I was eager to find out if a 32-foot fiberglass replica of a
killer whale could scare off a huge number of sea lions crowded
together on the docks in Astoria, Ore.
I kept telling my wife Sue, “It’s not going to work” — and I had
not the slightest idea that the motorized orca might capsize during
its attempt to frighten the persistent sea lions.
About 1,000 people were on hand last night when a human operator
drove the orca toward the sea lions, according to Associated Press
reporter Terrence Petty. A passing cargo ship created a wake that
rushed toward the shore and capsized the fake killer whale. And
that was that for now. You can read the story in the
I understand that the fake killer whale might be deployed again
against the sea lions in August, when their numbers are expected to
be high again. I still doubt that it will work — unless the
operators can find a way to aggressively approach the sea lions and
stay with the effort for an extended time. It might help to play
recordings of transient killer whales — the kind that eat marine
mammals. But my understanding is that transients don’t make many
sounds when they are in their hunting mode.
I readily admit that I’m not a killer whale expert, but let me
tell you why I believe that any sort of limited effort with fake
orcas will fail. It’s not that sea lions don’t fear transients. In
fact, if sea lions can be convinced that they are being approached
by a real killer whale, their fear level could be quite high.
I’ve heard from homeowners who live on Hood Canal, Dyes Inlet
and other shorelines that when transient killer whales are around,
seals and sea lions head for shore, climb up on docks and even
attempt to board boats to get away from them.
So I don’t know if the fiberglass orca will fool the sea lions
in Astoria, but does anyone think that these marine mammals are
crazy enough to jump into the water if they believe a killer is
there waiting for them?
A two-day survey of Kitsap County’s shoreline identified 90
boats moored on buoys, at anchor or aground — and 18 of them were
found to have some kind of problem, according to Richard Bazzell of
the Kitsap Public Health District.
The survey, conducted Monday and Tuesday, is considered a key
step in Kitsap County’s new Derelict Vessel Prevention Program,
which I described in a
Kitsap Sun story (subscription) last May. The idea is to
identify neglected vessels that could pose a risk of sinking if not
given some attention.
Of the 18 vessels with problems, three were declared “derelict”
boats with a high risk of sinking or polluting the water, based on
criteria developed by the state’s
Derelict Vessel Removal Program. Owners of those boats will get
an official warning, and the state could take control of the boats
if the owners fail to make them seaworthy.
Richard told me that he has the greatest concern for a 30-foot
power boat moored in Port Gamble Bay. The other two boats are
sailboats. Because of their condition, they could be considered
illegal dumping and managed under the county’s solid-waste
regulations, as well as under the state’s derelict vessels laws, he
For the other boats needing attention, the approach will be a
friendly reminder, Richard told me. Ten of the 18 boats were
unregistered, which is an early sign of neglect for boats in the
water. Other problems range from deteriorating hulls to weak lines
to excessive algae growth. The greatest concerns are that the boats
will spill toxic chemicals, such as fuel, or create a navigational
hazard for other boats.
It was encouraging to find a relatively small number of boats
with problems, Richard said.
“We were expecting to run into a lot more problems,” he noted.
“Surprisingly, we didn’t, and that is a good thing.”
The county will offer technical assistance to help boat owners
figure out what to do, and educational workshops could provide
general maintenance information.
Boats with the most significant problems were found in these
Kitsap County embayments: Yukon Harbor in South Kitsap; Dyes and
Sinclair inlets in Central Kitsap; and Liberty Bay, Appletree Cove
and Port Gamble Bay in North Kitsap.
This week’s survey covered about 250 miles of county shoreline,
where the health district’s efforts are funded with a state grant.
Excluded are military bases, where private mooring is not allowed,
and Bainbridge Island, where the city’s harbormaster is conducting
similar work under the state grant.
The overall $250,000 grant for the prevention program is being
coordinated by Marc Forlenza, who developed a procedure proven to
be successful in San Juan County. Marc credits Joanruth Bauman, who
operated the derelict vessel program in San Juan County, as being
the brainchild of the prevention program.
Money for the
prevention program came from the Environmental Protection Agency’s
Puget Sound Restoration Fund. The grant is managed by the Puget
Seven counties, including San Juan and Kitsap, are involved in
the regional effort. The other counties are King, Pierce,
Snohomish, Mason and Jefferson. Thurston County is covered by the
Pierce County grant.
