State boosts fall trout levels in Washington lakes


The state Dept. of Fish & Wildlife is releasing what they’re calling a “torrent” of trout in Western Washington lakes this fall.

Nearly four times more catchable-sized trout will be poured into lakes than last fall, setting the stage for some phenomenal fishing through the holiday season.

The only local lake to get some of the 340,000 fish is Kitsap Lake, which was scheduled for 4,760 trout on Oct. 1. That’s about equal to the lake’s allotment last fall.

Some of the nearby lakes getting a trout infusion include Jefferson County’s Gibbs Lake (370 fish), Teal Lake (155), Leland Lake (2,975), and Mason County’s Island Lake (2,180), Lost Lake (2,420), Nahwatzel Lake (2,500) and Spencer Lake (4,400).

Fish & Wildlife has a higher number of fish to stock because of a legal settlement with the Wild Fish Conservancy. The settlement prevented the release of early winter hatchery trout into most Puget Sound rivers.

More than 300,000 of the trout that would have gone to rivers will instead go to lakes.

Fish & Wildlife held the trout over the summer and reared them to “catchable trout size.” Most of the trout are between 11 and 13 inches long.

Photo by Larry Steagall/Kitsap Sun

VIDEO: ‘Boys in the Boat’ rowing to gold in Berlin

I wrote a feature story for Sunday’s paper.about the Kitsap connections to “Boys in the Boat,” a bestselling book about the University of Washington rowers who won gold in the 1936 Olympics.

Two of the eight rowers lived on Bainbridge Island. Roger Morris, the only one of the bunch with any prior rowing experience, spent part of his childhood on Manzanita Bay. Jim “Stub” McMillin spent his final decades on the island.

Daniel James Brown, the book’s author, managed to describe the crew’s gold medal-winning race with convincing detail. That’s partly thanks to the fact that pioneering filmmaker (and Nazi propagandist) Leni Riefenstahl was there to capture the action.

You can see the footage above. At the 4-minute mark are some close-ups of the UW crew at the finish line. Rowers Joe Rantz, who serves as the main “character” in Brown’s book, and McMillin are seen putting a giant wreath over their heads. Rantz is the one with the blond crew cut and McMillin is the lanky blond guy at the end.

The footage was part of Riefenstahl’s “Olympia,”. an epic, two-part documentary about the 1936 Olympics.

“Boys in the Boat” is a great read, even if you aren’t a rowing fan (I certainly wasn’t). The backdrop of the Depression-era Northwest will be interesting for locals, especially the chapters about Rantz’s pre-college years in Sequim, where he was abandoned by his parents and turned to bootlegging and fish poaching to survive.

Kitsap Regional Library is featuring “Boys in the Boat” as its “One Book, One Community” program.. KRL is planning several events around the book this month, including discussions with Brown and local rowing luminaries. For a schedule of events, head over here.

Dungeness River fishing opener delayed


Fisheries managers are delaying the opening of the fishing season on a long stretch of the Dungeness River.

Unusually low water flow in the north Olympic Peninsula river leaves Dungeness chinook salmon susceptible to spawning disturbances. The Dungeness chinook is an Endangered Species Act-listed stock.

The state Dept. of Fish & Wildlife is predicting that the river could open by Oct. 16 if enough rainfall raises the river level.
Otherwise, the closure will be extended.

The closure area is from the river’s mouth to the hatchery intake pipe about 11 miles upstream.

Photo: Upper Dungeness River, U.S. Forest Service.

Kalaloch will remain closed to razor clamming


Olympic National Park’s Kalaloch beach will remain closed to recreational razor clamming this year.

The beach has been closed the last three years due to downward-trending clam populations in the area.

Clam stock assessments conducted by the park, Quinault and Hoh tribes and the state Dept. of Fish & Wildlife determined that summer razor clam populations were about half of last year’s levels.

According to the park, adult clam sizes continue to remain small, with an average length of 3.8 inches.

Photo: Razor clammers near Seabrook on the Olympic Peninsula. Tristan Baurick/Kitsap Sun

Kitsap kayakers rescued off stormy B.C. coast


After battling 10-foot-high swells and capsizing in the surf, Poulsbo sea kayaker John Kuntz figured his problems would be over when reached shore.

But that was only the start of a five-day ordeal on a remote, storm-blasted stretch of the British Columbia coast. Kuntz and his paddling partner, Luca Lezzi of Bainbridge Island, found themselves trapped until the Canadian Coast Guard could reach them.

“It was combination of terror and just amazement,” said Kuntz, owner of Port Gamble-based Olympic Outdoor Center. “I’ve been in a lot storms but never a storm that lasted so many days and was so intense. It was like standing next to a jet engine for about five days.”


