Watching Our Water Ways

Environmental reporter Christopher Dunagan discusses the challenges of protecting Puget Sound and all things water-related.
Subscribe to RSS
Back to Watching Our Water Ways

Archive for the ‘Litter and debris’ Category

Amusing Monday: Students create environmental art

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

This week, I’d like to share some student artwork from two contests.

One is a local event in which 10 Kitsap County students are honored in the Kitsap Recycles Day contest, sponsored by Kitsap County Public Works. The other contest is for students anywhere in the country. Called the Keep the Sea Free of Debris contest, it is sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Li-Nelshin Co, a fifth grader at Esquire Hills Elementary School, created one of the winning posters for Kitsap Recycles Day.

Li-Nelshin Co, a fifth grader at Esquire Hills Elementary School, created one of the winning posters for Kitsap Recycles Day.

The first poster featured on this page is by Li-Nelshin Co, a fifth grader at Esquire Hills Elementary School, located in East Bremerton and part of the Central Kitsap School District.

Li-Neishin wrote this about the poster:

“Recycling is important because we are saving the world for future generations. My favorite thing to recycle is PAPER because this way we are not only recycling, we are also saving the trees that gives us fresh air, shade, preventing soil erosion.”

Other winning posters can be viewed on Kitsap Recycles Day webpage.

A couple years ago, the Kitsap Recycles Day poster contest was moved from November to February and expanded into a broader educational program. The delayed contest allowed teachers and/or parents to provide more information than could have been completed by America Recycles Day, celebrated in November. A new activity book, “Close the Loop” (PDF 16.7 mb), is part of Kitsap’s expanded program.

“It’s incredibly encouraging to see the influx of posters we see on Kitsap Recycles Day,” said Kitsap County Recycling Coordinator Christopher Piercy in a news release. “You can tell each student has a passion for recycling, reducing waste, and the environment. It is especially fascinating to see the grasp they all have on the value of ‘closing the loop’ — not just recycling, but buying recycled content products.”

The other winners are Libby Parker, kindergartener at Gateway Christian Schools, Poulsbo; Natalie Oathout, first grader at Emerald Heights Elementary School; Jeddison Miller, second grader at Crosspoint Academy; Kelsey Derr, third grader at Hilder Pearson Elementary School; Saige Herwig, third grader at South Colby Elementary School; Charlotte Halbert, fourth grader at Gateway Christian Schools, Poulsbo; Blake Warner, fifth grader at Crosspoint Academy; Drew Moar, sixth grader at Manchester Elementary School; and Gia Acosta, eighth grader at Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic School.

The second poster on this page, a winner in the 2014 Keep the Sea Free of Debris contest, was drawn by Jessica D., a fourth grader in New York.

Jessica commented:

“Keep the sea free of debris. Debris is garbage, marine debris is garbage in the sea. Marine debris is very bad. Marine debris is mostly plastics, fishing gear and litter. Marine debris is very harmful and dangerous to undersea creatures. This pollution can ruin habitats. Marine wildlife can get hurt by marine debris. It also can cost a lot of money to fix. But you can help fix it by just cleaning beaches and not littering.”

The contest is sponsored by NOAA’s Marine Debris Program, which asked contest entrants to create their “vision” of marine debris. All 13 winners and their comments can be seen on a Gallery Page on the Marine Debris Blog.


Is that a light I see shining at the end of restoration?

Friday, November 15th, 2013

When it comes to ecosystem restoration, I love it when we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s rare when we have a chance to say that restoration is nearing completion, since we know that habitat work continues on and on, seemingly without end, in many areas of Puget Sound.

Last summer, a massive pond was constructed off Waaga Way to capture stormwater from developments that was flowing into Steele Creek. Photo by Larry Steagall

Last summer, a massive pond was constructed off Waaga Way to capture stormwater from Central Kitsap developments flowing straight into Steele Creek. / Photo by Larry Steagall

So let us anticipate a celebration when Kitsap County’s regional stormwater projects are completed, when all the deadly ghost nets have been removed from the shallow waters of Puget Sound, and when there are no more creosote pilings left on state tidelands.

Of course, the light at the end of the tunnel may be a mirage, but let’s not go there quite yet.