Some counties have been up and running for months. Others,
including Kitsap, are a little slow because of contract
complications. San Juan County contracted with Kitsap County, which
then contracted with the health district and Bainbridge Island.
Those last contracts were approved earlier this month.
The whole idea, Marc said, is to work with boat owners to keep
the vessels from becoming derelict in the first place. If boat
owners can take care of the problems, it costs the county and state
almost nothing. Once declared derelict, government officials are
forced to spend money in an effort to keep boats from sinking.
When a boat sinks, Marc said, the cost of dealing with the
problem rises 10-fold, and the resulting pollution can destroy
In San Juan County, early action on problem boats has reduced
the cost of dealing with derelict vessels from $76,000 in 2012 to
$23,000 in 2013 to zero in 2014, he said. That doesn’t include
vessels taken by the Washington Department of Natural Resources
under the new Voluntary Turn-In Program, which I’ll discuss in a
Marc has a good way of dealing with people. He seems to
understand the needs and challenges of boat ownership, and he tries
to nudge people in the right direction.
“You have to take time to talk to boat owners,” he explained. “I
call it ‘boat psychology.’ Some of these people have held onto
their boats for 20, 30 or 40 years. They have loved their boat.
When I talk to them, some will say, ‘I guess it’s time to let ol’
Betsy go,’ while others will say, ‘Over my dead body.’”
For the latter group, Marc drives home the fact that a boat
owner may be held criminally liable for maintaining a derelict boat
— and the Attorney General’s Office is now prosecuting such cases.
Beyond that, an owner may be held financially responsible if a boat
sinks — including the cost of raising the boat along with any
natural resource damages caused by pollution.
“That can cost tens of thousands of dollars, or even hundreds of
thousands of dollars in some cases,” he said. “You try to appeal to
people’s better sense.”
In Kitsap County, people who see a boat listing or potentially
sinking should call 911. For nonemergency conditions, one can call
Kitsap One, 360-337-5777, except for Bainbridge Island where people
should call Harbormaster Tami Allen at 206-786-7627. Additional information and phone
numbers for other counties can be found on a Puget Sound Partnership
The DNR’s Vessel Turn-In Program gives some people a way to take
action with little cost. To qualify, boats must be less than 45
feet long and have practically no value. The owner must lack the
means to repair or dispose of the boat. If approved by DNR, the
owner must drive or tow the vessel to a disposal location and turn
over ownership to the state. For details, check out the DNR’s
website on the
Vessel Turn-In Program.
Since the turn-in program started last May, DNR has disposed 19
boats, with another five lined up for disposal, according to Joe
Smillie of the agency. The Legislature provided $400,000 for the
new turn-in program, which is separate from the larger Derelict
Vessel Removal Program.
The removal program targets vessels at risk of sinking. In
emergencies, DNR or local agencies can take immediate action, but
normally the owner is given at least 30 days to move or repair the
Since 2002, DNR has removed about 550 abandoned vessels
throughout the state. About 150 others have been tagged as “vessels
In 2014 alone, 40 vessels were removed, including the sunken
Helena Star. The Helena Star was raised from Tacoma’s Hylebos
Waterway and salvaged at a cost of $1.16 million, requiring special
funding from the Legislature. The owner of the vessel was later
charged with a crime.
“I think it’s a story of bravery and a story of love for this
place,” says Martha Kongsgaard at the beginning of the video on
Kongsgaard, chairwoman of the Leadership Council of the Puget
Sound Partnership, is celebrating the removal of a massive bulkhead
on Bainbridge Island. The removal, known as the Powel Shoreline
Restoration Project, occurred in the fall of 2012. The outcome was
to reconnect a saltwater marsh with the lower shoreline by removing
1,500 feet of man-made bulkhead from property owned by the Powel
In the midst of the excavation — which removed rocks, logs and
huge chunks of concrete — Babe Kehres, a family member whose house
overlooks the site commented, “I think it’s going to be beautiful
when it’s done. For me, it’s about taking things back to the way
nature wanted them to be.”
Reporter Tad Sooter covered the story for the
Kitsap Sun (Aug. 30, 2012). It turned out that removing the
bulkhead was less costly than repair — but not by a whole lot.
Still, restoring the natural conditions provided tremendous
ecological benefits without creating undue shoreline erosion.
