the right direction,” said Gregoire in a press release issued October 7. “Communities throughout our state will see these grants pay immediate dividends in jobs and energy savings, and we’ll gain long term benefits through quality improvements and cost savings in our public school buildings.”

According to Scott Morgan, TESC's Sustainability Coordinator, TESC asked for $5 million, the maximum allowed. "The grant is not quite one-fourth of the total amount we’re anticipating that we’ll need, so it’s conditional on our ability to find the remainder of the funds necessary."

Last year, the TESC Clean Energy Committee funded one-third of the $375,000 cost of the biomass feasibility research, drawing upon funds from a self-imposed student fee. The committee is made up of five students, the director of student activities and facilities, and a faculty member. Another third of the funding came from the college and another third came from the state legislature.

Controversy about the issue has plagued TESC ever since.

Above: Washington State Capitol Building in Olympia.

"We'll See If It's In There"

The Evergreen State College's $10 million request to build the gasification facility is currently in front of Governor Chris Gregoire as part of her operating, capital, and transportation budget. The budget is due to be released the week of December 12.

"We'll see if it's in there," says Steve Trotter, TESC's budget director. "If we don't get the money, we could receive or try other forms of money, such as floating revenue bonds to finance the project for energy savings, a straight appropriation from the Legislature, grants and/or private funding that could generate annual revenue streams. It could be very complicated."

A typical capital project goes through three independent phases: feasibility, design and construction. All three are usually dealt with at different times, but this project is unique as it is an energy saving project and part of a larger campus wide goal of working toward carbon neutrality, says Trotter.

Last spring, the college contracted with McKinstry, an energy services company, to pull together a feasibility study, which includes finding financial backing for the project. The funding portion of the study formulates the original basis of the college's 2011-13 capital budget request submitted to the governor last summer.

This upcoming legislative session, which begins in January, will be a long one, scheduled to end in April. "The tough part in all capital financing projects is that the legislative funding timeframe is elongated," says Trotter.

McKinstry's entire feasibility study is due to the college in early December. Also due soon from McKinstry is the pre-final energy services proposal for the project. This will be submitted to the Department of Commerce to remain eligible for the grant.

Regarding the state grant, many have questioned how it could be received while a feasibility study is still underway. TESC communications director Jason Wettstein said last week, "We do not know if it can be used because we do not know if the biomass gasification idea meets our key criteria of sustainability and getting us closer to carbon neutrality....we don't know if we are going to actually do the project."

"We have consistently, at least since June, indicated that we will be seeking funding on a parallel track with this feasibility study...We get that the Commerce grant could be interpreted to convey progress on one track...while saying nothing at all about the essential, primary criterion of whether this project meets our intent of a closer to carbon neutral campus. I have heard it restated by my colleagues from the sustainability council again and again: we will return this grant if it does not help us meet the goal of approaching carbon neutrality."

TESC Board of Trustees Receive 'Biomess' Update - Literally

At a recent community meeting, the formal decision making structure for the biomass project was clarified: TESC's Sustainability Council will make a recommendation to TESC vice-presidents, who in turn will make a recommendation to President Les Purce. Ultimately, the final decision lies with the TESC Board of Trustees.

The TESC Board of Trustees met last Wednesday, November 17, to discuss their upcoming capital projects, including the biomass gasification project.

Taking college president Les Purce and board members by surprise during public comment time, two people approached the table and threw two, big, white garbage bags full of loose, wet wood chips onto the board table, according to observers.

A male chip dumper is heard to say on the audio recording of the meeting, "We really want you to understand what's before you," and the bags were dumped. The dumpers did not say if they were affiliated with any organization opposing the biomass facility.

"I was astounded at how fast they did it - how destructive," said meeting observer Michelle Morris, a TESC Masters in Environmental Science student. "It was a big mess - wet woodchips - it looked more like compost and leaves. I'm glad it didn't mess up the electrical system." Morris says she encouraged members in the audience to clean up the mess after the demonstration, but they declined. The meeting continued without further incident and the biomass stayed on the table.

"It looks like very rich mulch," a board member is later heard to say.

"I'm not associated with any of them. I've never been a 'take-it-to-the-streets' activist but I don't like the proposed biomass facility either. I would like the Board of Trustees to get more input from the scientific community, the neighborhood communities, and other stakeholders that will be affected by the facility's operations," Morris said later. Morris has finished her graduate coursework and is working on her thesis on the question of whether or not burning biomass is carbon neutral.

According to Wettstein, the board meeting was not a work session or at a decision making juncture.

According to TESC, Board of Trustee approval for construction of the project will be requested only if additional funding can be identified, if the project is deemed financially feasible, and if the project is consistent with TESC's strategic and master plans and their stated sustainability goals.

TESC's Sustainability Council and Public Process

The college’s sustainability council, composed of the director of sustainability, four TESC administrators, a faculty member, and a student representative, will be reviewing the biomass feasibility information, along with facilities staff, and will recommend to senior staff whether the facility is consistent with college goals and interests. Preserving the Commerce grant will likely require a decision by the staff and senior management in the next few months.