Kuntz and Lezzi, who works for Kuntz, ended up staying on the windswept beach for five nights. On Friday, the Canadian Coast Guard pushed through gale-force winds to reach them. Both are now safe at home.

They had set out on Sept. 19 from Fair Harbour on north Vancouver Island. They planned to turn around after three days and paddle back.

“On Sunday, it was calm and sunny and beautiful but the wind picked up pretty quick,” Kuntz said. They were hit with gusts of up to 25 knots as they raced for shore.

Kuntz has been paddling for more than three decades. Lezzi, 21, has far less experience, but he made up for it with youthful courage and brawn.


“I was proud of the kid,” Kuntz said Lezzi, who used to row for Pacific Lutheran University. “His inexperience didn’t even show.”

They reached land in the nick of time. Within a half hour, the wind’s strength had doubled.

They camped on the south end of the Brooks Peninsula Provincial Park, a 71,100-acre, densely-wooded preserve that gets few visitors. When they woke, the storm was still surging, eventually reaching 74 knots and tossing 40-foot waves off the peninsula.

Kuntz radioed for a water taxi, but the captain said there was no way he was going into the storm.

“We went into survival mode,” Kuntz said.

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Forest Service delays decision on journalism restrictions


After getting an earful from journalists, First Amendment advocates and lawmakers, the U.S. Forest Service says it will delay finalizing rules requiring the press to get special permits and pay a fee to shoot photos or videos in wilderness areas.

The Forest Service will allow public comment on the rule for an additional month, until Dec. 3.

“The U.S. Forest Service remains committed to the First Amendment,” Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said in a statement. “To be clear, provisions in the draft directive do not apply to news gathering or activities.”

But, as Craig Welch of the Seattle Times pointed out, Forest Service practices often don’t match Tidwell’s words. Several journalists reported having to obtain permits not just to shoot photos and video but to conduct interviews in wilderness areas.

In one case, permits to Idaho Public Television were delayed for months while the Forest Service determined whether government officials would approve of the finished story.

“It’s pretty clearly unconstitutional,” Gregg Leslie, legal defense director at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, told the Oregonian. “They would have to show an important need to justify these limits, and they just can’t.”

A Forest Service official told the Oregonian that the restrictions are meant to preserve the character of wilderness areas.

U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Gig Harbor) joined other members of Congress in urging the Forest Service to rethink its policy.

“Foremost, I am concerned about the important First Amendment rights of journalists,” Kilmer wrote in a letter you can read below. “They should be able to have access to these public areas in order to communicate with the public – whether about potential environmental challenges or extraordinary natural assets.”

He noted that he had invited members of the press onto Olympic National Forest last month to discuss the Wild Olympics bill, which would designate 200 square miles as wilderness. You can read about that event here.

“I am concerned that regulations and costs like those under consideration would create unnecessary barriers that would preclude local media members from participating, and, as a consequence, local residents from having access to information about these stunning lands and waters,” Kilmer said.

Those wishing to comment on the rules can do so here.

Cartoon: Frank Shiers, for the Kitsap Sun.

Kilmer on wilderness press restrictions

Chalet mover says he was “muzzled” by Olympic National Park


Olympic National Park and the movers hired to save the Enchanted Valley Chalet have starkly different explanations for the bizarre press restrictions I encountered at the chalet site earlier this month.

As I wrote in the Trails & Tides blog post last week, the park invited press to the site but barred access to the work area and prevented the press from speaking with anyone associated with the move. You can read that post here. My full story about moving the chalet from the eroding bank of the Quinault River can be found here.

Jeff Monroe

Park officials now say that the restrictions were at the behest of the movers.

“The contractor had requested that the park service handle the media and respond to media questions,” park spokeswoman Rainey McKenna wrote in an email to Steven Friederich of the Vidette newspaper in Grays Harbor County. “The lead contractor and his subcontractors (packer and cook) also expressed that they did no (sic) wish to be interviewed during the operation.”

Friederich had asked several pointed questions of McKenna after reading my post. He then forwarded the responses to me.

Jeff Monroe, The project’s lead contractor, called McKenna’s explanation “untrue.”

“We were muzzled,” he said. “They said, ‘quit talking to the press.’ So we had to do it.”

Monroe, whose business is based in Sequim on the Olympic Peninsula, has never been shy with the press.

His exploits as a house mover have been highlighted in several news stories, including a few in the Kitsap Sun. Often the story tip comes from Monroe himself. He granted interviews to me and several other reporters during the months before the chalet was moved.

Jeff Monroe moving a house in 2007. Kitsap Sun photo.
Monroe moving a house in 2007. Kitsap Sun photo.