The video, by Quest Northwest reporter Sarah Sanborn, shows the
excavation in progress and explains why we should celebrate the
project and the Powel family. But my favorite part is a slideshow
Sarah’s blog, which shows before and after photos of the
shoreline. It is easy to imagine why fish, wildlife and other
creatures would prefer the more natural condition.
Bolstered by a low-pressure weather system, yesterday’s “King
Tide” was felt throughout Puget Sound. At its extreme, the high
tide came within 0.01 feet of breaking the all-time tidal record
set for Seattle on Jan. 27, 1983.
I especially liked Jim Groh’s photos of the Poulsbo waterfront.
Take a close look at the picture taken yesterday (below) and
compare it to the one in
Sunday’s Water Ways entry, which shows last year’s King Tide.
If the word “Poulsbo” doesn’t look right in the picture below, it’s
because the bottom half of the letters are under water.
This week’s King Tides are declining, but they are expected to
be high again starting Jan. 14.
Some of the highest tides of the year, combined with a strong
low-pressure system, could provide “King Tide” observers with ideal
conditions tomorrow (Monday) for taking pictures of near-flood
conditions or even flooding in some places.
This is the third year the Washington Department of Ecology has
put out a call for photos of high-tide conditions.
“Documenting how very high tides affect the natural environment
and our coastal infrastructure will help us visualize what sea
level rise might look like in the future,” states Ecology’s
“Climate Change” blog.
The King Tide photo initiative began in Australia in January
2009. Washington and British Columbia joined in 2010, followed by
Oregon and California in 2011.
Tide tables predict that tides in Bremerton and Port Orchard
will reach 13.4 feet at 8:28 a.m. tomorrow. Check on other
locations and other days in Washington state at Saltwater
The National Weather Service has issued a coastal flood advisory
for Western Washington because of low-pressure conditions, which
could add 1.5 feet to the tide table prediction. That would put the
Bremerton area at 14.9 feet. Check out the
Weather Service advisory and the
Kitsap Sun story.
While it looks like we’ll have a very high tide, it probably
won’t be a record. I was unable to find historical data for
Bremerton, but the record high tide for Seattle is 22.4
feet on Jan. 27, 1983. The tide tables predict that Seattle
will reach 12.5 feet tomorrow, or 14 feet with the added 1.5 feet
because of the low pressure.
Shortly after I posted
this, Jeff Adams of Washington Sea Grant sent me an email to point
out that NOAA’s numbers need to be corrected by subtracting 7.94,
because NOAA uses a different baseline than we commonly use in this
area. That would place the record in Seattle at 14.5 feet, much
closer to what we may see tomorrow. I should have known that
something was amiss with that data. For more on this point, check
out Jeff’s blog,
King Tides will continue through this week, declining slightly
each day, then will return on Jan. 14.
The Southern Resident killer whales have begun their annual
travels into Central and South Puget Sound in search of chum
The shift occurs when chinook salmon have completed their
migration and chum are just beginning to come home to their natal
streams, as I describe in a story in
yesterday’s Kitsap Sun. It is widely assumed that the length of
their stay depends on their success in finding the later
This year was predicted to be a low year for fall chum. But Jay
Zischke, marine fisheries manager for the Suquamish Tribe, told me
that early commercial and test fisheries suggest that the run is
either earlier than usual or larger than the preseason forecast.
Even so, it may still be a relatively low year for fall chum.
This is the 15th anniversary of another low chum year, 1997,
when 19 members of L pod came all the way into Dyes Inlet to find
adequate numbers of chum schooled up in front of Chico and Barker
creeks. The whales stayed in the inlet for a month and left just
before Thanksgiving. There is still debate about whether they
wanted to stay that long.
On the 10th anniversary of the event, I wrote about the story of
two young researchers, Kelley Balcomb-Bartok and Jodi Smith, who
spent most of that month studying the whales and trying to protect
them from a massive number of boaters who wanted a front-boat view
of the action. Stories, maps and other information about that event
can be found on a website called “The Dyes Inlet Whales
— Ten Years Later.” Continue reading →
Judging from the comments on the stories, some people don’t
believe the government should be spending money on environmental
restoration when the state and nation are in an economic slump.
Two years ago, Gov. Chris Gregoire made it clear that she
believed that the economic troubles did not outweigh the ongoing
risks to Puget Sound. I quoted her in the
Kitsap Sun Oct. 15, 2010:
“We are in the hardest economic problem since the deep
depression, but we cannot take a recess; we cannot take time out
(from the Puget Sound cleanup).”
