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Environmental reporter Christopher Dunagan discusses the challenges of protecting Puget Sound and all things water-related.
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Amusing Monday: scenes and sounds of imagination

Monday, April 14th, 2014

A couple years ago in Water Ways, I described how I used to spend a great deal of time recording and mixing sounds. As a child, I was fascinated with sound effects, and I’ve always loved music.

A website called Go Mix It allows you to create sound compositions and add photos like this one. Go Mix It photo library

A website called Go Mix It allows you to create sound compositions and add photos like this one. / Go Mix It photo library

At the time I wrote the blog entry, I had been playing around with a website called Nature Sounds for Me.

I encouraged everyone to create their own sound compositions, and provided some examples of what others had done, including myself.

I recently discovered what seems to be a related website that allows you to add photos to the mix. The site is Go Mix It. (Notice how the web domain is used in both links.) The site contains most of the same nature sounds, but includes a “photo panel” for choosing pictures to watch while the sounds are playing.

I think it would be better if I could toss my own photos onto the screen. I can’t find a way to do that, but there are many photos to choose from in the library, which can be searched by topic and added to the sound compositions.

Take a look at the site, and feel free to share your compositions in the comments section. A couple I threw together quickly are called Majestic Forest and Wild Ocean.


Amusing Monday: Pranks and games for April Fool’s

Monday, March 31st, 2014

With April Fool’s Day coming up tomorrow, I’ve decided the theme for this week’s “Amusing Monday” should be games, tricks and pranks.

Let’s start with late-night TV host Jimmy Fallon, who has been playing a game called “Water War” with various celebrities, something he started even before he took over “The Tonight Show” earlier this year. The game plays like the traditional card game “War” with a bonus: The winner of each hand gets to throw a glass of water on his or her opponent.

The first video player on this page features a game of “Water War” between Jimmy Fallon and Lindsay Lohan, in which you will notice that Lindsay gets the upper hand. Other celebrities engaging in “Water War” include:

Another late-night TV host, Jimmy Kimmel, invited illusionist David Blaine on his show to demonstrate what he can do with water and fire. It seems Blaine was pretty thirsty before he started the trick. But you’ll need to watch the entire video on Kimmel’s YouTube channel to see what the magician can do with water and a flammable liquid.

I was quite amused by the practical joke played by a 10-year-old girl on her father. She had him totally convinced that the roof was leaking, but the cause of the dripping was a harmless rag placed in a heater vent. Check out the second video on this page for the full prank.

Another practical joke, which was designed to drench the target of the prank, failed when the guy outsmarted the pranksters. See how he did it by watching the video on Vid Addict.


Earth Hour arrives this Saturday night

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

I admit it seems kind of quaint, but I look forward to turning out all the lights in my house once a year and sitting in the dark. It’s a time to contemplate all our marvels of technology while considering the needs of many people around the world.

Earth Hour is coming up on Saturday beginning at 8:30 p.m. The question of the hour: What can we each do to make things better?

If you get the chance, bring your family and/or friends together. You can go out to dinner or do other things before or after the designated hour, but for 60 minutes let your thoughts wander to other places in the world.

For me, that kind of reflection is enough for the moment, but the Earth Hour website talks about inspiring people to join environmental projects across the globe. By reviewing the website, Earth Hour can become a time of learning about worthwhile causes. Listen to Jason Priestly and others in the video player on this page.

If you want to make a difference, check out the five-step program for creating an Earth Hour event. Maybe think about doing something over the next year and sharing it on the Earth Hour website in 2015.

What I like about Earth Hour is that it unites people from around the world, if only for an hour. For those who wish to take a leadership role, Earth Hour is one place to start. As founder Andy Ridley says in a news release:

“What makes Earth Hour different is that it empowers people to take charge and use their power to make a difference. The movement inspires a mixture of collective and individual action, so anyone can do their part.”

Earth Hour begins each year in New Zealand, the first place the clock strikes 8:30 on the designated Saturday night.

Famous landmarks involved in the lights-out event include the Empire State Building, New York; Tower Bridge, London; Edinburgh Castle, Scotland; Brandenburg Gate, Berlin; the Eiffel Tower, Paris; the Kremlin, Moscow; and the Bosphorus Bridge connecting Europe to Asia.