At the chalet site, Monroe twice approached me to talk about the project but went silent when McKenna caught up with him. Five other members of his crew spoke with me when out of view of park staff.

“Rainey really kept us at bay,” Monroe said. “Now the job’s done and I can talk to who ever I want.”

Monroe said he had to agree not to speak with the press in order to get the moving contract approved.

“I basically had a gun to my head,” he said. “The chalet was going to fall in the river, and they wouldn’t let (the move) happen unless I agreed. I said ‘OK, I don’t have time for this political crap. I gotta save that chalet.’”

Olympic’s lead spokeswoman, Barb Maynes, remembers the negotiations differently.

“He told me he didn’t want to talk with the media, and we took that seriously,” she said.

Monroe also disputes an assertion in McKenna’s email that it was he who established the safety rules that kept the press far from the chalet.

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No entry fees on National Public Lands Day (Saturday)


You won’t have to pay a fee to enjoy a hike in the Olympics this Saturday.

Most federally-managed public lands are waiving day-use fees in celebration of National Public Lands Day. That includes national parks, national forests, and lands managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management.

National Public Lands Day began in 1994 and has become the largest day of volunteer work in public lands. More than 175,000 volunteers are expected to help paint, plant, mulch and clean thousands of acres of public lands on Saturday.

Want to pitch in? One Hood Canal-area option is a Washington Trails Association work party to spruce up the Mt. Townsend Trail on the Olympic Peninsula. More on that here.

Photo: Hikers listen for birds on the Mildred Lakes Trail in Olympic National Forest. Tristan Baurick/Kitsap Sun

Adventures in press restrictions in the Olympic wilderness


When I set out to cover the effort to save Olympic National Park’s Enchanted Valley Chalet last week, I thought the toughest part would be the 13-mile hike. 

Worse, I found after six hours on the trail, was a bizarre blockade on press freedom – the likes of which I’d never experienced outside a military base or murder scene. 

The scene I found at the end of the hike was anything but. The moving crew, made up of preservationists, house movers, two cooks and a pack animal driver,  were happy to see I’d come all the way to their wilderness worksite. Miles from the nearest road and with limited tools and equipment at their disposal, the movers were accomplishing the herculean task of pushing a three-story log structure away from the river that had undercut its foundation by eight feet. 

The chalet after the first push.
The chalet after the first push.

It had the makings of a great story. Strangely enough, it was a story the park service wanted told through one person – Rainey McKenna, a spokeswoman sent from park HQ to handle the likes of me. 

Her first rule: no crossing a yellow caution tape stretched over a vast area several times larger than the chalet. The reason was safety, and yet she and the cook crew moved about freely. In fact, the cook crew was busy frying up dinner in the restricted area, about 40 feet from the chalet when she insisted full collapse could happen any time. Could I stand by the cooks, I asked. No, she answered. How’s about when all the work’s done? No. What if the project’s boss accompanies me? No. What if I put on a hard hat and safety vest and you accompany me? No. 

This did not bode well for the multimedia coverage I had planned. Packing light, I left my camera’s zoom lens at home and was relying on my smart phone for video (also no zoom).

More than one mover offered to take my phone and get some close-up footage. Nope, that would also not be allowed, McKenna said. 

I wandered over to a mover petting the pack animals outside the yellow tape. As I snapped photos, we chit-chatted about horses. McKenna interrupted, telling me the press wasn’t allowed to speak with anyone associated with the project. 

About to get busted for talking to a man about a horse.
About to get busted for talking to a man about a horse.

I was dumbfounded. I asked her to repeat herself. 

“You’re in a restricted area,” she explained. 

“But we’re just talking about horses, and we’re outside the tape,” I said. “Did the restricted area just grow?”

No, she said, indicating there was a much larger, unmarked restricted area that limited not just access but speech. 

The next morning was to be the official “media day” – the designated time in which newspapers and TV stations could witness the culmination of what had become a story of regional interest. Everyone from the Oregonian to KING 5 have given ink or airtime to the moving project.  

Our invitation mentioned only two restrictions on the press: No drones. No helicopters. I dutifully complied with both. I also sent two emails to the park’s public affairs office to discuss logistics for shooting video and photos. I never heard back on either. 

McKenna said the Seattle Times and a few Seattle TV stations had expressed serious interest in attending. Usually, I don’t like competition, but I looked forward to their presence. Blocking access to one reporter is certainly easier than blocking it from several. 

But I didn’t have to wait until morning to get the interviews I sought. The interviews came to me. The crew, I found, was more than willing to talk – so long as it was out of view of McKenna and the two other park staffers at the site. I spoke with them in hidden groves, shady spots along the river and on the trail, far from the worksite. 

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