When I first started covering the environment for the Kitsap Sun
in the early 1980s, I convinced a state fish biologist to make me a
copy of a notebook containing information about salmon streams on
the Kitsap Peninsula.
Hand-drawn maps of streams, both big and small, along with field
notes about the migration of salmon, stream blockages and other
information were listed in that notebook. Through the years, the
information was updated, combined with other data and eventually
transferred to electronic databases for wider access.
A few years ago, much of this little-known information was
digitized into a map that could be accessed by anyone from a web
browser. The map, using a geographic information system, is such a
valuable tool that I wanted to make sure that readers of this blog
are aware of it.
It was given the name SalmonScape, and the map
shows salmon streams across the state (click “hydrography”); salmon
migration by species (“fish distribution”); stream blockages (“fish
passage”); and hatcheries, fish traps and major dams
The gloomy feeling of rainy weather, as experienced by looking
out from the inside of your house, can be defeated with a trip to
the mountains, where all kinds of winter fun await.
Downhill skiing and snowboarding are popular activities at
Washington’s ski resorts. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are
less-vigorous options, as are sledding and inner-tubing. One of
many useful websites is
“Pacific Northwest Winter Sports.”
If these activities don’t sound like great fun, you can plan a
drive that takes you into wonderful snow conditions and provides an
opportunity to build a snowman or enjoy a snowball fight. Lodges
and visitor centers offer a retreat from the cold. You might make
friends with others who love the winter weather.
“Have you ever experienced water falling from the sky? … And
how would you describe that experience?”
These questions are thrown out to people in the first episode of
“The Adventures of Tracy & Felt,” in which a young woman and an
octopus explore the wonders of rain. In the second episode, they
explore the wonders of tides.
These videos make for an amusing approach to science education,
and it was nice to learn that this project is based in Puget Sound
with origins on Whidbey Island. The videos were shown at this
Bainbridge Film Festival.
The producer of the series, Elizabeth
Schiffler, describes the development of this video series and
the strange relationship between a human and an octopus with
ongoing references to alien life forms:
“The Adventures of Tracy & Felt was born out of a desire to
work with talented young Washington filmmakers, writers, and
artists to ground work in the location we love and learn from,” she
wrote. “Developed on Whidbey Island, we challenged ourselves to
create a story full of laughs (mostly our own) and exploring the
magical and not-too-distant world of science and nature.”
Unlike other simple videos engaged in the explanation of
science, these stories do not take a straight line to describing
natural phenomena. Instead, Tracy and Felt take a roundabout path,
engaging in questions that most people take for granted, such as
the experience of rain. How about this question from the second
video: “Have you noticed how the ocean has been crawling up and
down the beach the past few days?”
Thanks to John F. Williams of Still Hope Productions for
letting me know about these videos.
Dripping with symbolism, a trip to Iceland by ice skater
Jennifer Don and her boyfriend Matt Truebe created an opportunity
for a most unusual marriage proposal. Check out the first video for
this romantic underwater encounter.
Matt’s business trips often take him to Europe and other
countries, keeping the couple apart, according to Jennifer. So
before a trip to Amsterdam, Jennifer secretly planned a stop-over
visit to Iceland’s Lake Thingvellir. The lake lies on the
Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which separates the Eurasian tectonic plate
from the North American plates.
To celebrate the centennial of the National Park Service, 50
poets are writing about a park in each of the 50 states. Some poems
speak of the splendor of nature, while others focus on the
struggles of human beings. All of them make emotional connections
The poetry was commissioned by the Academy of American Poets as
part of “Imagine
Your Parks,” a grant program from the National Endowment for
the Arts in partnership with the National Park Service. The idea is
to use the arts to connect people with the memorable places within
the national parks.
Each Thursday this fall, five poems are being published on a
special website, “Imagine
Our Parks with Poems.” As of last week, half of the poems have
been published. The one for Washington state is still to come. The
following is a sampling of the poetry. For more information, click
on the name of the poem or the author.
It has been hard to take the news that J-28, a 23-year-old
female killer whale named Polaris, is now missing and presumed dead
— even though I knew this news has been coming since August. It now
appears likely that her 11-month-old son J-54, named Dipper, will
not survive either.
I sadly reported on Polaris’ “super-gaunt” condition in
Water Ways (Aug. 24) after talking to Ken Balcomb of the Center
for Whale Research. Until recently, various whale-watching folks,
including CWR researchers, have reported that Polaris was still
alive. She was generally seen moving slowly and in poor shape, but
at times she seemed to have more energy, raising hopes that she
might recover. But the last sighting of Polaris was Oct. 19 in the
Strait of Juan de Fuca.