In response to the public's perception of the lack of transparency in the biomass issue, Wettstein admits that the college's sustainability council does not have a process for decisions.

"So far, much of what we have been doing is public involvement, however well or badly some of it has come off. And what we have done will be supplemented by more engagement to come, especially as the feasibility study comes to conclusion.

"Intense energy and perhaps a majority of our time has been afforded to engagement and responses to community members, possibly to the detriment of actually outlining a process for coming to a decision. We have been absolutely swamped by the questions of how to engage and communicate. A timeline and process is something we must create and communicate, and from my perspective, one of the main reasons we must nail it down is that it is a key element in achieving real transparency in this....meetings without conveying process or new data the council may be learning about for making the decision leaves a void and we have to fill it."

The council appears to be in organizational disarray. Several council workgroups addressing various TESC sustainability practices such as transportation and food systems dissolved last year when staff had to abandon meetings to attend urgent meetings on cutting the budget.

"Unfortunately, the Office of Sustainability got caught in that pickle of budget cuts and statewide hiring freezes," according to Steve Trotter, TESC's budget director and Sustainability Council co-chair. Even the position of the director of sustainability is three-fourths time. To help compensate, there are student group organizations doing their own thing, says Trotter. The college has also created five new student fellowship positions to help advance the college's sustainability practices.

Steve Trotter says the anticipated McKinstry feasibility report will reveal whether the project is a 'go or a no-go' as it relates to technology, finances, and available fuel streams. "When we receive that, we'll get into the hard conversations that will center on how the proposed project could contribute toward Evergreen's goal of carbon neutrality," says Trotter.

Trotter says that Evergreen prefers a 30 mile radius fuel stream from local sources. "The other part that's a struggle is that we have little control over forest management practices."

Trotter says he expects to publish the results of McKinstry's report, or at least an executive summary, online as soon as it becomes available.

The next meeting for the Sustainability Council is Monday, Dec. 6, from 3:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. in SEM II A1105 at Evergreen.

Local Voices Provide Varied Perspectives on Biomass

For the Northwest, biomass generally means forest materials resulting from harvest, pre-commercial thinning and fire reduction programs, sawdust, bark chips - basically, various forms of cellulose. There is no consistent definition of biomass in state code.

The use of biomass to produce electricity is an issue of national debate and whether is it sustainable, affordable, or carbon neutral. There are currently about 12 - 15 biomass facility projects, ranging in size, throughout Washington.

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is just starting a $450,000 study to determine biomass supply and demand. The University of Washington is just completing a study for the Olympic Peninsula that should be published next month.

Several community meetings have met around local biomass issues.

For months, TESC student Dani Madrone has actively, and almost single-handedly, reached out to local community organizations and individuals at multiple local events, meetings and online conversations via local environmental list-serves to facilitate the gathering and sharing of information, research and opinions about Evergreen's proposed biomass facility. Her efforts have been appreciated by many community members. Madone, a senior, is studying advanced chemistry, renewable energy systems and community organizing.

TESC's Clean Energy committee is currently coordinated by Madrone, who is paid a student leadership stipend through student activities for her role. She admits that the student fee was spent last year on the biomass gasification research after having a poorly attended student forum.

Madrone also holds a paid fellowship position with the Office of Sustainability, one of the five positions recently created by TESC, to promote TESC's sustainability practices. Although it is not her responsibility to notify the Olympia and Thurston County communities of official community meetings, her dual roles with the college have made her position on the biomass facility issue confusing, making her a target for some biomass opponents who feel she is advocating the project for the college.

Nothing is further from the truth, says Madrone.

"The work that I do is out of my own interest, and I am very firm about speaking my mind, doing what I think needs to be done for the community to be engaged, and encouraging the school to define its process and public relations...I am blessed to be paid to do work that I choose to do, and that it is of value to the community," Madrone adds.

TESC has held two official community meetings on campus, one in July, and one in late October, both of which were poorly attended.

Above: Southwest Neighborhood Association president Barb Day speaks with TESC Communications director Jason Wettstein at a campus community meeting in July.

Economic Questions

At a recent meeting of the Olympia Economics Club, local economist Jim Lazar gave a presentation analyzing the high cost of TESC's biomass facility.

According to Lazar, thirty one states have mandated utilities to have renewable standards such as wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, landfill gas, wave, current, and hydropower. Washington has a mandate to have 15% of its standards renewable by 2020, and excludes existing or new hydropower.

In his analysis, Lazar showed how expensive a carbon reduction method the TESC facility is - assuming that biomass gasification is carbon neutral. He says biomass is several times more expensive than other options in terms of dollars spent per ton of CO2 reduction.

"Take away carbon neutrality and the whole deal becomes a money - not to mention environmental - loser from society’s point of view." Lazar expressed concern that the economics of TESC's proposal, with data provided by McKinstry, has not been verified by the college or anyone else.