Kitsap regional ponds

Kitsap County has been collecting a Surface and Stormwater Management Fee from residents in unincorporated areas and using some of that money to leverage state and federal stormwater grants. The fee is currently $73.50, but it will rise to $78 in 2014, $82 in 2015, $86.50 in 2016, $91 in 2017 and $96 in 2018. See Kitsap Sun, Nov. 27, 2012.

The good news is that the effort to retrofit old, outmoded stormwater systems is nearing completion, with remaining projects either in design or nearing the design phase. Check out the Kitsap County Public Works Capital Facilities Program for a list of completed projects with maps as well as proposed projects with maps. As the documents show, the regional retrofits are on their way to completion.

So what are the sources of future stormwater problems? The answer is roads, and the problem is enormous. Still, the county has begun to address the issue with a pilot project that could become a model for other counties throughout Puget Sound. Please read my September story, “New strategies will address road runoff” (subscription) to see how the county intends to move forward.

Ghost nets and crab pots

Earlier this year, the Legislature provided $3.5 million to complete the removal of derelict fishing gear that keeps on killing in waters less than 105 feet deep. The work is to be done before the end of 2015.

Sites where known nets are still killing fish. Map courtesy of Northwest Straits Commission

Sites where known nets are still killing fish.
Map courtesy of Northwest Straits

Phil Anderson, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, was excited about the prospect. Here’s what he said in a news release.

“Working in conjunction with our partners at Northwest Straits and in the State Legislature, we have made enormous strides toward eliminating the risks posed to fish and wildlife by derelict fishing gear. This is difficult work, and it requires a real commitment from everyone to get it done. We look forward to celebrating the next milestone in 2015.”

The most amazing statistic I found on this topic involved the number of animals trapped by ghost nets. According to one predictive model, if all the nets had been left alone to keep fishing, they could be killing 3.2 million animals each year.

For additional information, read the story I wrote for last Saturday’s Kitsap Sun (subscription) or check out the Northwest Straits webpage.

Creosote pilings and docks

Washington Department of Natural Resources hasn’t slowed down in its effort to remove old creosote pilings and docks. The structures can be toxic to marine life, obstruct navigation and snag fishing gear. By 2015, the total bill for removing such debris is expected to reach $13 million.

Nobody is sure how much it will cost to remove the last of the creosote materials from state lands, but DNR officials have inventoried the various sites and expect to come up with a final priority list over the next six months. Some pilings on privately owned land may be a higher priority for the ecosystem, and officials are trying to decide how to address those sites. Of course, nobody can tackle pilings on private lands without working through the property owners.

Download a spreadsheet of the work completed so far (PDF 53 kb), which involves a focus on 40 sites throughout Puget Sound. Altogether, the projects removed about 11,000 pilings plus about 250,000 square feet of “overwater structures,” such as docks.

I mentioned work underway in Jefferson County in my story last week (subscription), and reporter Tristan Baurick mentioned a specific cleanup project at Nick’s Lagoon (subscription) in Kitsap County. You may also wish to check out the DNR’s page on Creosote Removal.


Plankton blooms observed throughout Puget Sound

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013
Taken over Winslow on Bainbridge Island, this photo shows a Noctiluca bloom with the Bainbridge ferry in the background. Photo by Christopher Krembs, Ecology

Taken over Winslow on Bainbridge Island, this photo shows a Noctiluca bloom with the Bainbridge Island ferry in the background. / Photo by Christopher Krembs, Ecology

Plankton blooms reported last week from numerous locations in Puget Sound were confirmed and examined from the air Monday by Christopher Krembs and his colleagues at Eyes Over Puget Sound.

The marine monitoring group for the Department of Ecology reported notable Noctiluca blooms, as I reported in a story in Friday’s Kitsap Sun. The blooms are relatively harmless and not unexpected, given the mild weather and freshwater flows that bring nutrients into Puget Sound. They are earlier than in recent years, however.

Christopher also observed heavy sediment flows coming out of the Fraser River near Vancouver and moving south along the Canadian border. These and many other observations can be reviewed by downloading the latest report on Ecology’s website.

A brightly colored plankton called Noctiluca was observed last week along the shore of Bremerton’s Evergreen-Rotary Park. Kitsap Sun photo by Meegan M. Reid.

A brightly colored plankton called Noctiluca was observed last week along the shore of Bremerton’s Evergreen-Rotary Park. / Kitsap Sun photo by Meegan M. Reid.