See some photo highlights from previous years


Volunteer programs provide many options

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

I’ve been getting requests lately from people who would like to become more involved in the local environment, particularly with respect to streams and shorelines.

With spring almost here, it’s a good time to talk about volunteer opportunities.

Becoming a Kitsap County Beach Naturalist is one way to explore local beaches, learn about marine life and make a contribution to the community. Other opportunities are listed below.

Beach Naturalist classes will be held for the next six Thursdays at Poulsbo Marine Science Center, where participants will learn about clams, crabs, salmon and other animals and their essential habitats. Field trips are planned to Manchester State Park, Lion’s Park, Silverdale Waterfront Park, Kingston Marina and Kitsap Memorial State Park.

After training, volunteers can get involved in community projects such as research, education, restoration or other projects of one’s choosing.

The cost of the program is $65, which includes educational materials. Scholarships are available. Teens are welcome to attend, but students under 14 must be accompanied by an adult.

For information, go to the Kitsap County news release. For registration, visit the website of WSU Kitsap County Extension.

Other Kitsap County volunteer programs:

Stream stewards receive training for working in upland stream restoration projects (training in January and February).

Park stewards work as teams to preserve, protect and restore one or more Kitsap County parks with a focus on natural and cultural resources.

Adopt-a-Road volunteers are provided tools and gear for cleaning litter from local roads with recognition for their efforts.

Shore stewards pledge to protect streams, lakes, saltwater, salmon and wildlife on their own property or in concert with neighbors.

Weed Warriors pledge to track down and eliminate noxious weeds that invade and alter natural habitats for native species. Click here for sign-up form.

For a short-term commitment, organizers of Kitsap County’s annual Water Festival are still looking for volunteers for the April 15 event.

Other volunteer opportunities in Kitsap County

Hood Canal Steelhead Project involves restoration of the “threatened” species by the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group

State and federal volunteer opportunities:

The “Puget Sound Starts Here” program of the Puget Sound Partnership provides a list of nonprofit organizations in need of volunteers.

Volunteer for Washington State Parks

Volunteer for Washington Department of Parks and Recreation

Volunteer for Washington Department of Natural Resources

Volunteer for Olympic National Forest

Volunteer for Olympic National Park

If you know of other volunteer opportunities open to the general public, feel free to list them in the comments section below.


NOAA opens its catalog of nautical charts

Friday, February 28th, 2014

Chart

More than 1,000 U.S. Coast Guard nautical charts have been released for public use at no charge.

What started out as a three-month pilot program by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has become a permanent service. The free charts, which are offered in PDF format, are especially valued by recreational boaters.

During the trial period, nearly 2.3 million charts were downloaded, according to Rear Admiral Gerd Giang, director of NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey.

“To us, that represents more than two million opportunities to avoid an accident at sea,” Giang said. “Up-to-date charts help boaters avoid groundings and other dangers to navigation, so our aim is to get charts into the hands of as many boaters as we can.”

If you know the name of the waterway you wish to explore, the fastest way to get a chart is to search the list of available PDFs.

To help users zero in on the charts they need, NOAA has created a website called the Interactive Chart Locator. From there, one can view an image of the chart; download a PDF version of the entire map; or choose a blown-up version with numerous maps of the same area, known as a “booklet.”

NOAA also has begun offering its Raster Navigational Charts, a composite of all the charts formatted for zooming in on a specific location. That is especially useful for viewing on a computer screen or mobile device. Free software and viewers from third-party sources also are listed on the RNC webpage.

NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey is the nation’s nautical chartmaker, according to information provided by the agency. Created by President Thomas Jefferson in 1807, the office updates charts, surveys the coastal seafloor, responds to maritime emergencies and searches for underwater obstructions that pose a danger to navigation.

The Coast Survey’s Twitter handle is @NOAAcharts. A blog — noaacoastsurvey.wordpress.com — provides information about the agency’s ongoing activities.


Amusing Monday: A lighter side of Winter Olympics

Monday, February 24th, 2014

I’m not sure yet, but I think I became addicted to the Winter Olympics this year, after recording every Olympics program broadcast on television the past 17 days and staying up many nights to watch them.

Thanks to my digital video recorder, I was able to skip through some individual races and performances — but I didn’t do that a lot. I especially liked the inspiring stories about Olympic athletes and others involved in sports.

