Beards Cove Community Organization and Newberry Hill Heritage
Park Stewards are this year’s winners of the Hood Canal
Environmental Achievement Awards.
The awards, sponsored by the Hood Canal Coordinating Council,
recognize people and groups that have taken actions and fostered
relationships to improve the health of the Hood Canal
The 500 property owners in the Beards Cove community were
credited with developing relationships with Great Peninsula
Conservancy and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to
restore an estuary near the Union River on the North Shore of Hood
The Beards Cove Restoration Project completes the final segment
of 1.7 miles of unbroken saltmarsh along the shoreline. The project
removed 45,000 cubic yards of fill, derelict structures and a
septic system. The work included reconfiguring the shoreline and
planting the area with native vegetation, all to enhance salmon
The Beards Cove project was described in a
Kitsap Sun story by Arla Shepherd Bull and in a
Water Ways blog entry I wrote about the history of the Beards
Cove development leading to the need for restoration.
Stewards working to improve Newberry Hill Heritage Park are
protecting fish and wildlife in the area, which includes the
Anderson Creek watershed, which drains to Hood Canal. The group
built a fence to protect a beaver dam, which provides habitat for
coho and other fish, along with a foot bridge that maintains access
to a flooded trail. The group helped develop a forest-management
plan to restore ecological health to the park. Members are known
for expanding their knowledge about forests, streams and
The awards will be presented Friday at a conference that will
celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Hood Canal Coordinating
Council. Speakers will include Donna Simmons, one of the council’s
founders who will describe the history of the organization. U.S.
Rep. Derek Kilmer will discuss his Save Our Sound legislation and
how to move forward with ecosystem restoration. I will contribute
to the discussion by talking about my reporting career as it
relates to Hood Canal.
The event will be held at Lucky Dog Casino Event Center. Those
who would like to attend should contact Robin Lawlis at the
coordinating council, (360) 394-0046 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For
information, check the fact
sheet on the HCCC’s website.
The Hood Canal Coordinating
Council was established in 1985 to improve the water quality of
Hood Canal. It has expanded its mission to include improving the
ecological health of the canal. The group is made up of the county
commissioners in Kitsap, Mason and Jefferson counties along with
the Port Gamble S’Klallam and Skokomish tribes.
Preservation is cheaper than restoration. If you need proof, one
place to look is the Beard’s Cove estuary-restoration project on
Hood Canal, about a mile outside of Belfair.
The project, nearing completion, is re-establishing 7.3 acres of
saltwater wetlands by excavating and removing about 4,000 dumptruck
loads of old fill dirt from an area originally built as a private
park for the Beard’s Cove community.
It is a rare restoration project, because essentially the same
dirt used to fill the wetlands in 1973 is being taken out and put
back where it came from — across North Shore Road from the
development. The cost is estimated at $1.1 million, as reported by
Arla Shephard in a story in the
Filling in the salt marsh was part of the development plan for
the Beard’s Cove plat, approved by the Mason County commissioners a
few years before construction began. The voter-approved Shoreline
Management Act and other environmental regulations were just coming
on the scene.
Hood Canal Environmental Council, a fledgling group at the time,
testified against the Beard’s Cove project. Phil Best, a young
lawyer who would later become Kitsap County commissioner, was a
founder of that organization.
“We were concerned that this project would set a precedent,”
Phil told me. “If you start filling in all these marsh areas, you
would be destroying a lot of salmon habitat throughout Hood
Although scientists today know much more about the value of
estuaries, Phil said there was plenty of evidence at the time about
the damage that would be caused by this kind of project. Much of
the scientific information was provided by researchers at the
University of Washington’s Big Beef Creek Research Station. That
facility, near Seabeck in Kitsap County, is still used for salmon
In the end, the Beard’s Cove developer prevailed with the county
commissioners and the courts, and the fill was dumped into the
estuary to create a park. Today, of course, a project like this
would not even get off the drawing board.
“We’re finally getting to where things should be,” Phil said,
“but it is unfortunate that we have to spend millions of taxpayer
dollars, when the permit for this should have been denied in the
first place. There is a lesson to be learned here: It is better to
err on the side of caution when it comes to environmental
For every restoration project we know about, someone could have
avoided the cost by not doing the damage in the first place. We
must recognize that we are paying for many mistakes made by our
At the same time, we must face the fact that — despite all we
have learned — we are still doing damage to the ecosystem. Some
damage is inevitable, as more development is needed to accommodate
a growing population. But we should be as careful as we can, so our
descendants don’t have to undo what we have done.