Amusing Monday: Student artists draw on debris

Monday, March 18th, 2013

I really love this picture by Araminta “Minty” Little, a seventh grader at Fairview Junior High School in Central Kitsap. Her picture shows an octopus grasping trash that has been thrown into the ocean.

trash

Apparently, the judges in the annual Marine Debris Art Contest also liked Minty’s picture. They named her one of 13 winners nationwide out of more than 600 students from 21 states who entered the contest, which is sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Minty’s drawing is a fine piece of work, but she also got high marks for her concept, which carries a message about the dangers of marine debris. As part of the contest, she was required to write a bit about the problem. As quoted on the Central Kitsap School District’s website, she explained:

“The picture I drew depicts a sea creature surrounded by garbage. The octopus … is wrapping its tentacles around stray trash preparing to throw it all back onto land. In the top right tentacle is a sign reading ‘S.O.S.’ in parody to … an old sailing term.”

To see all the 2012-13 winners, check out the slide show on the Marine Debris Blog.

The contest is open to students from kindergarten through eighth grade. The 13 winning entries will be used to create a calendar scheduled to be printed in a few months.

“You wouldn’t believe the talent of some of these students,” said Dianna Parker of NOAA’s Marine Debris Program, which has conducted the art contest since 2010.

The next contest opens to entries in September.

trash2


Dolphin rescue touches many hearts

Saturday, February 2nd, 2013

If you haven’t seen it, I think you’ll be impressed with this video, which shows a bottlenose dolphin apparently asking for help from some scuba divers, who noticed the animal tangled in fishing line with a hook imbedded in its fin.

Martina Wing of Ocean Wings Hawaii captured the action, which really begins at 3:30 into the eight-minute video, though the early part sets the scene with some beautiful shots of manta rays. The encounter took place Jan. 11 off the west coast of the Big Island.

Reporter Philip Caulfield of the New York Daily News quoted Keller Laros, the diver who came to the rescue, as saying the dolphin was responsive to his gesture and deliberately moved in close to be helped:

“I noticed he had a fishing wire wrapped around his left fin. I reached out with my left hand … and gestured with my index finger ‘Come here.’ And he swam right up to me. The fact that he seemed to recognize my gesture, that blew me away.”

Laros was able to cut away the line and remove the hook, and the dolphin swam away.

The video has been viewed nearly 2 million times, with more than 2,000 comments posted to the site. I found some observations to be thought-provoking:

DavidKevin: I am overwhelmed.

I have been certain for over 35 years that we shared the planet with another sentient species, the dolphins, and this is just more evidence of it. We don’t have to go off-planet to find an alien species with whom to communicate, we just have to look offshore.

If we cannot learn to communicate with our distant mammalian relatives, we’ll never be able to communicate with true extra-terrestrials, should we ever meet them.

Marvelicious75: We use the word ‘sentient’ in a dialectic manner, but it is quite obviously not accurate. It is arrogance that makes us consider ourselves separate from ‘animals’ like the dolphin. This story isn’t truly surprising in light of the countless stories of dolphins rescuing humans. The only limiting factor is our surprising lack of empathy….

Hobbitfrdo: Sad day for the world if we stopped loving all creatures. Respect to you all.

Russell Laros: The diver cutting the line off in the video is my father. He was really happy to be able to make this connection to the animal and was pretty impressed by it’s intelligence. Apparently this dolphin has been in contact with humans before, though. It has been seen and interacted with workers at a local open ocean fish farm nearby. Still really amazing though….

Misa Eniaki Amane: This dolphin is smarter than all of us…..went up for air and back down to continue with the rescue.

supertekkel1: There are numerous_ ancient stories of dolphins rescuing sailors who went overboard. Whether they are true or not, it’s nice to see that we are finally able to do something to return the favor.

1Irisangel: What a blessing to have captured these moments on film. No words needed, only love and compassion for a fellow traveler on planet Earth. Wonderful capture Martina!

OonaCanute: Now to get rid of all the fishing nets and lines and hooks that kill thousands of dolphins like this beauty every year.

