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Environmental Research
and Monitoring

At the Hanford Site, a variety of environmental and cultural resource activities are performed to comply with laws and regulations, enhance environmental quality, and monitor the impact of environmental pollutants from site operations. Meteorological response is provided around the clock on the site in the event of a suspected or actual release of radioactive or hazardous material to the atmosphere. Comprehensive climatological data records are maintained to use in environmental impact assessment and dose reconstruction.

Scientists monitor the entire Hanford ecosystem and specific plant and animal species and habitats to assess the status of threatened, endangered, or commercially/recreationally important species and habitats and to identify impacts of Hanford Site operations on flora and fauna. Cultural resources on the site also are identified and evaluated to determine impacts from site operations. Historic buildings and structures are evaluated for their historic significance. This section summarizes activities conducted in 2001 to monitor the site's climatology and meteorology, assess the status of ecological monitoring and compliance, and monitor and manage cultural and historic resources.

Lightning strikes on the Hanford Site are monitored at the Hanford Meteorological Station. It is located on the 200 Areas plateau.
Lightning strikes on the Hanford Site are monitored at the Hanford Meteorological Station. It is located on the 200 Areas plateau.

There were eight dust storms recorded at the Hanford Meteorology Station during 2001. There have been an average of five dust storms per year from 1945 to 2001.

Climate and Meteorology

Meteorological measurements are taken to support Hanford Site emergency preparedness and response, site operations, and atmospheric dispersion calculations for dose assessments. Hanford Site meteorologists provide weather forecasting and maintenance and distribution of climatological data.

Forecasting is provided to help manage weather-dependent operations. Climatological data are provided to help assess the environmental effects of site operations.

Local data to support the Hanford Meteorology Station operations are providedvia the Hanford Meteorological Monitoring Network. This network consists of 30 remote monitoring stations that transmit data to the Hanford Meteorology Station via radiotelemetry every 15 minutes.

The Hanford Meteorology Station is located on the 200 Areas plateau where the prevailing wind direction is from the northwest during all months. The secondary wind direction is from the southwest. The average wind speed for 2001 was 3.4 meters per second (7.6 miles per hour). The peak gust for the year was 31 meters per second (69 miles per hour) on December 16.

There were eight dust storms recorded at the Hanford Meteorology Station during 2001. There have been an average of five dust storms per year at the station from 1945-2001.

Calendar year 2001 was slightly warmer than normal, and precipitation was below normal. The average temperature for 2001 was 12.4°C (54.3°F), which was above normal (12.0°C [53.6°F]). Precipitation for 2001 totaled 16.9 centimeters (6.6 inches), which was below normal (17.7 centimeters [6.98 inches]). Snowfall for 2001 totaled 38.4 centimeters (15.1 inches) compared to an annual normal snowfall of 39.1 centimeters (15.4 inches).


Ecosystem Monitoring and Ecological Compliance

Ecosystem monitoring and ecological compliance have multiple objectives that support completion of Hanford's waste management and environmental restoration mission:

Ecosystem Monitoring

The Ecosystem Monitoring Project monitors the status of plant and animal populations on the Hanford Site, maintains biotic inventory data, and assists in implementing ecosystem management policies. Rare plant populations and plant communities, spawning Columbia River fall chinook salmon, elk, and mule deer are monitored annually as part of the project.

Fall Chinook Salmon

In 2001, ~6,248 fall chinook salmon redds were observed in aerial surveys of the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River, an increase of 741 from 2000 and ~80% of the 1996 and 1997 totals. However, aerial surveys do not yield absolute redd counts because visibility varies, depending on water depth and other factors, and because the number of redds in high-density locations cannot be counted accurately.

Chinook salmon use the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River as a spawning area in the fall.
Photo courtesy of ER Keeley; used with permission.
Chinook salmon use the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River as a spawning area in the fall. Surveys in 2001 indicated that the number of fall spawning fish in the Hanford Reach increased from the 2000 level.

Rocky Mountain Elk

Rocky Mountain elk did not inhabit the Hanford Site when it was established in 1943. Elk were first observed on the Fitzner/Eberhardt Arid Lands Ecology Reserve in 1972. Since that time, the herd has grown and now occupies portions of the Hanford Site, the U.S. Army's Yakima Training Center, and private land along Rattlesnake Ridge.

At the end of 2001 hunting season, the herd size was estimated at 484 animals.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has primary responsibility for management of the elk herd and works cooperatively with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which has primary land management responsibility for the Hanford Reach National Monument land that encompasses much of the Rattlesnake Hills elk herd range.

Mule Deer

Since 1993, systematic roadside observations of mule deer have been conducted during the post-hunting periods (December through January). The surveys are conducted to monitor trends in age and sex ratios of mule deer, examine trends in their relative abundance on the Hanford Site, and monitor the frequency of testicular atrophy. In 2001, mule deer fawnsurvival was about 30 fawns per 100 does, which is similar to other deer populations found in the shrub-steppe environment.

Since 1993, systematic roadside observations of mule deer have been conducted during the post-hunting periods (December through January).
Since 1993, systematic roadside observations of mule deer have been conducted during the post-hunting periods (December through January). The surveys are conducted to monitor trends in age and sex ratios of mule deer and examine trends in their relative abundance on the Hanford Site. Surveys of mule deer help scientists evaluate the health of the mule deer population.