The alternative, of course, is far more dreadful. If we cannot
turn the tide on our ecological destruction and find a way to live
within the natural world, Puget Sound is doomed to ecological
collapse. Future generations might live on a large, sterile pond
and wonder what it once was like. They might as well live on the
The 540 or more families who live in the Beard’s Cove Community
today had nothing to do with the mistakes that were made. Who could
blame them for using the park and swimming pool developed for their
use? People who grew up in Beard’s Cove cherish the memories of
that park. I would suggest that it is of little value to blame
anyone for past mistakes, since society as a whole sanctioned all
sorts of activities that we would not allow today.
The Beard’s Cove community should be congratulated for breaking
with the past and allowing the restoration to take place. It may be
true that the decision was easier after the park fell into
disrepair. Someone apparently destroyed the old swimming pool by
draining it during an extreme high tide, causing it to “float” up
out of the ground — or so the story goes, says Louena “Louie”
Yelverton, president of the Beard’s Cove Community
Louie says the community supports the restoration of the marsh
and looks forward to seeing a more natural shoreline.
“it is nice to be part of a restoration project, realizing that
this is a small part of a 700-acre project that is going to help
salmon,” she said. “As a society, we are starting to learn that we
need to give forethought to the future. It might not affect us, but
it will be there for our grandkids and future generations. I am
glad to be part of this.”
Louie credits Kate Kuhlman of Great Peninsula Conservancy for
helping to generate goodwill in the community. Her concerns for the
people as well as the steadfast promotion of the science helped get
the project to construction. GPC coordinated the grants to get the
work done with some land left for community use.
“She has been a trooper through everything,” Louie said. “Now we
are going to have a park, and the shoreline is going to be good for
salmon. I am super-excited that we are toward the end of this and
will get to see what all the hard work has accomplished.”
Wetlands along the North Shore of Hood Canal have been
undergoing protection and restoration for 30 years. This is where I
chose to write the opening chapter of the book
“Hood Canal: Splendor at Risk.”
The Beard’s Cove project, including a permanent conservation
easement, fills in the final gap in a full 1.7 miles of unbroken
estuarine habitat to be preserved in perpetuity, thanks to GPC and
its North Mason predecessor, Hood Canal Land Trust, along with
Pacific Northwest Salmon Center, Washington Department of Fish and
Wildlife and the North Mason School District.
The project includes the construction of 2,530 feet of newly
formed tide channels, 1,200 feet of graveled beach and large woody
debris habitat structures.
Marsh areas like this are among the most productive places on
the planet, supporting a rich food web that includes salmon species
such as Puget Sound chinook, Puget Sound steelhead and Hood Canal
summer chum, all listed as “threatened” on the Endangered Species
The historic town of Port Gamble is about to get a new-fangled
sewage-treatment plant, one that will allow highly treated effluent
to recharge the groundwater in North Kitsap.
The old treatment plant discharges its effluent into Hood Canal,
causing the closure of about 90 acres of shellfish beds. After the
new plant is in operation, those shellfish beds are likely to be
reopened, officials say.
The new facility will be built and operated by Kitsap Public Utility
District, which owns and manages small water systems throughout
the county. The Port Gamble plant will be the first wastewater
operation to be managed by the KPUD, which views the project as a
step toward reclaiming more of Kitsap County’s wastewater by
putting it to beneficial use, said manager Bob Hunter.
The PUD already manages the Port Gamble water system, which will
undergo a future renovation, he said. Dealing with the community’s
sewage is the next logical step.
“Nobody can do reclaimed water without the sewage-treatment part
of the equation,” Bob told me, “and it seems potentially more
efficient to have one entity do it.”
In a related development, the district is expected to ask Kitsap
County voters for authority to own the plant as well as operate it.
Under its current authority, the district can own water utilities
but not sewer utilities.
A $2-million state grant to eliminate the discharge of sewage
into Hood Canal requires that a public entity own the sewer system.