"I would advise TESC to consider all the costs and all of the benefits. The grant is not real money. A state appropriation is not real money. Make your buildings more efficient," recommends Lazar.

According to Lazar, TESC has prepared an analysis evaluating the $14 million project as though it had a cost of only $7.8 million by treating state appropriations and the state grant as "free money."

Breaking down the economic details, Lazar uses financial information provided by TESC facilities engineer Rich Davis. In his spreadsheets, Davis provides three economic scenarios for the project, two of which have negative cash flows. The third scenario, which assumes a 20 year project life - a longer mortgage - and the most amount of state appropriations and grants - 53% of costs - the project resulted in a positive cash flow.

TESC's financing plan calls for $3.7 million from the Commerce Jobs Act, which they received, $4.0 million in a 2011-13 Capital Budget appropriation, and between $6.8 to $7.8 million in "borrowed funds" from the state General Administration's energy performance contracting program. This latter amount must be paid back with interest. The $6.8 to $7.8 million is what Davis treats as the total "cost" of the project, which worries Lazar.

Lazar says he was pretty neutral about the biomass project until he saw the economics. Then, when Lazar calculated the project considering the entire cost of $14 million, he determined that the CO2 savings – again, assuming biomass is carbon neutral – come at a cost of $207/ton to $269/ton.

"This is about ten times the estimated amount of other alternatives for reducing CO2 emissions, such as closing the Centralia coal plant. Bottomline, the economics of the project are dreadful," says Lazar.

Health Impact Questions

Jeffrey Morris, economist and principal of Sound Resource Management with 25 years professional experience in biomass issues, also gave a presentation at the same meeting on the environmental health impacts of biomass facilities versus other alternatives.

"Wood waste energy releases more carbon than energy generated using fossil fuels," says Morris. Greenhouse gas is not the only thing to worry about.

"All wood waste management options have public health and environmental consequences: human respiratory disease, toxics, carcinogens, ecosystem toxics, acidification, and eutrophication - a process where water bodies receive excess nutrients that stimulate excessive plant growth - emissions," explains Morris. The question is which management option is the least harmful.

Morris recommends that TESC stop the feasibility study on biomass, look at other options, and create a variety of heat sources such as geothermal, solar and wind.

Morris says he began reaching out to TESC and the Clean Energy Committee meeting two years ago to furnish his peer-reviewed reports and studies but has not seen an incorporation of his comments in their work.

"Nothing has changed - the website is the same. It still says biomass is carbon neutral," Morris says. "Although the State of Washington says biomass is carbon neutral, if the science doesn't back it up, then it should be changed.

"Carbon neutrality is a myth - it's not possible to sustain all the things we do with fossil fuels. The answer is to use less fuels - 80% less. That's the challenge. We need to reduce, not readjust," says Morris.

Both Lazar and Morris recently provided their economic and environmental presentations to several members of TESC's Sustainability Council and Clean Energy Committee.

Morris also appeared, along with Washington State University chemist Greg Helms, on Thurston Community Television's "Green Issues Forum," a show hosted by Janet Jordan, to discuss biomass issues.

On the show, which aired in September, Morris asserted that there is a lack of carbon neutrality in wood and that wood is higher in carbon emissions than coal or natural gas - twice as bad as natural gas in terms of toxics and carcinogens.

Helms agreed, adding that wood is high in sodium, calcium and potassium. Regarding heavy metals in the context of particulates and nanoparticles, Helms spoke about the way they have potential human health impacts when they are released via woody biomass conversation to energy.

"Metals like to hitch rides with 'ultrafines' - particles that are hard to catch before they go out the stack," said Helms, and are known to be carried quite a distance.

Regarding DNR's policies, Helms said, "A lot of our forestry practices need to be evaluated...we're on our third cut. The soils are in trouble at this point...my question (to TESC) is, how sustainable is that?"

Helms said that Washington State University did a county by county study in 2002 that was published in 2005. "The University of Washington did a study of Olympic resources....Are they (DNR) not getting the numbers they want to hear? I think not...."

Sustainability Questions

Mark Harmon, the Oregon State University forest science professor considered to be a leading authority on carbon resequestering issues, spoke at Evergreen earlier this month.

Participants of a recent community meeting at Evergreen discussed what they learned from Harmon's lecture.

Rob Cole, a TESC faculty member in physics and a member of TESC's Sustainability Council, recounted Harmon's assertion that carbon neutrality is possible depending on the "starting point" and harvesting methods.

"If we alter forest practices, we can reframe the discussion," says Cole.

"Three years ago, a geothermal alternative (for TESC) was my first choice. It still is. At that time, I was hooted down by the director of facilities....The burning of biomass can be carbon neutral but there's a lag time (a delay in resequestration) depending on the starting point. If the lag time is 60 to several hundred years, that's not acceptable....The lag time must be zero. Mark's comments, taken at face value, kill the project. We have to discuss lag times. In the absence of addressing lag time, I see no reason to continue.