Alex Bruce: The trust the dolphin had in the humans in his time of need is humbling to me. Dolphins are very intelligent creatures and know when to allow man to handle and help them. The men that helped the dolphin have to have felt some sense of pride derived from their kindness and humane actions. I know I did when many years ago I helped rescue a pelican that had a 3-barb hook anchored in its wing and a weight that was attached to the fishing line. He said. “Thank you” in his way and took off in flight :-)

bcmom5: Awesome. It swam around until it found the right person to help it. That person and all who had a hand in it were blessed with Dolphin Medicine which teaches us to get out and breathe, explore, play. Breathe new life into your life. Awesome. :) Thank you for helping and for sharing.

userbc44: What a touching and pure video! I love the part at 4:33 when the diver goes to take off his lights and puts them on the sea floor, the dolphin swims right in front of him as to say, “Theres more! don’t go, here I am!”

POMPCATZ: Wonderful to watch this intelligent creature seek your help and let you finish the job after going up for air. This is just more proof these beautiful. intelligent life forms should not be slaughtered for ignorant tradition and profit.

KillerinExile: Dolphins seem almost sapient. If they’re smart enough to ask for help maybe we shouldn’t be eating and abusing them like we do.

starsbydaylight: … I am sure the majority of people are naturally happy to help distressed animals that keep their calm, sometimes being out of fear unreasonable while being rescued. Once I witnessed a toddler busy carefully rescue a butterfly drowning in a puddle of water. The intelligence of the dolphin and the kind manner of the diver made me cry. In fact the dolphin saved its own life….

flowerseva: This is the ‘Real News’ happening on Planet Earth! Imagine if the 6 o’clock nightly news was filled with these images and emotions – What kind of world would we then be creating??


Much floating trash winds up in Silverdale

Saturday, December 1st, 2012

Silverdale’s waterfront is seeing the effects of recent storms in our area, as documented by Susan Digby, a geography instructor at Olympic College.

Recent storms have brought a lot of trash and marine debris to Silverdale’s waterfront. / Photo by Susan Digby

High stormwater flows have washed litter, debris and dead salmon into Sinclair and Dyes inlets, where currents and winds from the south carry the materials to Silverdale’s beaches, including Silverdale Waterfront Park and Old Mill Park.

“The north end of Dyes Inlet is like the end of a sock,” Susan told me. “When we get rain and wind, everything piles up there.”

Photos of all this debris — including parts of three docks — were taken by Susan on Sunday, just two weeks after her students cleaned up the beach entirely as part of an ongoing study that counts and categorizes marine debris that collects there.

A phenomenal amount of trash winds up on our beaches, including discarded food wrappers that people have carelessly discarded. Just about anything that floats can wash into a stream or storm drain to be carried into one of our local inlets. Some debris may be coming from the nearby streets and parking lots in Silverdale, but some could be coming all the way from Gorst, as suggested by drogue studies (PDF 1.6 mb) conducted by the Navy.

As Susan points out, the debris includes lots of Styrofoam, which can be ingested by birds and sea creatures, as well as baby diapers and syringes, which are a reminder that disease organisms are making their way into our local waters with uncertain effects on the fish and shellfish we eat.

I plan to cover Susan Digby’s student research project in more detail early next year, after 2012 data are compiled.

A piece of a dock washed up on Silverdale’s waterfront during a recent storm. Parts of two other docks also were found. / Photo by Susan Digby


Amusing Monday: Delving into a grain of sand

Monday, July 18th, 2011

Sand is widespread on beaches throughout the world. But if you get the chance to look really, really close, you are likely to see colorful rocks, bits of shell and other natural and man-made materials.

Every grain of sand is virtually unique, but when similar types come together, we find ourselves walking on beaches that vary from a finely ground silt to pebbles that are easily seen. You will see stretches of coast that can appear white, red, green or black.

Gary Greenberg has been taking pictures of sand and has compiled his best photographs into a book called “A Grain of Sand: Nature’s Secret Wonder.” I like what Geology.com has done on its website, offering a glimpse of Greenberg’s photos, telling us where the sand was found and describing the types of particles depicted.

Greenberg’s books — including a new children’s book, “Mary’s Magic Microscope” — are displayed on his website Sandgrains.com.

Taking microscopic art a step further, micro sculptor Willard Wigan transforms grains of sand, bits of dust and hairs from insects to produce amazingly small sculptures that can bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars. You may have already seen his amazing story told on various television shows, including the video shown here from the Wall Street Journal. You can view Wigan’s online gallery of more than 50 tiny sculptures on the artist’s website.