To comply with that requirement, Mason County PUD 1 will take over
ownership until Kitsap PUD obtains the needed authority, Bob
The KPUD commissioners are expected to decide on Tuesday whether
to place a measure on November’s ballot. Hunter said he doesn’t
expect opposition, but he hopes to address any concerns people may
have. The commissioners meet at 9:30 a.m. in their Poulsbo
The new treatment plant will be a membrane bioreactor, a type of
filtering system capable of producing effluent close to the quality
of drinking water. The plant, which comes assembled, will treat up
to 100,000 gallons of sewage per day. That’s enough capacity to
serve the existing homes in Port Gamble. And if the town’s
redevelopment is approved
(Kitsap Sun, Jan. 24, 2013), as proposed by owner Pope
Resources, the plant could serve up to 350 homes — provided the old
sewer pipes are replaced to reduce the amount of stormwater that
The plant will be located on 1.3 acres near Carver Drive, south
of Highway 104. Effluent will be pumped to a new drainfield at the
top of a nearby hill. Eventually, water from the plant could be
used to irrigate forestland or else lawns and ballfields in the
Construction is expected to get underway soon, with the system
operational by May of next year. The entire project, including the
treatment plant, pumping system, pipes, drainfield and site work,
is expected to cost $5 million with most of the cost paid by Pope
The KPUD has no plans to operate other sewer systems at this
time, Hunter said, but the district hopes to be in a position to
respond to community needs, as it as done with failing water
systems. Small sewage-treatment plants could be feasible where a
lot of septic systems are failing, he noted, but state law
precludes the use of sewers in rural areas except during a health
emergency. Even then, the systems must serve only existing needs,
not future growth, he noted.
Without snowpack, Kitsap Peninsula is entirely dependent on the
amount of rain that falls on the peninsula. With limited storage,
future water supplies can be bolstered by recharging the
groundwater with high-quality sewage effluent or by using effluent
to replace drinking water used for irrigation and industrial
The Central Kitsap Wastewater Treatment Plant, which produces an
average 3.2 million gallons of water each day, is undergoing a
major upgrade to produce water that can be used for a variety of
uses in nearby Silverdale. In preparation, Silverdale Water
District has been installing a new piping network to bring the
reclaimed water into the community.
“We have been talking for a long time about getting water into
the ground instead of dumping it into Puget Sound or Hood Canal,”
said Bob Hunter. “With this project in Port Gamble, we can learn
and be prepared when other situations come along.”
Hood Canal Coordinating Council is made up of county
commissioners from Kitsap, Mason and Jefferson counties, along with
leaders from the Skokomish and Port Gamble S’Klallam tribes.
When planning efforts began five years ago, the idea was to
create an “integrated” plan that would recognize all the ecological
functions taking place in the Hood Canal watershed and create a set
of strategies for addressing all the various problems.
The effort got off to a good start by identifying many of the
problems, ranging from declining fish populations to fragmented
upland habitats. But the complexity of those problems, the
variability of conditions and the numerous agencies responsible for
data and decisions eventually overwhelmed the planners. It was as
if they were trying to complete a jigsaw puzzle containing a
The coordinating council decided to refocus the effort on issues
that are under its purview while maintaining the long-term vision
of a sustainable Hood Canal ecosystem that benefits humans in a
variety of ways.
“Ideally, we will eventually get to all the issues,” said Scott
Brewer, the council’s executive director. “The board decided it
wanted to focus on something that would be the first strategic
priorities and then pick up the other things over time.”
In this context, the plan identifies five focal components:
Commercial shellfish harvesting,
Also, four major “pressures” are called out for special
Commercial and residential development,
Transportation and service corridors,
Climate change and ocean acidification, and
Wastewater discharges and stormwater runoff.
These are issues that the county and tribal leaders were already
addressing in one way or another, either through local actions or
through the Hood Canal Coordinating Council, which is recognized
under state law.
The new website OurHoodCanal.org highlights the connections
between human well-being and natural resources. The first findings
focus on three natural resource indicators — one each for
shellfish, forests and salmon — plus five indicators for human well
being — positive emotions, communication, traditional resource
practices, communities, natural resource industries and access to
last year, for example, showed that Hood Canal generates
positive emotions (at least most of the time) for the vast majority
of respondents, yet most Hood Canal residents say they don’t often
work together to manage resources, prepare cultural events or solve
“This is a work in progress,” Scott said about the planning
effort and related website. “We can start by telling a really good
story about what is happening in Hood Canal, then going on to make
connections and asking whether we are doing the right things.”
The first strategies identified in the plan involve:
Working together on local land-use planning,
Identifying failing septic systems and other sources of
Continuing projects to restore healthy runs of salmon,
Furthering a mitigation program to fully compensate for the
effects of development,
Finding ways to adapt to climate change, and
Developing a regional plan to reduce stormwater problems.
