With Earth Day falling on a Saturday this year, all sorts of
environmental activities have been scheduled for this weekend. On
top of your typical Earth Day activities, there will be a March for
Science in Washington, D.C., as well as in Seattle and hundreds of
other communities across the country.
It just seems like a great time to get out and do something. I’m
hoping the weather cooperates. The
National Weather Service predicts that warm weather tomorrow
will give way to a low-pressure trough moving over Western
Washington on Saturday. That weather system might be traveling
slowly enough that the rains won’t appear until later in the day
when most activities have been wrapped up in the Puget Sound
I should mention that Saturday also is the annual Kids Fishing
Party in Gorst, which coincides with the opening of trout season.
Sponsored by the Kitsap Poggie Club, the family-fun event allows
youngsters to catch a fish at the fish-rearing facility at Otto
Jarstad Park in Gorst. Fishing rods and bait are provided, and the
Poggies will even clean the fish for cooking. For details, go to
Trashy art is getting better and better. Some years ago, people
started transforming debris found on the beach into sculptures
worthy of an art show. Now the trashy art has gotten so good that
we can actually attend an art exhibit where trashy sculptures are
Called “Washed Ashore Exhibits,” one group of sculptures has
been placed in an ongoing display at the Smithsonian National
Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.
A traveling exhibit will open at Tacoma’s Point Defiance Zoo and
Aquarium beginning next week and continue until Oct. 21. I don’t
believe the pictures on this page or in the photo gallery
of sculptures on the Washed Ashore website truly capture the effect
of seeing these large sculptures up close.
Of course, the whole idea is to raise awareness about marine
debris, most of which begins with a careless discard of trash —
although some of the interesting items were probably lost by
accident. Regardless of the source, these plastics and other
materials don’t belong in the ocean, where they can harm sea life
in various ways, from ingestion to entrapment. Such debris also
turns our beaches into a trash dump.
Twenty-five years ago, I stood and watched as a screaming buzz
saw tossed clouds of sawdust into the air while slicing through
thick logs of Douglas fir at the Pope & Talbot sawmill in Port
Last week, I walked across the vacant site of the old mill,
which was torn down years ago. Along the edge of Port Gamble Bay, I
could hear nothing but the sound of the wind and an occasional call
of a seagull.
I came back to the old mill site to see how things looked
following completion of the $20-million-plus cleanup of Port Gamble
Bay. Some 111,000 cubic yards of dredge material is now piled up in
the middle of the site, an amount roughly equivalent to 10,000
In addition, nearly 8,600 wooden pilings — most imbedded with
creosote — were removed and shipped off for disposal, making it one
of the largest piling-removal projects in state history. The final
number of pilings removed far exceeded original estimates, largely
because buried ones kept turning up during the removal work.
“It’s a huge relief to get this done,” said Jon Rose, vice
president of Pope Resources who has overseen a decade of planning
and cleanup. “It has been very hard on our staff, hard on the town,
hard on our financial statements.
“I think we are on the right side of the mountain,” he added.
“Look at how incredible the shore looks.”
For the first time in U.S. history, the consumption of bottled
water has now surpassed that of carbonated soft drinks, according
to the Beverage Marketing Corporation.
Bottled water consumption grew by 8.5 percent last year, while
soft drink consumption fell by 1.7 percent, following an ongoing
trend, according to the BMC’s Gary Hemphill, as quoted in Plastics
The statistics are based on volume consumed, not dollar value,
Hemphill said. “Which is really kind of remarkable when you
consider bottled water’s growth trajectory didn’t really start
until the early ‘90s.”
The shift is largely attributed to growing health concerns
related to drinking sugary soft drinks. But bottled water also is
displacing the consumption of juice, alcoholic beverages and even
tap water. See story by Hadley Malcolm in
“Dream” is a clever animated video promoting the annual Wildlife
Conservation Film Festival in New York City. The festival is more
than films, with workshops on wildlife topics and a goal to connect
average people with filmmakers, conservationists, researchers and
One of my personal goals for the coming year is to see more of
the wonderful films being produced about conservation concerns,
environmental issues and wildlife preservation.