His personal story, also told on the website, talks about overcoming obstacles:

“It began when I was five years old. I started making houses for ants because I thought they needed somewhere to live. Then I made them shoes and hats. It was a fantasy world I escaped to where my dyslexia didn’t hold me back and my teachers couldn’t criticize me. That’s how my career as a micro-sculptor began.”

Wigan, who cannot read or write, found another way to express himself. In an interview with Nick Watts of ABC News, Wigans noted:

“The teachers at school made me feel small. They made me feel like nothing. I’m trying to prove to the world that nothing doesn’t exist.”


Students share environmental projects during summit

Friday, May 20th, 2011

It was refreshing this week to join 250 students of all ages at the GreenSTEM Summit in Belfair, where young people shared environmental projects they had been working on through the year. Check out my story in Wednesday’s Kitsap Sun.

Jaclyn Davis, 9, a third-grader at Breidablik Elementary School in North Kitsap, looks for birds during Tuesday's GreenSTEM Summit.
Kitsap Sun photo by Larry Steagall

The students came prepared to discuss their projects with others. While some students were more technically astute than others, it was clear that most had learned a great deal from the experience. Most of the 10 schools represented at the summit were engaged in some type of ecosystem analysis, such as monitoring streams for water quality.

During the first part of the day, the students visited educational displays, where experts talked about issues ranging from steelhead to cooking oysters and clams, including geoducks.

Later in the day, they became involved in “nature mapping” at the 40-acre Pacific Northwest Salmon Center. Nature mapping involves observing animals and writing notes in data sheets, as professional researchers would do.

(more…)


Earth Day is defined by the human spirit

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

To me, Earth Day has always meant two things: education and action. Of course, I would never object to the entertainment that accompanies many Earth Day events, because learning and good deeds ought to involve fun and laughter.

For years, my wife Sue and I drove over to Sequim on the Saturday after Earth Day to help clean up Dungeness Spit, which happens to be the place she and I went on our first date many years ago. We stopped going for health reasons but hope to get started again.

Tracyton resident Don Larson has organized the Sinclair Inlet Cleanup twice each year for the past 21 years. Now Don and his fellow organizer John Denis are a couple of guys who truly understand the Earth Day spirit and what it means to give back to your community.

Don told me this week that he was impressed with the crew that showed up at Saturday’s cleanup. He was particularly inspired by Jim Anderson, a 66-year-old Bremerton resident who regularly picks up trash along the Bremerton boardwalk as he moves along in an electric wheelchair, accompanied by his guide dog Raffle.

“He’s a phenomenal guy,” Larson said. “He has these hand-grabber picker-ups. He and his wife Jackie clean up periodically all year long as he moves around the waterfront.

“With Jim and Jackie, the human spirit really comes out. You hear about all the bad stuff in the world, then you meet a person like that who gets out and helps the community. It just makes you feel good.”

(more…)


Amusing Monday: Fabric evokes a watery dreamstate

Monday, April 4th, 2011

I’ve become intrigued by the work of artist Mary Babcock, whose latest creation with Christopher Curtin uses sheets of fabric to evoke a feeling of flowing water.

An exhibit called Teem uses fabric to evoke the feeling of flowing water. / Photo courtesy of Don Frank Photography

Babcock chairs the Fiber Program in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. (Review her resume.) Her latest artwork, in partnership with Curtin, “superimposes metaphors of water (movement/potentiality) and the sea (the infinite, comfort, danger, aloneness) to evoke a sense of dreamspace — the space of possibility,” according to the artist’s description on the school’s blog.

Teem, as the exhibit is called, got its beginnings at the Netshed at Alderbrook Station in Astoria, Ore. Now, I wish I would made the trip to Oregon while the exhibit, called Deluge, was still open. It has now moved, with some changes, to the Textile Arts Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

As the description states, “Teem uses textile to create an environment where viewers find themselves under the surface of the water at the powerful juncture where river currents meet the ocean tides, where the individual meets the collective….

(more…)


Available on Kindle

Subscribe2

Follow WaterWatching on Twitter

Food for thought

"In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught."Baba Dioum, Senegalese conservationist

Archives

Categories