Meanwhile, the coordinating council has developed a new ranking
system for setting priorities for salmon restoration. Refinements
will come later, Scott said, but the system is currently being used
to identify restoration projects to be proposed for funding later
Under the Salmon
Recovery Prioritization (see “guidance” document) projects will
be given more consideration if they help highly rated salmon
stocks, such as fall chinook in the Skokomish River, summer chum in
the Big Quilcene and so on. Projects are given points for
addressing specific habitat types and restoration actions deemed to
be the most important.
If successful, this approach will result in funding the most
important restoration projects, as determined through a more
precise ranking process than ever used before, although it does
leave room for judgment calls.
While the Hood Canal Coordinating Council works on projects in
Hood Canal, other groups continue with similar efforts in other
“Everyone is prioritizing one way or another,” Scott told me,
“but they haven’t looked at it like we have.”
Scott said agencies and organizations that grant money for
salmon recovery or ecosystem restoration could call for an improved
ranking process throughout Puget Sound.
“A lot of money gets spread everywhere,” he noted, “but there
are some key spots throughout Puget Sound that need it more than
It was a dark and stormy night — but that didn’t deter the Three
Starfish Musketeers from going out at low tide on Saturday to check
on the condition of sea stars clinging to the Lofall pier.
If you recall, I introduced these three retired-age ladies in a
story last summer, when they first reported a scene of devastation
on the North Kitsap pier and nearby beach, where a multitude of sea
stars lay sick and dying. Many sea stars were afflicted with a
mysterious disease called sea star wasting disease, which had
already affected hundreds of locations from Alaska to Mexico.
The three women — Barb Erickson, Linda Martin and Peg Tillery —
have been serving as amateur researchers, monitoring the Lofall
beach, like hundreds of other volunteers at various locations along
the West Coast. When they started monitoring the beach in February
2014, they observed dozens of healthy sea stars — but conditions
changed dramatically by June.
Barb tells the story with photographs in her blog,
Ladybug’s Lair, and I’ve included a summary of her observations
at the bottom of this page.
I was not sure what to expect when I accompanied the three women
to the Lofall pier on Saturday, the night before the Seahawks NFC
championship game. Joining us on this dark, rainy night were
researcher Melissa Miner of the University of California at Santa
Cruz, who has been working with volunteers up and down the coast.
Also with us was Jeff Adams of Washington Sea Grant, who has been
coordinating local efforts.
What we saw Saturday was a great many more young sea stars than
last year, along with adults that seemed to be healthy. None of the
starfish showed signs of disease.
“That’s good news, and there are some big ones in here,” Melissa
commented, as she examined the pilings where the monitoring is
“It feels better this time when we’re out here,” Jeff said,
adding that last fall he saw far more sea stars turning to mush and
disintegrating. “All we saw were body parts strewn all over.”
Melissa said researchers are seeing much greater numbers of
juveniles at many of the sites along the coast and inner waterways.
That could mean that the population is rebounding, but there is
still great uncertainty, she said. Some evidence points to
temperature as playing a role in the disease.
“It seems like around here temperature is a pretty big factor,”
she said. “When summer comes around, we’ll be able to see how
In November, a group of scientists identified a virus, known as
that is clearly associated with diseased sea stars. Further work is
needed to determine how the virus affects the animals and what
other factors are in play. See
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and my Nov. 22
blog post in
If we are indeed in a period of recovery at Lofall — and
hopefully many other sites — it will be interesting to see how the
ecosystem rebounds and how long it takes for the sea star
population to return.
Jeff Adams told me in November that he hopes to maintain the
volunteer monitoring program for years to come — not just to track
the sea star disease but to understand more about the cycles of
Barb Erickson summarized the findings of the group before
“For our data collection, all of our observations take place in
a specific area centered on three concrete piers under a dock at
Lofall. In the beginning, a great number of ochre/purple sea stars
and a few mottled stars congregated on each of the piers. That
number has steadily declined over the past year and, although we
are aware that these animals come and go with the tides, we feel
their decline is directly related to the disease.
“We began our observations in February 2014, when we counted 56
sea stars, adults and juveniles. Many small juveniles were tucked
away in corners and under cables on the piers. Of those 56, only 4
appeared to be in the early stages of disease. In April we counted
100, all of which appeared healthy. In May, of the 53 we found, 33
were in various stages of illness. By June, the majority of the sea
stars were dead or dying. Of the 12 living stars we found, 11 were
in the early stages of disease.