"Since I first walked into this discussion two or three years ago, the issue has become more complicated," said Cole.

Pat Rasmussen, coordinator of the World Temperate Rainforest Network, has attended several local community and campus meetings, providing her perspective that biomass is a false solution to climate change.

She believes that Evergreen has based their claim that biomass gasification is carbon neutral on what the biomass industry has told them. She says she has several bibliographies with dozens of pages of sources, most if not all peer-reviewed and including Mark Harmon, that say that biomass wood burning is not carbon neutral.

Rasmussen says that a book just released by thirty scientists, "Temperate and Boreal Rainforests of the World: Ecology and Conservation" says that the temperate rainforests in our bioregion hold more carbon than any other forest type in the world and should be conserved for the carbon they hold and take from the atmosphere.

"The temperate rainforests of our bioregion hold more carbon per acre than any other forest type on the planet. In the United States, the top 10 national forests with the highest carbon storage are in western Oregon, Washington and Alaska. These rainforests store nearly 9.8 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents or roughly twice the amount of the nation's emissions from burning fossil fuels annually. They are a big sponge for carbon. Logging this carbon sink releases a pulse of carbon into the atmosphere for at least twenty years, exacerbating global warming, and it is 60 to 150 years and more until that carbon debt begins to be repaid.

"The stated goal of the Evergreen project is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but woody biomass burning increases CO2 to the atmosphere over coal and natural gas. Replacing 'black carbon' with 'green carbon' increases greenhouse gas emissions, so it is not a solution to climate change. Instead, it would exacerbate global warming," says Rasmussen.

Rasmussen also takes issue with Evergreen claims that it would use Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood, and says that the Department of Natural Resources can change the terms of a wood supply contract at any time to adjust for market conditions if the supplier - the timber company - invests a certain amount of money into the project.

"What that means is if it's cheaper to get wood from clearcuts, we'll be using wood from clearcuts."

Rasmussen recommends that Evergreen research air source heat pumps that take heat from the heat sink in the air and heat and cool buildings and heat water. She says the cost for this retrofit would be eight to nine million, less than the nearly $14 million estimated planned for biomass gasification.

"A number of schools in Washington are already using air source heat pumps and in a similar situation have seen 48% energy savings. The electricity for the heat pumps can be from wind and solar, making it carbon neutral and renewable."

For more information:

The TESC Sustainability Council's website is out of date. It is

The South Sound Green Pages: Autumn 2010 issue, produced by the South Puget Environmental Education Clearinghouse (SPEECH) covers the biomass issue, with articles by Jim Lazar, Scott Morgan, Dani Madrone, Pat Rasmussen and Janine Gates. See www.oly-wa.us/greenpages. Full disclosure: Janine Gates is president of SPEECH, a local non-profit, and serves an an editor of the Green Pages. Her views and opinions are her own and do not necessarily represent SPEECH.

World Temperate Rainforest Network: Pat Rasmussen, patr@crcwnet.com, 509-669-1549, www.temperaterainforests.org

The Counter Point Journal October 2010 issue features an article by C.V. Rotondo on TESC's biomass issue at www.CounterPointJournal.org.

Works in Progress has an interview with Mark Harmon in its November issue, www.olywip.org.

List of Washington State Department of Commerce awards: www.governor.wa.gov/news/Commerce_Grants_Oct_2010.pdf

The Governor's press release: http://www.governor.wa.gov/news/news-view.asp?pressRelease=1588&newsType=1

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources has a series of forest biomass factsheets at www.dnr.wa.gov

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Going, Going, Gone: Two Legion Way Trees Come Down

Above: Workers bring down a tree on Legion Way today.

by Janine Gates

Workers took down two trees on Legion Way today. They were the first of five that will be removed this week. Topping, a once accepted pruning practice, has permanently damaged some of the iconic trees and pose a serious safety risk.

The city of Olympia and the Eastside Neighborhood Association (ENA) are having a Legion Way tree planting and Veteran’s Day celebration on Thursday, November 11, 2010, at 1:00 p.m. Look for the booths and staging area in the First United Methodist Church parking lot at 1224 Legion Way SE.

Legion Way will be local access only on Nov. 11, with parking restrictions on Nov. 10 and 11.

Much like the original celebration and planting in 1928, the community is invited to celebrate, and will include American Legion Post #3, the National Guard, the 2nd Battalion 146th Field Artillery, and Ira L. Cater Veteran’s of Foreign Wars Post #318.

The city and the ENA will be celebrating the planting of 12 new oak trees, a new long-term stewardship plan, and the ongoing living memorial of Legion Way's trees. The 12 new trees will replace seven trees that have been lost over the past few years due to branch or whole tree failures.

The city has developed a long-term stewardship plan to help ensure the well-being of the trees and the safety of those who live on Legion Way.

