Tag Archives: Dark Skies Northwest

Washington Legislature considers measure to allow more digital billboards

The Washington State Legislature is considering measures that have the local astronomy community concerned about the potential of increased light pollution in the state. Senate Bill 5304 and an identical companion House Bill 1408 would change the law to give cities and towns in the state the option to allow electronic billboards within their boundaries.

Both bills received hearings Feb. 5 and must be voted on by committees in the next few weeks for the proposal to have a chance to become law. The House Transportation Committee has a deadline of Feb. 22 to take action on HB 1408, while the Senate Transportation Committee has until March 1 to consider SB 5304.

Proponents of the bill–mainly Clear Channel Outdoor Seattle, the billboard company–touted the traffic safety and amber alert messages that could be given via the billboards, as well as support the company could offer through billboard advertisements on behalf of nonprofit enterprises. Meanwhile opponents contended the billboards would be unsightly and create a distraction for motorists.

David Ingram of Dark Skies Northwest spoke on behalf of the astronomy community, raising concern about the light pollution that the electronic billboards would cause, and also alluding to ill effects of nighttime lighting on human health and wildlife.

The following two videos are from TVW coverage of the Senate Transportation Committee hearing about SB 5304. The first includes committee staff explanation–sort of–of the measure and discussion among committee members. The second includes testimony from citizens for and against the bill.

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MLO intro in Seattle

A promising new weapon against light pollution will receive a formal introduction at an event in Seattle Wednesday. Nancy Clanton, a board member of the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) and member of the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IES), will present a workshop about the Model Lighting Ordinance (MLO) at 10 a.m. October 26 at the Lighting Design Lab, located at 2915 Fourth Avenue South in Seattle.

Lighting Design Lab

A workshop on the IDA/IES Model Lighting Ordinance will be held Oct. 26 at the Lighting Design Lab in Seattle.

A task force of the IDA and the IES spent seven years hammering out the details of the model lighting ordinance. It is intended as a guide for environmentally responsible outdoor lighting, and was designed to help municipalities develop outdoor lighting standards that reduce glare, light trespass, and skyglow.

Clanton, who co-chaired the task force, says the process took so long in part because the two organizations started with different sets of goals.

“It wasn’t even a compromise,” she said of the final version of the MLO approved this summer. “We actually blended the goals together and got a really good ordinance that addresses everyone’s concerns.”

The stars aligned to bring this rollout of the MLO to Seattle, according to Scott Kardel, public affairs director for the IDA.

“We’ve chosen Seattle to be the first site partly because Seattle and the Pacific Northwest is a progressive, happening area where people are interested in things like energy conservation,” Kardel said. “Also we have a very active chapter of the IDA, Dark Skies Northwest. It’s a good combination of being able to have our local chapter involved in promoting the event but in an area where we think it has a good chance to have good reception.”

Clanton said the four-hour workshop will give participants a lot of good information about the MLO.

“Here’s what it is, here’s how it was developed, and let us show you some examples of how it could be applied,” was her quick outline of the agenda. “It’s going to be an introduction, answering questions about the different parts of the MLO, and an encouragement for people to bring it to their cities and communities and start looking at adoption.” She noted that the workshop would be useful for city planners as well as for interested advocates who want to learn how to bring better lighting ordinances to their communities.

Clanton said that the city of Plymouth, Minnesota adopted an early version of the Model Lighting Ordinance, which was a big help as they worked through the process. Now Anchorage may be about ready to go to work on adopting the version approved this summer. Both she and Kardel noted that often cities will plow ahead on their own with lighting ordinances, using information from the IDA website, but not telling anyone or availing themselves of the association’s technical expertise. Clanton added that the MLO is not a product that’s ready to adopt off the shelf, but more of a template.

“The model lighting ordinance is supposed to be the technical part of a standard lighting ordinance,” she said, adding that they’ve included placeholder language for intent and the like, but that each community should customize the MLO based on its particular needs. “We had to write this ordinance as if it were a small village or New York City.”

Sky glow is a big deal in Tucson, with Kitt Peak, Mount Lemmon, and Mount Graham observatories in the neighborhood. Kardel said that Tucson, also home base to the IDA, is a prime example for us that lighting ordinances work to curb light pollution.

“We’ve had a big increase in population over the last several decades but have been able to hold on to the level of sky brightness, even with more people and more houses and more lights in the area,” Kardel said. “A good ordinance can do a good job to either hold on to what you have or make things better.”

Clanton gave a shout-out to amateur astronomers for their diligence on these issues.

“The astronomy community has been such a wonderful, vocal voice on light pollution,” she noted. “Without them, I don’t think a lot would have been established. They have been the grass roots in all kinds of light pollution ordinances.”

Cost to attend the workshop is $75 and includes lunch. Sign up here or visit the IDA website for more information.

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Seattle Astronomy gets shout out from IDA

International Dark-Sky Association

Local dark-sky efforts and Seattle Astronomy are getting some notice among a wider audience. Dark Skies Northwest, the local chapter of the International Dark-Sky Association, has been particularly active over the last several years. Seattle Astronomy recognized the work of the locals, giving them two of our top 10 astronomy stories of 2010 (as reported through our former gig as Seattle Astronomy Examiner.) This detail was mentioned in the March 25 issue of Night Watch, the IDA’s newsletter. You’ll find the article about halfway through the newsletter. Scroll down to “chapter and volunteer updates” and find the article “Successes in the Fight Against Light Pollution in the Pacific Northwest.”

Props to David Ingram, Bruce Weertman, and all of the others involved with the work of Dark Skies Northwest. The group’s mission is to be a focal point for light pollution issues in the Northwest, to promote quality outdoor lighting, to promote and preserve the beautiful night sky, and to educate the public about the problem of light pollution and its solutions. DSNWs members include astronomers, naturalists, outdoor lighting engineers, and people who are generally concerned with the beauty their community.

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