“Throughout the rest of the summer and early Fall, the area was
littered with dead stars and the number of living ones, including
juveniles, continued to decrease. By October, we found a total of
only 7 living adult stars and no juveniles; 5 were diseased. In
January 2015, we found 56 (20 adults and 36 juveniles); all
The count from Saturday’s outing was 48 sea stars (21 adults and
27 juveniles), and all appeared healthy.
The Army Corps of Engineers is moving forward on a $40-million
restoration program along the Skokomish River, as I mentioned in
Water Ways last week.
According to Rachel Mesko of the Army Corps of Engineers, two
major projects have been dropped from the “tentatively selected
plan” for the Skokomish, which flows into the south end of Hood
Canal. That leaves five major projects to advance forward for a
likely recommendation to Congress.
It’s hard to remember how long I’ve been writing about the Army
Corps of Engineers’ involvement in the Skokomish. So I looked it
up. The agency completed a flood analysis in 1988, considered
dredging options in 1995 and began work on the current “general
investigation” in 2000.
Before I talk about the projects being proposed, I’d like to
recall what is at stake in the Skokomish, often cited as the most
frequently flooded river in Washington state. Many people believe
that the restoration of Hood Canal, a gem of an ecosystem, cannot
be successful without first fixing the Skokomish, where individual
restoration projects have been underway for years.
“High sediment load, reduced flows and encroachment on the
floodplain by man-made structures are causing continued degradation
of natural ecosystem structures, functions, and processes necessary
to support critical fish and wildlife habitat throughout the
“The decline in populations has resulted in the listing of four
anadromous fish species under the Endangered Species Act — chinook
salmon, chum salmon, steelhead, and bull trout — that use the river
as their primary habitat.
“The impaired ecosystem has adversely affected riverine,
wetland, and estuarine habitats that are critical to these and
other important fish and wildlife species such as bears, bald
eagles and river otters to name a few.”
Let me list some of the specific problems:
Historical removal of large woody debris has simplified the
stream, wiping out pools, eliminating places for young fish to hide
and reducing nutrients, which feed aquatic insects and support an
entire food web.
Logging along the river has eliminated the supply of large
woody debris, the shade to cool the stream and the overhanging
vegetation, a key part of the food web. Logging also has increased
erosion which prevents new vegetation from taking hold, smothers
salmon eggs and fills in pools, where salmon can rest.
Levees built to protect farmland from flooding halted the
natural movement of the river, known as channel migration, and
prevented the formation of new habitats.
Logging upstream in the South Fork of the Skokomish River and
Vance Creek increased erosion and movement of sediment into the
lower river, cutting off fish access to side channels, wetlands and
other aquatic habitats.
The Cushman Dam Project blocked 25 percent of the mainstem
habitat and 18 percent of tributary habitat available for salmon in
the North Fork of the Skokomish River. Reduced flows below the dam
increased sedimentation in the lower Skokomish. As a result, about
a mile of the river dries up about two months each summer, blocking
Highways 101 and 106 disrupted natural floodplains that can be
used by fish to find food and to escape high flows and then find
their way back to the river.
Five projects designed to reduce these problems are being
proposed by the Army Corps of Engineers:
Car body levee removal: This levee was built
with old cars at the confluence where the North Fork flows into the
mainstem of the Skokomish. Some 5,000 feet of the levee would be
removed. A small channel would be created to allow water from the
mainstem to flow into the North Fork and return at the existing
confluence. Large woody debris would help direct water into the
channel. Estimated cost: $7.5 million.
Large woody debris: Upstream of the confluence
with the North Fork, large woody debris would be installed. Large
clusters of trees with root wads, as well as some single trees,
would be placed between river mile 9 and 11, as measured from the
estuary in Hood Canal. Estimated cost: $3.2 million.
Setback levee at river mile 9: The existing
levee would be breached in four locations, and a new levee would be
built some 200 to 300 feet farther away. The levee would allow for
minor over-topping but would not increase the flood risk. Estimated
cost: $2.4 million.
Grange levee: Larger breeches are planned for
the levee near the Grange hall at river mile 7.5 to 8, compared to
the levee at river mile 9. A new levee, up to 10 feet tall and
2,900 feet long, would be constructed 1,200 feet farther back with
no increase in flood risk. Locations are still under discussion.
Estimate cost $3.3 million.
Side channel connection near Highway 101: An
old remnant channel between river mile 4 and 5.6 would be restored
to take water from the mainstem at high flows. Woody debris would
help define the inlet and outlet to the channel, which would become
a ponded wetland at low flows. Estimated cost: $3.1 million.