A few days ago, I realized what all winter sports have in common. It’s obvious now that I think about it, but I challenge you to find a common denominator among summer games. I’m talking about the presence of water, whether it be in the form of snow or ice or the dreaded slush.

Without water, we would have to watch a bunch of people stumbling around on bare ground with wooden slats or blades attached to their boots. The only thing that would work right would be the rifles carried by those participating in the biathlon, and those people would be looking for something to shoot.

So in honor of the Winter Olympics, I’ve pulled together some jokes and videos. In addition to the videos on this page, check out the parody of David Attenborough on a venture into the sport of curling.

One of the oddest things about this year’s broadcast was Bob Costas and his ordeal with bright red infected eyes. After filling in for Costas, Matt Lauer brings him on “Today” and makes him the butt of a joke.

Here are a few comedy lines from late-night television, with many more on the College Humor website.

“So the winter Olympics are right around the corner, and this is cool – the U.S. Olympic team just announced that its new uniforms are all made in America, after last year’s uniforms were criticized for being made in China. Which got awkward when they realized the ‘Made in America’ tags were actually made in China.” — Jimmy Fallon

“The games haven’t even started yet and already there are people complaining about the horrible accommodations at the Sochi Olympic village. Toilets don’t flush. The faucets spew discolored water. They say it’s like being on a Royal Caribbean cruise.” — Jay Leno

“They rushed to get the Olympics together there. The hotels are open, but they keep finding forgotten little things like handles on the doors, showers with no curtains, floors that are missing. They say if you do fall through a missing floor, here’s what you do: Relax your body, remain calm and, above all, try to stick the landing.” — Bill Maher

“In their hotel at the Sochi Olympics, the Canadian hockey team has to squeeze three players to a room. Even the bobsledders are like, ‘Isn’t it a little cramped?’ — Jimmy Kimmel

“On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said gay people at the Olympics should not fear for their safety despite the country’s anti-gay laws. He said they should fear for their safety because they’re in Russia.” — Jimmy Fallon

“The hotels are lousy. The Olympic village is a mess. The food is horrible. And, well, that’s what happens when you tick off gay people.” — David Letterman

“There are rumors that the Russian government placed cameras in the hotel bathrooms in Sochi. Russia said, ‘Don’t worry, our cameras don’t work either.’” — Conan O’Brien

The last video, a mashup “rap” featuring news anchor Brian Williams, is not actually about the Olympics, but it was played during an Olympic time slot by Lester Holt, who also appears on the video. It is a take-off of “Rapper’s Delight” by Sugar Hill Gang and was produced by staff of “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.”


Kitsap County acquires prime forest, shoreline

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

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).

Port Gamble Bay shoreline // Photo by Don Willott

Port Gamble Bay shoreline // Photo by Don Willott

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 condition.

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 Resources. 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 Pope.

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.”

Michelle Connor, Forterra’s executive vice president:

“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 Tribe:

“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 acquisition:

“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 Ecology:

“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.”


New video describes quest to restore Skokomish

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

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 together.

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 project.

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 valley.

“By coming together, everyone is able to make more informed decisions about the projects they are working on,” he said.


Will ‘endangered’ status change Lolita’s plight?

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

The legal stage was already set for Lolita, the last killer whale from Puget Sound to survive in captivity.

Lolita lives alone in a tank at Miami's Seaquarium. Photo courtesy of Orca Network

Lolita lives alone in a tank at Miami’s Seaquarium.
Photo courtesy of Orca Network

Putting Lolita on the Endangered Species List, along with her wild relatives who were already listed, follows a pattern established over the past decade, going back to a 2001 court ruling about salmon. Now, the National Marine Fisheries Service intends to include Lolita among the listed Southern Resident killer whales. See “Petition to list the killer whale known as Lolita….”

But what the endangered designation will mean for Lolita herself is yet to be seen and is likely to be the subject of further legal battles.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which filed the petition along with the Animal Legal Defense Fund, hailed the latest decision by NMFS. The group said in a news release that the decision “opened the door to the eventual release of Lolita.”

Jarred Goodman, who handled the case for PETA, told me that it is PETA’s belief that holding Lolita in a small tank at Miami Seaquarium constitutes “harm and harassment,” which are violations of the Endangered Species Act.

After NMFS completes changes to the listing, PETA has several options, he said, although he is not authorized to discuss specific strategies. Calling on NMFS to take action on behalf of Lolita or filing a citizen lawsuit are among them.