During a press conference Friday, Ken announced the death of
Polaris, as he spoke out to raise awareness about the plight of
Puget Sound orcas.
Ken said Dipper’s sister and aunt were attempting to care for
the young orphan, but no other lactating females have moved in to
provide milk, so he likely will die if he is not already dead.
Ken read a personally penned obituary for Polaris, noting
that she was popular with whale watchers, in part because she was
easily identified by a nick in her dorsal fin. She acquired the
distinctive mark when she was nine years old.
At the press conference, Ken talked about the most concerning
problem facing the orcas: a shortage of chinook salmon, their
primary prey. The food shortage is exacerbated when the whales burn
fats stored in their blubber, causing the release of toxic
chemicals from their blubber into their bloodstream. Chemicals can
affect the immune and reproductive systems, as well as other
Chum salmon are beginning to make their way into Central and
South Puget Sound, which means the orcas are likely to follow.
Given this year’s dismal reports of chinook salmon in the San
Juan Islands, we can hope that a decent number of chum traveling to
streams farther south will keep the killer whales occupied through
the fall. But anything can happen.
On Oct. 2, orcas from J and K pods — two of the three Southern
Resident pods — passed through Admiralty Inlet and proceeded to
Point No Point in North Kitsap, according to reports from Orca
Network. The whales continued south the following day and made
it all the way to Vashon Island, according to observers.
On Tuesday of this week, more reports of orcas came in from
Saratoga Passage, the waterway between Whidbey and Camano islands.
See the video by Alisa Lemire Brooks at the bottom of this page. By
yesterday, some members of J pod were reported back of the west
side of San Juan Island.
The movement of chum salmon into Central Puget Sound began in
earnest this week, as a test fishery off Kingston caught just a few
chum last week, jumping to nearly 1,000 this week. Still, the peak
of the run is a few weeks away.
The similar properties of water and glass are explored in more
than 50 pieces of artwork in an exhibit called “Into the Deep” at
Tacoma’s Museum of Glass.
The art captures the movements, shapes and colors of creatures
and objects in the beautiful underwater world. For a closer look,
click on the images on this page.
“By creating artwork inspired by the ocean, each artist has
captured both the fragile beauty of the marine environment and the
delicate nature of glass,” Katie Buckingham, exhibit curator, said
in a statement
on the exhibit’s webpage.
Buckingham said she hopes visitors will not only enjoy the art
but also feel inspired to celebrate and protect the natural
environment. The 16 national and international artists featured in
the exhibit include Alfredo Barbini, Dale Chihuly, Shayna Leib,
Kelly O’Dell, Kait Rhoads, Raven Skyriver, and Hiroshi Yamano.
Fifteen of the pieces were produced in the workshop at the
Museum of Glass, including some produced by apprentices.
The exhibit opened on Sept. 24 and will remain through September
2017. Visitors will be able to access information linked to each
piece of art by using a cell phone and scanning the STQRY QR codes.
Three virtual tours are available, one with scientific information,
one about the creation of the sculptures and one on the artists.
Bonnie Becker, a biologist at the University of Washington-Tacoma,
wrote the scientific narrative.
Speaking of glass artwork, I am impressed with the intricate
salmon sculpture with the glass salmon eggs used to create a kiosk
at the east end of the new Bucklin Hill Bridge over the Clear Creek
estuary in Silverdale.
Driving across the bridge, one can see the bright orange salmon
eggs, more than 200 in all. A closer look reveals three salmon
figurines in a swimming posture above the eggs.
“I do believe that when you drive along and you have artwork
alongside the road, I think it lifts your spirits,” said Lisa
Stirrett, the designer of the kiosk, in a story written by
Christian Vosler for the
The surf was running wild at this year’s Surf City Surf Dog
competition at Huntington Beach, Calif., where the boards were
flipping and the dogs were flying.
The dogs and their owners were more nervous than normal this
year during the three-day event that raises money for nonprofit
rescue groups. Crowds turned out in large numbers for the finals,
which took place a week ago yesterday.
“It’s a crackup watching the dogs,” spectator Tom Baker told
Laylan Connelly, a reporter for the Orange
County Register. “The people think the dogs are enjoying it,
but I’m not so sure the dogs are enjoying it today. The surf was
Lifeguards were on hand to help with any problems, and they
advised dog owners when it was safe to go out. The contest had 68
dog entries, and many of them were longtime competitors in the
sport. As I watched the first video on this page, I was hoping that
the owners knew their dogs and their abilities, along with their
own abilities. No injuries were reported, and the images came out
more spectacular than ever.