Investing in cleanup efforts to repair past problems is one
thing, the governor said, but the solution is not just costly
“It comes down to individuals like us. We are all part of the
problem and we can all be part of the solution.”
She was talking about reducing stormwater pollution by being
careful with household and lawn chemicals, car washing, oil and oil
leaks, pet waste and other things.
When it comes to restoration projects, it turns out that the
recession was actually a good time to begin many of these costly
projects. As I reported in
“Water Ways” on Oct. 21, 2010, the economic stimulus package
approved by Congress helped pay for more than 600 projects directed
to Puget Sound problems. The projects carried a price tag of about
$460 million and created nearly 16,000 jobs.
The economic downturn also turned out to be good timing in
another way. Construction companies hungry for work offered much
lower bids than they would have during economic boom times. In many
cases, including the Union River estuary project, bids are still
coming in at the low end of cost projections.
Property owners who wish to restore their streams and shorelines
are getting help from the government and nonprofit groups. In most
cases, these projects would not get done by the property owners
The $460,000 Powel bulkhead removal, for example, became a
partnership between the Powel family, the Bainbridge Island Land
Trust and the Puget Sound Partnership. The partnership’s new
executive director, Anthony Wright, stated in a
“It’s exciting to see everyone coming together to do some good
for Puget Sound. Puget Sound is going to be healthy again because
of people like the Powel family, the land trust and regulatory
entities all working together.”
Some people doubt that the restoration projects are doing much
good. Some say they simply are not worth the cost. But experts who
have studied nearshore ecosystems argue that the ecological
connections along the shoreline have been so severely disrupted
that restoration is the best hope of saving the Puget Sound
I’ve heard people say that science does not support these kinds
of restoration efforts. That’s an opinion not held by most experts,
but if you are willing to do some reading, you can come to your own
The Union River near Belfair — the last estuary you come to when
venturing into Hood Canal — slaps us in the face with an
For the moment, I can’t do much more than pose some perplexing
questions. But I get the feeling that if we could get the answers,
we would understand more about salmon recovery in Lower Hood Canal
and possibly other places as well.
The Union River also highlights the customary finger-pointing as
to why certain stocks of salmon declined in the first place and
what it will take to bring them back. Of the four H’s — harvest,
habitat, hatcheries and hydro — the greatest finger-pointing goes
on between harvest and habitat.
Let’s take Hood Canal summer chum and focus on the Union River,
which was the subject of a story I wrote for
Monday’s Kitsap Sun.
First, why did summer chum go extinct in the Dewatto and Tahuya
rivers — the closest rivers to the Union — while maintaining a
viable population in the Union?
Point No Point Lighthouse — the centerpiece of a county park
near the tip of the Kitsap Peninsula — has undergone $100,000 worth
The $100,000 came from a grant program called Partners in
Preservation. Under the program, millions of dollars have been
handed out in recent years for historical restoration work by
American Express in coordination with the National Trust for
The Point No Point Lighthouse received the cash in 2010, when
numerous other projects in the Puget Sound region also received
money. See Partners in
Preservation – Puget Sound for a description of all the
Poulsbo is the first local jurisdiction in Kitsap County to
update its Shoreline Master Program, as required by state law, and
send it on to the Washington Department of Ecology for
The Poulsbo City Council approved the document Wednesday, as
Kitsap Sun reporter Amy Phan.
As required by formal state policies, the shorelines plan adopts
numerous new regulations to accomplish these basic goals:
Protect the quality of water and the natural environment to
achieve “no net loss” of ecological function as time goes on,
Encourage water-dependent uses along the shoreline while
discouraging uses that are not connected to the water,
Preserve and enhance public access and recreational uses along
Keri Weaver, Poulsbo’s associate planner, does a good job
outlining the content of the Poulsbo Shoreline Master Program in
staff report (PDF 224 kb) submitted to the City Council. The
full SMP (PDF 552 kb) is more revealing and not difficult to
The document lists five “shoreline environments,” defined by
ecological characteristics and current uses, each with its own
The always-controversial issue of buffers was settled during the
previous update of Poulsbo’s Critical Areas Ordinance. The City
Council saw no reason to revisit its justification for 100-foot
buffers along the city’s saltwater shoreline on Liberty Bay and
150-foot buffers along Dogfish Creek, the largest stream draining
into bay. In addition, 25-foot setbacks expand the no-building
zone, but water-dependent uses and public access may be exempt from