Above: With the state Capitol Building peeking out from behind Madison Elementary School, a limb is cut and falls onto the sidewalk. Editor's Note: I have lived on the Eastside, including Legion Way, for most of my 27 years in Olympia. Over the years, I have witnessed numerous near misses involving fallen limbs of this size.

The ENA also invites community members to donate for these and future replacement trees. A donation of $200 will pay for a single tree - donations of any amount are welcome. Visit http://eastside-olympia.org/legion-way-trees/ to download a donation form or to donate online.

For more information about the city's Urban Forestry and Legion Way trees, contact Stacey Ray, City of Olympia Urban Forester, at 360.753.8046, or email sray@ci.olympia.wa.us.

Above: Workers chip up the trees.

Above: The tree is gone and workers clean up leaves. First United Methodist Church is more visible.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Interrupting Homophobia In Our Schools

By Janine Gates

How safe and welcome are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students in our schools? What can we as a community do to help make our schools safer and more welcoming?

These questions will be explored on Sunday, Nov. 14, 2:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. at United Methodist Church, 1224 Legion Way. The event is sponsored by Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) - Olympia.

Students and representatives from local schools, the Olympia school board, and the Office of Superintendent for Public Instruction will participate, according to PFLAG - Olympia board member Jeff Loyer. The discussion, which starts at 3:00 p.m., is part of PFLAG's usual monthly meeting. Refreshments will be provided.

The Olympia School District has a policy against harassment, intimidation and bullying. As reported under the policy during the 2009-10 school year, there were five school suspensions related to race, and one related to sexual orientation, according to Peter Rex, communication director for the Olympia School District. There were also seven reported assaults that may or may not specifically relate to that policy.

The school district is being proactive in reducing incidents. “Last year we used a portion of one-time federal stimulus money to do a district wide training called Positive Behavior Intervention Support (PBIS), which provides a way to recognize positive behavior. It’s used in a lot of districts to improve the school’s climate and recognize behavior when it falls outside the model. Now it’s being integrated into the schools,” says Rex.

A National Crisis

The recent suicides of several gay students around the country, including that of the Rutgers violinist, Tyler Clementi, has shocked and saddened many throughout the Northwest.

According to the National Runaway Switchboard, lesbian, gay, bi, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) youth are over five times more likely to have suicidal thoughts and they are over six times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual youth.

Nearly 60% of homeless and runaway LGBTQ youth have been sexually victimized, while 33.4% of heterosexual homeless and runaway youth have been sexually victimized. Also, LGBTQ youth use illicit substances more frequently than heterosexual youth and use more types of drugs than heterosexual youth.

Northwest Teachers Take Action

Several workshops at the NW Teachers for Social Justice conference held earlier this month in Portland addressed LGBTQ issues and emphasized the importance of interrupting homophobia and gender stereotypes at the elementary school level.

The conference, which gathered 800 participants, including several from the South Sound area, was sponsored by Portland Area Rethinking Schools, Olympia Educators for Social Justice, Puget Sound Rethinking Schools, Tacoma Coalition X, and Rethinking Schools Magazine.

LGBTQ children and teens tend to lack the support and coping skills to deal with harassment which may lead them to consider suicide. Often times, staff wish they can help students they suspect are gay, but know that they walk a fine line in approaching them to assist.

Workshops included role playing scenarios based on real accounts. Teachers expressed the need to learn strategies to address situations when they may suddenly hear a student say, “That’s so gay!” or know how to respond if one student calls another student “gay.”

One scenario, an incident which actually occurred to a second grade teacher, involved one child yelling, “You’re gay!” to another, and the other child yelling back, “You’re lesbian!” The class grew quiet, and the children looked at the teacher, awaiting a response. What to do?

Tactics to diffuse the situation and use it as a teaching moment were explored. Some teachers felt it should be dealt with as a regular conflict and take the kids aside later to discuss what was meant. Some teachers preferred to handle it right there in front of all the kids with open-ended questions that put the conversation back on the children.

Either way, if teachers feel they did not handle a situation well, it was suggested that it’s ok to talk about it with the children later, saying, “You know, something happened earlier today and let’s do a do-over. Let’s discuss it.” Teachers agreed that kids are very aware of silence, and that saying something is important.

Resources for conversations, suggested curriculum, picture books, and community organizations were also provided.

Teachers Coming Out

Students are not the only ones who are bullied, harassed or intimidated for being LGBTQ. Teachers also face the question of how to, or whether or not they should, come out to their students and colleagues.

As a teacher, how do you work with school districts that say they value the diversity of staff? To interrupt homophobia, education also needs to happen on an administrative level.

Teachers often find that principals don’t know how to handle teachers who want to come out. Oftentimes, teachers are temporary employees, and are afraid to come out for fear of losing their jobs. It’s a similar situation to the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Once teachers have more job security, they have more options and can enlist the help of their teacher’s union.

Jess Firestone, a second grade teacher in Oregon, has been out since she was 15. When she got married, she decided not to lie when people see her ring and ask, “What’s your husband’s name?” She says “Sara,” but it hasn’t always been this easy.