Among the films being released next year are “A Plastic Ocean,”
a feature-length documentary that explores the problem of plastic
pollution in 20 locations around the world, including the Great
Pacific Garbage Patch in the North Pacific Gyre, 1,500 miles off
the West Coast. The film also discusses practical and technological
approaches to solving the plastic problem.
A free 2017 calendar, published by the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration, features winning artwork in a contest
that focuses on the problem of trash in the ocean, otherwise known
as marine debris.
More than 700 students from around the country participated in
the contest, and one of the 13 winners was a seventh grader from
Washington state named Sallie S. Neither her full name nor hometown
was disclosed, and I never received a response to an email sent to
her on my behalf by NOAA officials.
Sallie’s statement on the back of the calendar: “Marine debris
impacts our oceans and Great Lakes, because the plastic and other
garbage could badly injure or kill the sea animals. What I will do
to keep our ocean debris free is to not litter. Not littering is
very important, because if you litter the debris can go into
drains, then it can go into the lake or the sea. Then once it goes
in the sea, ocean organisms could then die.”
When I was a young child, we didn’t have to worry about wildlife
getting strangled by six-pack rings, because these plastic binders
for cans had not been invented yet. I was 9 years old in 1961 when
this simple, convenient form of packaging was invented, so I
clearly remember the transition. (See Hi-Cone
At the time, nobody predicted the conservation consternation
that would be created by such a simple piece of plastic. During the
1970s and up to present, pictures of entrapped birds and other sea
creatures became common, suggesting that we at least cut the
plastic to save the animals. The first video provides a story of
Before the invention of six-pack rings, people bought soft
drinks and beer in cardboard packages, which sort of wrapped around
the cans. Pabst Blue Ribbon may have been the first beer sold in
cardboard cartons (second video), although Coca Cola may have
started the phase. The Coke
company claims to be the first to take its bottles out of
wooden crates and begin offering cardboard packaging for consumers
as early as 1923.
The Harper Estuary restoration project is finally coming
together, with one contractor being hired for culvert removal,
others bidding for the excavation work and engineers completing the
designs for a new bridge.
Since June, the first phase of the project has been divided into
two parts. The first actual construction will involve the
replacement of a 24-inch culvert that carries Harper Creek under
Southworth Drive. The new structure will be a three-sided,
open-bottom culvert that spans 16 feet across the stream.
Bids were opened, and a contractor has been preliminarily
selected, said Doris Small, project coordinator for the Washington
Department of Fish and Wildlife. A meeting has been scheduled for
Tuesday to iron out the final details and award the contract, she
The work must be completed by Oct. 15, so things will progress
rapidly, she said. An announcement will be made soon regarding a
temporary detour on Southworth Drive.
The remainder of the first phase involves the excavation of dirt
and other debris used to fill in the estuary years ago. The project
has been reduced slightly in size from the original design,
reducing water contact in certain spots, Doris told me. Also, an
analysis of the soils to be removed concluded that some of the fill
material is contaminated at such a low level that it can be used as
fill elsewhere or sent to a composting facility.
Bids will be taken on the excavation project until Sept. 13, and
the work must be done before the middle of February.
The design of a new 120-foot-long bridge on Olympiad Drive is
between 60 and 90 percent complete. Applications have been
submitted for several grants to complete the project, primarily
construction of the new bridge. The bridge will replace a 36-inch
culvert where the road crosses the estuary. The design includes
access for people to walk down to the water, and it can be used to
launch small hand-carried boats.
As I described in
Water Ways in June, the existing makeshift boat launch must be
removed to allow the restored estuary to function properly. I am
told, however, that county officials are still looking for a nearby
site to build a new boat launch with access for trailered
If grants are approved to cover the cost, the bridge could be
under construction next summer, Doris said. The total estimated
cost of the entire restoration is now $7 million, with $4.1 million
approved from a mitigation fund related to contamination from the
Asarco smelter in Tacoma.
The Eco-Comedy Film Competition was created to get people
thinking about the environment by reaching them through
entertainment instead of a heavy-handed message.
“Clean Water” is the theme for this year’s competition,
sponsored by The Nature Conservancy and American University’s
Center for Environmental Filmmaking.
More than 80 short films were entered into this year’s contest.