The costs above were taken from the feasibility study and do not
include design, planning and related costs.
You might note that the River Mile 9 levee and the Grange levee
fit the concept of “Floodplains by Design,” an idea supported by
The Nature Conservancy and funded by the Washington Legislature
with $44 million. Check out the
Associated Press story.
After discussions with nearby property owners, two projects were
removed from the preliminary list. They involve excavation work on
both Hunter and Weaver creeks to restore the tributaries to more
Rich Geiger, engineer for Mason Conservation District, said the
Skokomish restoration program seems to have wide support among
landowners in the Skokomish Valley as well as among interest
groups, including the Skokomish Watershed Action Team. As a result,
he expects that the project will maintain momentum all the way to
“It is fairly rare to have a watershed working together,” Rich
said at the SWAT meeting. “The ones that are difficult are when you
have two parties, one saying ‘yes’ and other saying, ‘Don’t you
“There is support (for the Skok project) through the Corps chain
of command and all the way up to the national level,” he added.
If things go well, a final plan for the Skokomish could be ready
by late next summer, according to Rachel Mesko.
By the way, I would like to publicly thank the SWAT for the
“certificate of appreciation” I was given for my reporting on
Skokomish River through the years. It’s an honor to be associated
with this group of men and women who are fully committed to seeing
the Skokomish River restored to a healthy ecosystem.
I’ve often wondered if the Hood Canal bridge might be an
obstruction for killer whales, which could simply choose to back
away from the wall of floating pontoons, which are anchored to the
seabed by a confusing array of crisscrossing cables. Old-timers
have told me that orcas used to come into Hood Canal more
frequently before the bridge was built.
What I never considered seriously, however, was that the bridge
could be an obstacle for fish as well. In
Sunday’s Kitsap Sun, I wrote about recent findings from a
study tracking juvenile steelhead by means of implanted
acoustic transmitters. The study was conducted by researchers at
NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center.
The bottom line is that something is happening at the bridge,
where many of the transmitters either disappeared or winded up
staying in one place near the bridge, continuing to send out their
signals for weeks. The leading hypothesis is that seals or other
predators are eating the young steelhead, and some of the acoustic
tags are being digested and excreted near the bridge.
Why the bridge serves as an obstacle to steelhead remains
unclear. But other studies have suggested that steelhead swim near
the surface. As they move out of the canal, the fish may encounter
the bridge pontoons as a physical barrier, since the concrete
structures go down 12 feet underwater. Also, currents around the
pontoons could be a strange condition for the fish. If a young
steelhead slows down in the process, a harbor seal or other
predator could be waiting to take advantage of the situation.
We’ve all heard about sea lions capturing adult salmon by
hanging out at fish ladders at Seattle’s Ballard Locks in Seattle
or at Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River. Maybe the same thing is
happening at the Hood Canal bridge with smaller prey as the target
of the marine mammals.
I was also intrigued by an
analysis conducted by Tarang Khangaonkar, a researcher at
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Seattle. He told me that
in all the models of circulation in Puget Sound and Hood Canal, the
bridge tended to be ignored. Since the pontoons go down 12 feet,
the bridge disrupts the relatively thin low-salinity surface layer
moving out of Hood Canal.
Tarang calculates that the bridge could reduce the circulation
by 10 percent or more, which has serious implications, not just for
steelhead at the bridge but for the ecological health of all of
“We have to examine what the bridge is doing,” Tarang told me.
“It slows the entire system down. Water quality is maintained in
Puget Sound by the flushing effect, which flushes the system out
and maintains a balance. Our preliminary finding is that it could
slow down by about 10 percent. That effect is cumulative.”
The bridge, he said, could effectively create a more stagnant
body of water, where oxygen can become depleted. More study is
needed, he said.
Most of the folks I interviewed for this story agreed that the
first priority for further research was to see what is happening to
the steelhead — and possibly chinook and chum salmon — at the
bridge. Studies could focus on the fish, predators and currents at
The project is gaining support, but it could require a special
legislative appropriation of about $2 million.
Nobody was really talking about designating an official
“Washington state oyster” until 14-year-old Claire Thompson came
along. Now the state Senate has approved a bill, on a 47-1 vote, to
list the Olympia oyster as the state’s official oyster.
Claire is an eighth grader at Olympia’s
Nova School, which requires a yearlong project involving
something that students care deeply about and can make a
difference. Claire, who hopes to become a marine biologist or
oceanographer, developed a sense of history for the once-prominent
Olympia oyster, as we learned from her testimony before the Senate
Governmental Operations Committee.