“Teaching middle school was too intense,” said Firestone while leading her workshop about interrupting homophobia at the elementary school level.

After an unpleasant experience, she transferred schools. At her new school, she wrote an introductory letter to parents just like straight parents do, making it clear she is gay, and has not experienced any problems.

One gay teacher in the workshop said she feels more scared being around younger kids, and their parents, because of the misconception that gays and lesbians are pedophiles.

“We need more straight allies,” said Firestone.

Above: Zena Britadesco, a K - 8 teacher in the Portland Public School system, is also the community education program manager for Transactive Education and Advocacy in Portland. She offered information to conference participants and presented a workshop called Transgender Youth 101.

South Sound Resources and Upcoming Opportunites to Get Involved:

PFLAG is the nation's foremost family-based organization committed to the civil rights of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender persons. PFLAG promotes the health and well-being of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons, their families and friends through support, education and advocacy. PFLAG provides opportunity for dialogue about sexual orientation and gender identity, and acts to create a society that is healthy and respectful of human diversity. For more information at www.pflag-olympia.org.

Pizza Klatch
Pizza Klatch offers facilitated support for GLBTQ youth and their allies. The support is offered during high school lunch periods, with free pizza, to provide a convenient and safe forum for the discussion of topics important to these youths. There are currently four Thurston County high schools with Pizza Klatch groups: North Thurston, Timberline, Tumwater, and Avanti. The group provides pizza and facilitators once a week for each lunch period. The groups typically have eight to 20students per lunch.

To support gay teens, the GLBTQ community is looking for two or three more group facilitators for Pizza Klatch groups - preferably people who identify themselves as gay, lesbian, bi, trans or queer. Groups are co-facilitated support groups for high school GLBTQ youth and their straight allies. The Pizza Klatch pays a small stipend for each week, and of course we provide pizza! A facilitator may be any age from 21 to 80. You don't need lots of experience with group facilitation, but you must be good working with youth and be mature and dependable. For more information, contact Lynn Grotsky via email at lynngrotsky@gmail.com.

StoneWall Youth
Stonewall Youth began in Olympia in 1991 as a series of community meetings to discuss the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, questioning, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQQIA) youth in the area. It is an organization of youth, activists, and allies that empowers LGBTQQIA youth to speak for themselves, educate their communities, and support each other. For more information, contact www.stonewallyouth.org or 705-2738.

Stonewall Youth will be having an open house on Tuesday, November 16th from 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. at 317 4th Ave, 4th floor. Explore their new space which they share with PiPE, UCAN, & Mpowerment, from 6:00 p.m. -7:00 p.m. and learn what's new with their individual organizations during a short informational program from 7:00 p.m. -8:00 p.m. Refreshments provided!

Stonewall Uprising: A Stonewall Youth Benefit Screening at the Olympia Film Festival will be Wednesday, November 17th at 8:00 p.m. at the Capitol Theater. Join Stonewall for the film screening, live youth performances from this year's Drag Show Extravaganza, bake sale, and more!

Stonewall Youth’s 7th annual Winter Gayla!
Fundraising Dinner and Auction, Saturday, December 4, 2010, 6:00 p.m., at the Loft on Cherry, 508 Legion Way. Tickets are $35 before November 20th, $45 after November 20th, or until sold out. Get a group together and buy a whole table for 10! This is a party to celebrate and raise money for the work of Stonewall Youth. Join Stonewall for an evening of delicious food, drinks, and entertainment with auction items, a raffle, a dessert dash, and a photo booth. Come dressed to impress!

Ticket price includes full dinner (vegan and gluten-free options will be available) and one drink ticket. Food is proudly catered by Mujeres Improving Job Abilities and Skills (MIJAS), a transitional restaurant conceived by a group of Latina women supporting women in crisis of domestic violence. Auction includes exciting items like massages, getaways, dinners, event tickets, art, and much more! Seating is limited and attendees must purchase online tickets in advance.

Stonewall is still collecting donations of various auction items if you have any items, services, or experiences you would like to donate. Please email Luna and Nicole at info@stonewallyouth.org.

Washington Safe Schools Coalition
The Safe Schools Coalition is an international public-private partnership in support of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth, and is working to help schools become safe places where every family can belong, where every educator can teach, and where every child can learn, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.

Need help with anti-gay harassment or violence at school in Washington State? The Safe Schools Coalition can help you problem solve, talk with your school administration or your family, help you make a police report, find legal help, or provide training for your Gay Straight Alliance, your student body or your staff. Call toll-free at 1-877-SAFE-SAFE (1-877-723-3723). A Safe Schools Coalition intervention specialist volunteer will get back to you within 24 hours. For more information, contact: http://www.safeschoolscoalition.org.

TransActive: Transactive supports children and youth of all genders. Contact them at: www.transactiveonline.org and www.transgenderlawcenter.org.