Everyone is eligible to vote online for the People’s Choice Award
by selecting from among the seven finalists. Watch those seven
videos on the
Eco-Comedy Film Competition website, and vote using the form
beneath the video players. Make sure you click in the lower right
corner to go full screen. I’ve posted a couple of my favorites on
this page, but please don’t let that influence your own choice.
The winning video will be selected by a panel of judges. The
Grand Prize winner will be announced March 22 and will be awarded a
Painting large murals of endangered species on exterior walls
across the U.S. is a way of “fostering connections between people
and the other forms of life that surround them,” according to Roger
Peet, a Portland artist who is leading the project, commissioned by
the Center for Biological Diversity.
The latest mural, painted on a building in Los Angeles, shows a
blue whale breaching off the coast of an urban area with an
industrial skyline. The mural was painted from a massive stencil by
Brooklyn street artists Icy and Sot, who are brothers, according to
“Brooklyn Street Art.” The mural is designed to inspire
protection for the whale and reduction of ocean pollution, the
artists said in an interview.
The Center for Biological Diversity is perhaps best known for
suing the federal government to list and protect declining species,
but it has also been committed to public outreach, including the
condoms featuring endangered species. The organization launched
the mural project to call attention to at-risk wildlife specific to
local communities where the murals are painted, according to the
CBD’s website on the mural project.
The first mural in the series, featuring a mountain caribou, was
painted in Sandpoint, Idaho, northeast of Spokane. This area of the
Selkirk Mountains is the last remaining territory for the caribou
in the lower 48 states. Mural artists Mazatl and Joy Mallari worked
with Peet on the project.
“The city of Sandpoint unanimously approved the mural project
for a prominent downtown building and passed a resolution
supporting recovery of the caribou and augmentation of the southern
Selkirk herd — exactly the kind of local support for endangered
species our project is designed to foster,” states the CBD’s
The second mural, painted by Peet last summer in Butte, Mont.,
shows the Arctic grayling, a fish in the salmon family that was
once common in Northern Montana, the headwaters of the Missouri
River. Because of river diversions and pollution, the fish
population has declined dramatically. In the lower 48 states, the
fish survives only in a stretch of the Big Hole River near Butte.
Montana Standard has the story.
A monarch butterfly on a wall in South Minneapolis, Minn., is
the third mural in the series. In late summer, monarchs undergo
metamorphosis in Minnesota and other northern regions before
migrating to Mexico for the winter and then to the southern U.S.,
where they lay their eggs. Pesticide and development have taken a
toll on the monarch habitat and reduced their population by 80
percent over the past 20 years, according to the CBD website. Peet
worked with Barry Newman on the mural.
In November, a mural featuring the watercress darter was
completed in Birmingham, Ala. This small, brilliantly colored fish
is found only in the Birmingham area. Peet worked with Birmingham
artists Merrilee Challiss and Creighton Tynes on the mural.
“Birmingham was selected as the site of darter mural because
Alabama is a world hotspot for freshwater animal diversity, and the
center is working to protect hundreds of Alabama species from
extinction,” says a
news release from the Center for Biological Diversity.
Upcoming murals include a mussel — the pink mucket — in
Knoxville, Tenn., an aquatic salamander — the Ozark hellbender — in
St. Louis, Mo., multiple fish of the Colorado River on the Navajo
reservation in Arizona, and bull trout in Oakridge, Ore. Organizers
say more murals could be painted with additional funding and
support from local artists.
Painter Roger Peet, who continues to manage the mural project,
says the effort is built upon the biodiversity of individual
“Those species embody an area’s natural history and contribute
to what makes it irreplaceable. They also have something to say
about the future, as many are in danger of going extinct. And when
we lose species, the places and lives we live become poorer and
shallower places as a result.
“To help bring these species into the light, we decided to paint
them on the walls… Whether that’s a fish in a river, a butterfly
flitting from plant to plant or a caribou chewing lichen off a tree
trunk, we’re bringing together artists and communities to create
big, bold images that will become part of the neighborhoods where
they’re created, making it a little easier for people to care about
the native species struggling to survive in their midst.”
All photos courtesy of the Center for Biological