The full testimony on SB
6145 falls between 40:00 and 51:00 in the
video on this page.
“Pollution near historic beds caused many closures of the
fishery and rallied the oyster farmers to fight for the earliest
pollution control regulations for clean water and cleanup,” Claire
told the committee.
Ostrea lurida, the scientific name for the Olympia
oyster, is the only native oyster to the region. The Pacific
oyster, imported from Japan in the 1920s, makes up most of the
production today, but the tiny Olympia is making a comeback as a
unique delicacy with natural ties to the region.
Claire talked about ocean acidification, caused by excess carbon
dioxide in the atmosphere, and its ongoing threat to the ecological
health of Puget Sound, Hood Canal and other bays and estuaries.
“Ostrea lurida,” she said, “stands as a living symbol
of Washington’s history, from the earliest Native Americans through
the pioneers down through statehood to the present day, deserving
protection as our native oyster. Please join me in fighting to
protect not only our native oyster but our waters as well.”
Claire is the daughter of Rowland Thompson, lobbyist for Allied
Daily Newspapers of Washington, who encouraged her to develop her
project and speak before the Legislature.
Jim Jesernig of Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association said
he supports the bill, even though it came as a surprise to his
“We have been very pleased working with Claire,” Jesernig said.
“It’s very interesting. From the industry, we did not see this. We
were working on derelict vessels and a whole bunch of things going
on. Claire has worked with folks in Willapa Harbor and the South
Sound. We would like to support this in any way.”
If next approved by the house, the Olympia oyster will become
the official state oyster, joining:
The orca, the official marine mammal;
The Olympic marmot, the official endemic mammal;
The willow goldfinch, the official bird;
The steelhead trout, the official fish; and
The common green darner dragonfly, the official insect.
Since then, Puget Sound Restoration Fund has helped rebuild
native oyster populations in many bays, with one of the greatest
successes in Liberty Bay near Poulsbo. Betsy Peabody, executive
director, told me this morning that her group has great hopes for
success in Dyes Inlet near Silverdale and in Port Gamble Bay in
North Kitsap. A new oyster hatchery in Manchester is expected to be
in operation later this year.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has developed a
long-term restoration plan for the Olympia oyster with 19 areas
listed for habitat restoration:
Bellingham Bay (South) Shoreline, Portage Island, and Chuckanut
Port Gamble Bay
Union River/Big and Little Mission Creek(s) deltas
Liberty Bay and sub-inlets
Dyes Inlet and sub-inlets
Point Jefferson-Orchard Point complex of passages and inlets
Harstine/Squaxin Islands complex of passages and inlets
It’s official. Kitsap County has become the proud owner of 535
acres of prime lowland forest, including 1.5 miles of shoreline on
Port Gamble Bay. See the story I prepared for
tomorrow’s Kitsap Sun (subscription).
This is prime property, both from an ecological and recreational
viewpoint. It is extremely rare to find a place where so much
shoreline belongs to the public, especially in a populated area
like Kitsap County. With restoration work and time for nature to
respond, this property could return to a near-pristine
This is the first property sale completed by the Kitsap Forest
& Bay Project. More than two years ago, I attended a kick-off
meeting to launch the fund-raising effort. It all began with an
option agreement to buy up to 7,000 acres of forestland from Pope
See Kitsap Sun, Oct. 19, 2012.
The effort followed a disbanded plan by the county to trade the
land for increased housing density near Port Gamble. (See
Kitsap Sun, Jan. 19, 2010.)
The new effort was spearheaded by Cascade Land Conservancy, now
called Forterra. CLC President Gene Duvernoy spelled out the task
ahead as he announced that Michelle Connor, a vice president of
CLC, would be put in charge. Duvernoy declared:
“This is probably the most important project we can accomplish
to save Puget Sound… Anytime we have a real thorny project, we hand
it to Michelle to make it happen… This option agreement is a reason
to celebrate, but now we need to get serious. Now, we can look at
all the financing and funding possibilities. Until today, we were
unable to do that.”
Other acquisitions are expected to be completed soon, but it
remains unclear how much of the 7,000 acres can be acquired from
In celebration of the completed sale, I would like to share the
statements made in a news
release by a variety of people involved in the project:
Kitsap County Commissioner Rob Gelder:
“This acquisition has been years in the making and the beginning
of a series of great things to come in 2014. We are lining up
funding to protect additional lands from Kingston to Port Gamble as
part of this preservation effort.”