National Runaway Switchboard (NRS)
The NRS is committed to helping lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth get the assistance they need to be safe. Their hotline is 1-800-RUNAWAY. NRS also answers questions from parents who may be uncertain of what they can do to help a youth who has come out or is questioning their sexuality. For more information, go to www.1800RUNAWAY.org.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Northwest Teachers Gather for Social Justice Conference

Above: Monique LeTourneau, left, a Tacoma community organizer with STAND (www.Stand.org) role plays with Sunshine Campbell, a faculty member with the Masters in Teaching Program at The Evergreen State College in Olympia. The two participated in the workshop, “Transforming Teacher Education through Grassroots Political Organizing.”

By Janine Gates

As public school teachers face with more pressures than ever, nearly 800 regional educators found friendship, education, and support at the third annual Northwest Teachers for Social Justice conference in Portland earlier this month.

Many South Sound teachers and student teachers made the trip to experience the camaraderie of other teachers who care about social justice issues.

The conference was sponsored by Portland Area Rethinking Schools, Olympia Educators for Social Justice, Puget Sound Rethinking Schools, Tacoma Coalition X, and Rethinking Schools Magazine.

What is Social Justice?

According to the University of California, Berkeley Social Justice Symposium,
social justice is a process, not an outcome, which (1) seeks fair (re)distribution of resources, opportunities, and responsibilities; (2) challenges the roots of oppression and injustice; (3) empowers all people to exercise self-determination and realize their full potential; and (4) builds social solidarity and community capacity for collaborative action.

Josh Parker, a third year teacher with the Shelton School District, said, “It’s a delicate balance how social justice issues are introduced and discussed. It’s fine as long as we don’t step on too many toes - but we’re probably stepping on three-fourths of them. To me, reading and basic skills is a social justice issue. We’re allowing our kids to fail towards graduation…that’s unjust.”

Another teacher said she feels that social justice issues are more acceptably discussed in social studies classes, but she faces them all day long, no matter what she’s teaching, and came to learn more.

In front of the children, teachers walk a fine line between parents and administrators on how to address a wide range of delicate racial, social, cultural, political, environmental, economic and sexual orientation issues. Conference workshops included plenty of role playing using real life examples of the questions faced by teachers on a daily basis.

Behind the scenes, teachers face daily administrative pressures including standardized testing debates, merit-pay controversies, required implementation of education reforms such as No Child Left Behind and Race To the Top challenges, budget cuts and layoffs, a lack of resources, paperwork, meetings and more. Some feel that current movies like “Waiting for Superman,” slam public school teachers.

The pressure is felt by teachers and students alike. Recent teacher and student suicides weighed heavily on educators during the conference.

Los Angeles area teacher Rigoberto Ruelas Jr., killed himself after his test score ranking was published by the Los Angeles Times as a “least effective” teacher based upon his student's test scores, and the recent suicides of several gay students, including that of the Rutgers violinist, Tyler Clementi, were mentioned in several workshops.

South Sound Teachers Present Workshops

Two South Sound teachers were presenters of the nearly 70 workshops to choose from, scheduled in three blocks at different times throughout the day.

Katie Baydo-Reed, a 6th grade teacher at Olympic View Elementary School in Lacey, taught a workshop on learning about the history of Japanese American incarceration during World War II.

“When I was in school I had no idea that there were civil rights struggles and violations that occurred in my own back yard, says Baydo-Reed. “Teachers mentioned Martin Luther King, Jr. a little and the civil rights movement of the south briefly, but I never learned about people in my region who were treated unjustly as part of a system of oppression.”

“At Evergreen, I was exposed to more information regarding the incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII and as a new teacher I brought that information to my classroom. I discovered that most of my students were completely unaware of how the Puyallup Fairgrounds were used as an incarceration center. In fact, in all the years I have been teaching this, only one student has known about it prior to my unit.”

Baydo graduated from The Evergreen State College’s Masters in Teaching Program in 2006. “It's been a busy six years!” says Baydo.

“It is important to me that students connect with their region and the place they live and this is one way to bring history literally closer to home. Through this kind of instruction they begin to realize that there are some similarities between events of the past and current events, and they are much more willing to learn about civil rights when they know it connects to their lives in place, if not exactly in time.”

New Washington State Tribal Sovereignty Curriculum Introduced

Above: Michi Thacker leads a workshop at the NW Teachers for Social Justice Conference in Portland in early October. Her students were a little bigger than her usual ones at Lincoln Elementary School in Olympia, Washington.

Michi Thacker, a 4th/5th grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary School in Olympia, presented a workshop on new place-based education and tribal history and culture curriculum created by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) for Washington State.

The curriculum, called, “Since Time Immemorial: Tribal Sovereignty in Washington State," was developed with state tribal leaders and is now available online at www.Indian-ed.org.

The curriculum’s goal is to provide schools, students, tribes, and local communities with the information and resources that will enable them to have a better understanding of the numerous tribes that are the foundation of Washington State.