Nothing in the NMFS findings would change anything for Lolita, however. The bottom line is that NMFS could find no legal justification in the Endangered Species Act (PDF 147 kb) or related court decisions for separating the captive orca from wild Southern Residents when it comes to identifying which ones are at risk of extinction.

As NMFS stated in the Federal Register (PDF 273 kb):

“While the ESA authorizes the listing, delisting, or reclassification of a species, subspecies, or DPS (distinct population segment) of a vertebrate species, it does not authorize the exclusion of the members of a subset or portion of a listed species, subspecies, or DPS from a listing decision….

“The ESA does not support the exclusion of captive members from a listing based solely on their status as captive. On its face, the ESA does not treat captives differently. Rather, specific language in Section 9 and Section 10 of the ESA presumes their inclusion in the listed entity, and captives are subject to certain exemptions to Section 9.”

In other words, the original decision not to include captive killer whales in the population at risk of extinction was a mistake.

In finding that Lolita is part of the endangered population, NMFS noted that agency officials agreed with a 2001 court ruling in which a judge determined that hatchery salmon should be considered part of the salmon population at risk of extinction.

Following that logic, the NMFS included captive fish in the listing of endangered smalltooth sawfish and endangered Atlantic sturgeon. Meanwhile, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided last year that captive chimpanzees should be included among the wild population listed as endangered.

The ESA does allow captive animals to be treated differently, provided they were in captivity at the time of the listing and “that such holding and any subsequent holding or use of the fish or wildlife was not in the course of a commercial activity.”

For Lolita, NMFS has stated that continued possession of captive animals does not require a permit under ESA and that Lolita can continue to be managed under the Animal Welfare Act. (See “Questions and answers …”)

Advocates for Lolita say NMFS may not have taken a position on Lolita, given the latest findings. The notice only says that holding an endangered animal in captivity is not a violation of the ESA per se.

I’ll continue to follow the case as it moves forward. Meanwhile, here are some past of my past observations about Lolita in Water Ways:

April 24, 2013: Lolita, the captive orca, could gain endangerd status

Oct. 24, 2012: Should captive orcas be listed as ‘endangered’?

Nov. 20, 2011: Legal actions swirl around orcas Morgan and Lolita

Aug. 8, 2010: Thinking of Lolita, the captive killer whale

July 15, 2010: Lolita’s fate could become linked to Gulf disaster


Capt. Jim Maya’s favorite whale photos of 2013

Sunday, January 12th, 2014

I always look forward to the annual photo gallery created by Capt. Jim Maya from his favorite photos of the year. Jim owns the whale-watching company, Maya’s Westside Whale Watch Charters, which operates out of Snug Harbor on San Juan Island, so he gets to see a lot of things.

Here’s Jim’s message for the year:

“Each year about this time I go through my images from the year and try to pick out favorites. Sometimes it had to do with the emotion of day and the memory or the company on the boat. Other times, special lighting, composition, and other elements. I still haven’t gotten the shot of a breaching Orca with a salmon in its mouth, with an eagle after the salmon, in front of a lighthouse and a mountain and a rainbow. No, I don’t even own Photoshop!”

I’ve selected eight of my favorites from the 18 that Capt. Jim sent me. For a full gallery of photos, go to Maya’s Photo Gallery.

Transient killer whales travel along the north side of Stuart Island. Look for a deer in the upper right corner.

Transient orcas travel along the north side of Stuart Island. Look for a deer in the upper right corner.

A transient from the group passing by Stuart Island.

A transient from the group passing by Stuart Island.

Transients pass in front of San Juan Island and Mount Baker.

Transients pass in front of San Juan Island and Mount Baker.

Transients feed on a sea lion in Haro Strait, San Juan Islands.

Transients feed on a sea lion in Haro Strait, San Juan Islands.

>
Lime Kiln Lighthouse on San Juan Island.

Lime Kiln Lighthouse on San Juan Island.

Southern Resident orcas, San Juan Islands.

Southern Resident orcas, San Juan Islands.

A humpback stayed with Maya's boat for an hour.

A humpback stayed with Maya’s boat for an hour. The group named the whale “Wendy.”

Humpback whale fluke seen in the sunset, Haro Strait.

Humpback whale fluke seen in the sunset, Haro Strait.


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"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

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