“Conservation of these lands will help sustain the cultural
heritage and health of our communities, the functioning of our
environment and diversity of our economy. Moving the whole effort
forward is a testament to the leadership of local residents, Kitsap
County, the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, the Suquamish Tribe, and
the state of Washington.”
Suquamish Tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman:
“The public purchase of the shoreline block at Port Gamble Bay
is an accomplishment worth celebrating. The Suquamish Tribe is
grateful that this critical marine habitat will be protected for
time immemorial and help in efforts to protect the water quality of
Port Gamble Bay.”
Jeromy Sullivan, chairman of the Port Gamble S’Klallam
“One of my tribe’s ongoing priorities is to ensure that Port
Gamble Bay remains productive and healthy for future generations.
The conservation of this property furthers that goal by protecting
water quality, preventing development and limiting stormwater
runoff and other associated impacts.”
Jon Rose, president of Olympic Property Group, Pope
Resources’ real estate subsidiary:
“We are proud to be working with the community to protect these
forests, beaches and trails for future generations. This purchase
is a prize that has been earned through nearly a decade of
dedicated efforts by the local community.”
Sandra Staples-Bortner, executive director of Great
Peninsula Conservancy, a key player in the
“The many community partners involved in the Kitsap Forest &
Bay Coalition have dedicated countless hours to help achieve this
historic land purchase, handing out trail maps, speaking to
community groups and marching in parades. And when it came down to
the wire, the coalition raised over $10,000 in three days to fill
the final funding gap.”
Maia Bellon, director of the Washington Department of
“Restoring and sustaining the ecological systems that support
Port Gamble Bay is critical for Hood Canal, Puget Sound, and all of
us who call Washington home.”
In an impressive new video, members of the Skokomish Watershed
Action Team tell the story of the Skokomish River, its history and
its people, and the ongoing effort to restore the watershed to a
more natural condition.
The video describes restoration projects — from the estuary,
where tide channels were reformed, to the Olympic Mountains, where
old logging roads were decommissioned to reduce sediment loading
that clogs the river channel.
“I thought it was really well done,” SWAT Chairman Mike Anderson
told me. “Some people have remarked about how well edited it is in
terms of having different voices come together to tell the story in
a single story line.”
The 14-minute video was produced with a $20,000 grant from the
Laird Norton Family Foundation, which helped get the SWAT off the
ground a decade ago, when a facilitator was hired to pull the group
The foundation’s Watershed
Stewardship Program invests in community-based restoration,
said Katie Briggs, the foundation’s managing director. In addition
to the Hood Canal region, the foundation is supporting projects in
the Upper Deschutes and Rogue rivers in Oregon.
As Katie explained in an email:
“LNFF has been interested in the collaborative work in the
Skokomish for a number of years, and we have been consistently
impressed with the way an admittedly strange group of bedfellows
has pulled together, set priorities, and moved a restoration agenda
forward in the watershed.
“We think their story is compelling, and by being able to share
that story in a concise, visual way, they could not only attract
more attention to the work they are doing in the Skokomish, but
also potentially influence and share with other communities
grappling with similar kinds of challenges.
“By helping SWAT tell their story, we’ve also gained a tool
through which we are better able to share what it is we care about
with the larger Laird Norton family and others interested in the
foundation’s approach to watershed stewardship.”
The video project was overseen by Tiffany Royal of the Northwest
Indian Fisheries Commission and a subcommittee of SWAT members.
North 40 Productions was chosen to pull together the story, shoot
new video and compile historical footage.
“It captures a lot of the collaboration and restoration,”
Anderson said, “but it doesn’t cover everything. It leaves out most
of the General Investigation and the Cushman settlement.”
The General Investigation is how the Army Corps of Engineers
refers to the studies I wrote about Sunday in the
Kitsap Sun (subscription) and in
Water Ways. The Cushman settlement involves an environmental
mitigation project on the North Fork of the Skokomish funded by the
city of Tacoma and related to relicensing of the Cushman Dam power
Alex Gouley of the Skokomish Tribe said he hopes that the video
will help tell the story of the Skokomish watershed, as with other
tribal efforts such as watershed tours, educational workshops and
classroom field trips.
Alex said he and other tribal members appreciate all the work
done by each member of the SWAT, from Forest Service employees to
the county commissioners, from Green Diamond Resource Company
(formerly Simpson Timber) to small property owners in the
“By coming together, everyone is able to make more informed
decisions about the projects they are working on,” he said.