There are three tiers for each level of the program: elementary, middle and high school, with expectations for what the students should have learned by the end of each curriculum. It encourages teachers and students to address several essential questions in the context of tribes in their own communities. Teachers choose how much time to spend on tribal sovereignty content to complete their units throughout the year.

The curriculum, a result of 2005’s House Bill 1495, which officially recommended inclusion of tribal history in all public schools, was pilot tested for two years in 14 schools around the state. The bill is now known as RCW 28A.345.070, which encourages districts to work with tribes on a government to government basis.

Thacker participated in the development of OSPI’s curriculum, which included the participation and endorsement of Washington’s 29 federally recognized tribes. She test piloted it at Lincoln two years ago.

Thacker, who emphasized at the outset of her workshop presentation that she is not representing OSPI or any specific tribe, is part Cherokee and Choctow. She says she didn't grow up with those traditions or culture, and is still learning.

She came to the subject because she was teaching about coastal tribes in her classroom. She wanted to learn more about how to make it meaningful and not just about “the other.” There is a small Native American population at Lincoln. “There were ways I taught it that I wasn’t sure about and I wanted it to be culturally accurate,“ said Thacker.

One student teacher said, “Reading Little House on the Prairie, you may not think about how Indians are described, but as an adult, you become more aware…As a teacher, you can use it as a starting point for conversations. You need to have those conversations, those deeper questions….”

Another student teacher agreed, saying, “What’s scary is if you don’t discuss them….”

Thacker asked participants to discuss, in small groups, their understanding of basic questions such as, “What is sovereignty?” What is an Indian? What is a tribe? What do you know about the tribes in your area? How many are there?”

Workshops participants expressed hesitation in word usage between Indian and Native American, a lack of basic knowledge and were concerned about using materials that portrayed Native Americans in stereotypical roles. They were grateful for the information and resources.

Mary Ann Bassett of the Yakama Nation and a 7th grade teacher in the Mount Adams School District on the Yakama Reservation, participated in the conference and Thacker‘s workshop, saying she “saw it (the conference) on a website and came on over.”

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, one teacher asked how to address the subject in her classroom. Bassett shared that Thanksgiving is not a traditional holiday for Native Americans. Instead, in April, each longhouse will have their own root feast and a salmon feast to celebrate the salmon migration. “By fall, we’re ready to hunker down!”

Thacker suggested practicing “place-based” education when connecting to the tribes in one's own region, picking up resources at tribal organizations, museums and reservation stores, and using authentic resources.

For this article, OSPI's Indian Education Director Denny Hurtado was asked for more information about the curriculum.

"It’s all about establishing long standing relationships between the tribes and non- tribal communities. Our first experience with schools was the Indian boarding school - their philosophy was to save the man, kill the Indian, so we still to this day are leary of the education system. We want our history, culture and government to be taught in the school system as well. One main reason for this is to break down all the stereotypes, myths and misinformation that non-Indians have of us! With that said, once you develop these long term relationships with the tribes, then comes trust, followed by positive actions for our students," said Hurtado.

This year, four schools will be selected to test the curriculum: the Muckleshoot elementary tribal school, Kingston Middle School in North Kitsap, Fife High School, and Ridgeline Middle School in Yelm, said Hurtado.

Next Steps

As the conference wrapped up, first year Olympia teacher Kevin Marshall said, “I’m thoroughly inspired and exhausted…I feel ridiculously blessed to already be so connected to so many inspiring teachers so early in my career.” Marshall, who spent the last year as part of the conference’s organizing committee, lives in Olympia and teaches in the Parkland School District in Tacoma.

The conference has grown in size each year and rotates the host city. Last year, it was held in Olympia. Next year’s conference will be held in October, in Seattle. For more information, contact http://www.nwsj.com.

Olympia Educators for Social Justice

Olympia Educators for Social Justice meets on the third Friday of each month during the school year at Traditions Café on Water Street in downtown Olympia. Several members of the group were coordinators of the conference. The meetings include introductions and announcements and focus on one or two subject matters for conversation, problem-solving and resource sharing. Meetings are from 4:30 p.m. - 6 p.m. For more information, email Jana Dean at jdean@reachone.com.

“For me, our group has been about finding a balance between being an agent of change and a source of cultural continuity in my role as a teacher, says Dean. “Reading Rethinking Schools has provided inspiration for the social change aspect of that work. Writing for Rethinking Schools has provided an opportunity to clarify through my writing how I'm serving the greater good through my work as a public school teacher.”

Rethinking Schools

Rethinking Schools is a nationally prominent publisher of educational materials and a quarterly magazine of the same name. It is committed to equity and the vision that public education is central to the creation of a humane, caring, multiracial democracy. Throughout its history, Rethinking Schools has tried to balance classroom practice and social policy. It is an activist publication, with articles written by and for teachers, parents, and students. Go to www.rethinkingschools.org for more information.

Above: Loren Petty of The Evergreen State College, staffs a table for Evergreen's Masters in Teaching Program. For more information about the program, go to www.evergreen.edu/teachers.