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Around Town Spotlight shines on island playwrights in ‘On the Fringe’ Sports Letters Wolverines on a roll with back-to-back blowouts Readers sound off with differing views over deputies role in Christmas Eve traffic stop PAGE 16 PAGE 6 PAGE 10 Journal The 75¢ Wednesday, January 22, 2014 Vol. 107 Issue 4 of the San Juan Islands Fresh start for Coast of ‘critical’ habitat? ‘Field of Dreams’ Construction of ballfields revived by $1M grant By Steve Wehrly Journal reporter Critical coastline would extend 700 miles under proposal By Scott Rasmussen Journal editor The amount of critical habitat afforded to the Southern Resident killer whales will grow by leaps and bounds, if the Center for Biological Diversity has its way. The Center last week filed a formal petition with the National Marine Fisheries Service to protect more critical habitat for the endangered Southern Resident population of killer whales. If successful, the proposal would extend Endangered Species Act protection to the whales’ winter foraging range off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California. That’s roughly 700 miles of coastline earmarked for protection in the Center’s petition, and the boundary would extend about 76 miles out to sea, the Center’s senior attorney Sarah Uhlemann said. Uhlemann notes that new research, including satellite tracking data from the first half of 2013 (see map, at right) reveals that the whales travel extensively along the West Coast during the winter and early spring, regularly congregating near coastal rivers to feed on migrating salmon. The Center’s petition seeks to protect these areas off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California as critical habitat. “At this point we’re asking that the whales entire migratory path be included as critical habitat,” she said. “We know that Fisheries has had it on their mind and we’re hopeful the agency will agree with us.” In response to a petition from the Center and allies, the Fisheries Service determined in 2005 that Southern Residents are in danger of extinction. Although the agency has protected portions of the population’s summer habitat in the Puget Sound, important offshore habitat areas have recently been documented. Today, the population, which consists of the members of J,K Contributed photos/ NOAA Above; members of the endangered Southern resident killer whales ply the waters. Below, area of critical habitat proposed by Center for Biological Diversity, in purple, (documented orca sightings, in green). and L pods, totals 81 animals, about four fewer than in 2005, the year the endangered listing was announced. The population, which most recently peaked at 99 in 1995, plummeted to 79 over the next six years, and has hovered in the mid-80s during See HABITAT?, Page 4 A local supporter of youth sports who wishes to remain anonymous has pledged a $1 million challenge grant to reinvigorate the final construction of the San Juan Island Community Sports Field, commonly called the Carter Avenue ballfields. The project was first conceived in 2005 after the district decided that the 34 acres site would not be needed for a new high school. The economic downturn after 2007 made building the complex difficult, but Donny Galt, John Kurtz and many other islanders continued to nurture the project. Brent Snow, President of the San Juan Island school board, praised the successful new effort by the district, Island Rec and the Friday Harbor Athletic Association to revive the project. “The school district is exceptionally pleased that the athletic fields and other parts of the park can now be made available as a place for kids and the whole community to play,” Snow said after the school board and the athletic association signed a memorandum of understanding amending the original $1-per-year lease of the property. The San Juan County Park and Recreation District, Island Rec, is expected to approve the memorandum soon, and may at a future date put a levy request on the ballot to fund maintenance and operation. M&O costs are estimated in the $50,000 to $70,000 per year range Although the grant is not contingent on matching funds, Friday Harbor Athletic Association 2011 Special Award; Second Place: General Excellence from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association President John Kurtz estimates that about $250,000 to $300,000 in additional contributions (in addition to the $1 million grant) will be needed to finish construction of the original 2007 plan, which included six athletic fields, a children’s playground, a clubhouse with restrooms, a picnic area and additional amenities such as sidewalks. So far, about $1.7 million in cash and in-kind contributions has been expended on the project. Much of the basic land-leveling work has been completed, along with two wells for watering the fields when finished. Future plans for the 34-acre property may include construction of a small building for use by See DREAMS, Page 4 ‘Super Bowl Bound’ Congratulations to our Seattle Seahawks in their victory in the NFC Championship Game. Now, it’s on to the Meadowlands, and may the best team (Seahawks) win! (See Journal cartoonist Rob Pudim’s take on the Super Bowl, pg. 6)

Journal of the San Juans, January 22, 2014

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