Plant Biodiversity Inventories

The Hanford Site contains biologically diverse shrub-steppe plant communities that have been protected from disturbance, except for fire, over the past 55 years. This protection has allowed plant species that have been displaced by agriculture and development in other parts of the Columbia Basin to thrive at Hanford. More than 100 rare plant populations of 31 different taxa are found on the Hanford Site.

In addition to rare plant populations, several areas on the Hanford Site are designated as special habitat types with regard to potential occurrence of plant species of concern listed by Washington State.

Surveys in 2001 continued to indicate increases in the numbers of Piper's daisy, a species of concern occurring in the 200 Areas. Populations of another species of concern occurring near the Columbia River, persistent sepal yellowcress, do not appear to have experienced significant recovery after declining as a result of the high Columbia River flow levels.

Surveys in 2001 continued to indicate increases in the numbers of Piper's daisy (shown in the photo), a species of concern.
Surveys in 2001 continued to indicate increases in the numbers of Piper's daisy (shown in the photo), a species of concern. Populations of another species of concern occurring near the Columbia River, persistent sepal yellowcress, do not appear to have experienced significant recovery.

Maps showing the extent and distribution of the plant communities on the Hanford Site were updated in 2001 to reflect the changes in plant communities resulting from the wildfire in June 2000 and incorporate recently mapped riparian areas.

At least 47 plants species on or near the Hanford Site are listed as endangered, threatened, sensitive, or watch list by the Washington Natural Heritage Program.
At least 47 plant species on or near the Hanford Site are listed as endangered, threatened, sensitive, or watch list by the Washington Natural Heritage Program.

Ecological Compliance

The policies of DOE's Richland Operations Office require that all projects having the potential to adversely affect biological resources have an ecological compliance review performed before the project begins. This review assures that DOE is in compliance with the Endangered Species Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Ecological compliance reviews also assure that other significant resources such as Washington State listed species of concern, wetlands, and native shrub-steppe habitats are adequately considered during the project planning process. Where effects are identified, mitigation action is prescribed. Mitigation actions can include avoidance, minimization, rectification, or compensation.

Since many projects occur during times of the year when plants are not growing, and the plants are difficult to identify or evaluate, each operational area (200-East, 200-West, all the 100 Areas, and the 300 Area) is surveyed each spring.

The long-billed curlew is a state monitor species in Washington.
The long-billed curlew is a state monitor species in Washington. The curlew is found on the site from early spring to mid-summer.

These baseline surveys provide information about habitat types and species inventories and abundance that can be used throughout the year to assess potential project impacts. At least 47 plant species on or near the Hanford Site are listed as endangered, threatened, sensitive, or watch list by the Washington Natural Heritage Program. Three of these species are also listed by the federal government as candidates for protection under the Endangered Species Act. Examples of the baseline survey maps are available at www.pnl.gov/ecology/ecosystem.

A total of 109 ecological compliance reviews were performed during 2001 in support of general Hanford activities. An additional 60 reviews were performed in support of environ-mental restoration activities. The total number of reviews prepared in 2001 (169) was similar to the number performed in 2000.

In 2001, 64 reviews were performed in the 200 Areas, 27 in the 300 Area, 26 in the 100 Areas, and 52 in other areas. They include the 400, 600, 700, Richland north, and former 1100 Areas.

DOE is in the process of evaluating the feasibility of retaining various historic structures on the Hanford Site, including the Handford town site high school.
DOE is in the process of evaluating the feasibility of retaining various historic structures on the Hanford Site, including the Handford town site high school.

Cultural Resources

The DOE Richland Operations Office established a cultural resource monitoring program in 1987. This program determines the impact of DOE policies on cultural resources and safeguards them from adverse effects associated with natural processes or unauthorized excavation and collection that violate federal laws.

Monitoring conducted during 2001 focused on Locke Island's erosion, archaeological sites with natural and visitor impacts, historic buildings and structures, and places with Native American burials. Surveys in 2001 recorded erosional losses of up to 1 meter (3.28 feet).

Eighty-six archaeological sites were monitored in 2001 to gather data associated withrecreational use, visitor impact, and/or natural weathering processes.

Places with cemeteries or known humanremains include locations that are sacred tolocal tribes. In 2001, all these places were monitored to document baseline conditions, determine whether wind or water erosion had exposed human remains, assure that violations of federal laws were not present or ongoing, and monitor for violations of federal laws.

K-West Reactor, a contributing property, was recommended for mitigaion within the Hanford Site Manhattan Project and Cold War Era Historic District.
K-West Reactor, a contributing property, was recommended for mitigaion within the Hanford Site Manhattan Project and Cold War Era Historic District.

During 2001, 150 cultural resource reviews were requested and conducted on the Hanford Site to comply with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.

During 2001, the building mitigation project continued to implement the Programmatic Agreement for the Built Environment and the sitewide treatment plan. The final History of the Plutonium Production Facilities at the Hanford Site Historic District, 1943-1990 was published in July 2002.

Public involvement is an important component of a cultural resource management program. To accomplish this, DOE developed mechanisms that allowed the public access to cultural resources information and the ability to comment and make recommendations concerning the management of cultural resources on the Hanford Site. These mechanisms were woven into draft public involvement procedures that include input provided by the public andHanford Site staff over the last several years.


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For questions or comments about this page, please send email to Bill.Hanf@pnl.gov
URL: http://hanford-site.pnl.gov/envreport/2001/sumresearch.stm
Document Number: PNNL-13910-SUM
Document Date: September 2002
Posted: October 2002

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