In some ways, the still images are more thrilling than the
videos. See this great collection of photos posted by the
London Daily Mail.
Here is a highlights video by Mike Lukas and Jerome Mel on the
Surf Dog YouTube channel.
The waves were calmer in July at the annual Unleashed by Petco
Surf Dog Competition at Imperial Beach, Calif. The second video on
this page is a personal video posted by a couple on Tower
A giant piece of a cedar log stands erect in a barren landscape
north of Silverdale, where a new channel for Clear Creek stands
ready to receive water.
Well, maybe this channel won’t be entirely new. Designers
working to restore this portion of Clear Creek studied old maps.
They tried to align the new man-made channel to the meandering
stream that existed 150 years ago, before farmers diverted the
creek around their fields.
During excavation, workers uncovered buried gravel — remnants of
the old streambed — along with chunks of cedar that had lain along
the edge of the stream. Buried and cut off from oxygen, these
pieces of wood survived for decades underground, while cattle
grazed in the fields above.
Workers excavating for the new channel used their heavy
equipment to pull out what remained of a great cedar log. They
stood the log vertical and buried one end in the ground — a
monument to the past and future of Clear Creek.
Chris May, manager of Kitsap County’s stormwater program, showed
me the new channel this week. He said it was rewarding to uncover
some buried history and realize that the stream would be restored
in roughly the same place.
“We found the old channel,” Chris told me, pointing to a deposit
of gravel. “We are pretty confident that we got it right.”
This $3-million project has been conceived and designed as much
more than a stream-restoration project. The elevations of the land
around the stream have been carefully planned so that high flows
will spill into side channels and backwater pools. That should
reduce flooding in Silverdale and help stabilize the high and low
flows seen in Clear Creek.
The engineers did not calculate the reduced frequency of
flooding, but floodwater storage is calculated to be 18.4
acre-feet, the equivalent of a foot of water spread over 18.4 acres
or 29,700 cubic yards or 6 million gallons.
In all, about 30,000 cubic yards of material have been removed
across 21 acres, including the former Schold Farm on the west side
of Silverdale Way and the Markwick property on the east side.
Native wetland vegetation will be planted along the stream and in
low areas throughout the property. Upland areas will be planted
with natural forest vegetation.
The topsoil, which contained invasive plants such as reed
canarygrass, was hauled away and buried beneath other excavated
soils to form a big mound between the new floodplain and Highway 3.
That area will be planted with a mixture of native trees.
Plans call for removal of 1,500 feet of an existing road with
upgrades to two aging culverts. Adding meanders to the straightened
channel will create 500 feet of new streambed that should be
suitable for salmon spawning.
Plans call for adding 334 pieces large woody debris, such as
logs and root wads to the stream. Some of that wood will be formed
into structures and engineered logjams to help form pools and
“This will be one of the first streams to meet the Fox and
Bolton numbers,” Chris told me, referring to studies by Martin Fox
and Susan Bolton of the University of Washington. The two
researchers studied natural streams and calculated the amount of
woody debris of various kinds needed to simulate natural
conditions, all based on the size of a stream. (Review
North American Journal of Fisheries Management.)
The elevations on the property were also designed so that high
areas on opposite sides of the stream would be in close proximity
in several locations.
“Beaver will pick that spot,” Chris said, pointing to one
location where the stream channel was squeezed by elevated banks on
each side. “We want to encourage beaver to come in here.”
Beaver ponds will increase the floodwater storage capacity of
the new floodplain and provide important habitat for coho salmon,
which spend a year in freshwater and need places to withstand both
high and low flows. Because the county owns the flooded property,
there won’t be any complaints about damage from beavers, Chris
Clear Creek Trail (PDF 390 kb), which begins on the shore of
Dyes Inlet, will be routed along the higher elevations as the trail
winds through the property. Three new bridges will provide vantage
points to watch salmon after vegetation obscures other viewing
areas from the trail. Viewing platforms, as seen along other parts
of Clear Creek Trail, were not included in this project but could
be subject to further discussions.
Count me among the many people — experts, volunteers and users
of Clear Creek Trail — who are eager to see how nature responds
when water (now diverted) returns to the new stream channel. For
decades, the lack of good habitat has constrained the salmon
population in Clear Creek. The stream still has problems related to
its highly developed watershed. But now a series of restoration
projects is providing hope for increased coho and chum salmon and
possibly steelhead trout as well as numerous other aquatic
In a story in the
Kitsap Sun, Reporter Tristan Baurick described work this week
on the Markwick property, where fish were removed in preparation
for final channel excavation.
Here are some details (including photos) of various Clear Creek
projects, as described in the state’s Habitat Work Schedule for