“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.
Early and continuing rains in October have increased streamflows
and brought coho and chum salmon into their spawning territories
ahead of schedule this year.
I was out and about today, taking a look at some of the streams
in Central Kitsap. I couldn’t pass up the chance to enjoy the sunny
and warm weather, and I was pleased to encounter a lot of other
folks doing the same thing. Adults of all ages, some with children,
were out looking for the elusive salmon. That’s not something I
ever saw 10 years ago while making my rounds to public
I believe the growing interest in salmon may result from ongoing
promotions of salmon watching by governmental and volunteer
organizations, as well as the news media. Why shouldn’t we go out
to watch salmon swimming upstream and possibly, if one is lucky,
catch a glimpse of spawning behaviors? After all, we live in one of
the best areas for this enjoyable pastime.
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.
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.”
Mike Anderson, chairman of the Skokomish Watershed Action Team,
and Thom Johnson, a leading expert in the recovery of Hood Canal
summer chum salmon, have been named recipients of this year’s Hood
Canal Environmental Awards.
Other recipients of the awards, which are sponsored by Hood
Canal Coordinating Council, are Shore Friendly Mason and Shore
Friendly Kitsap, two programs that actively enlist waterfront
property owners in the protection and restoration of their
I learned this afternoon that the awards ceremony on Nov. 4 will
be dedicated to Rich Geiger, the longtime district engineer for
Mason Conservation District. Rich, who died unexpectedly on Sept.
22, held the “technical vision” for the restoration of the
Skokomish River watershed, according to Mike Anderson. (See
Water Ways, Oct. 8.)
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.
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
It is hard to imagine the restoration of the Skokomish River
ecosystem without the involvement of Rich Geiger, a longtime
engineer for Mason Conservation District. Rich had a way of
explaining technical aspects of environmental restoration, and he
was a tremendous help to me through the years.
Rich, who was 59 years old, died unexpectedly two weeks ago.
I got to know Rich in 2008 and 2009 while working on a series of
stories about the Skokomish River. My research involved interviews
with members of the Skokomish Tribe, farmers, loggers and longtime
residents of the area. For the final story, I talked to Rich about
what was wrong with the river and what needed to be done to reduce
the flooding and restore the ecosystem. He taught me a lot about
The Skokomish, if you didn’t know, is the largest river in Hood
Canal, and it exerts a great influence on the long, narrow waterway
with its amazing diversity of habitat.
“Something has bothered me about this river for a long time,”
Rich said, as quoted in my story for the
Kitsap Sun. “I have been doing a great deal of reading about
river systems and sediment transport,” he continued. “To boil it
down, the sediment is too heavy to be moved by the depths we think
are there in the Skokomish.”
Fast and deep water contains the force to move larger rocks, he
told me. Somehow the river was able to move large gravel out of the
mountains, but it never made it all the way to Hood Canal. Digging
into the gravel bars, Rich found layers of fine sediment wedged
between layers of larger rock — evidence that the energy of the
river had changed suddenly at various times.
Rich collaborated with engineers from the U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation, U.S. Geological Survey and Army Corps of Engineers.
Eventually, they came to understand the river well enough to
develop a plan for restoration. Throughout the process, Rich was
willing to take time to help me understand every aspect of the
restoration alternatives. I will always be grateful for his
expertise and patience.
in January 2014, the plan was completed and accepted by ranking
officials in the Army Corps of Engineers. I called Rich for his
reaction to the important milestone.
“We are very glad to be at this point, because we are talking
about a physical project moving forward and not just more
planning,” he told me. “We asked the Corps to produce a single
integrated restoration plan, and they did.” To review a brief
summary of the plan, see
Water Ways Jan. 26, 2014.
The final plan by the Army Corps of Engineers became
incorporated into the Water Resources
Development Act, including $19 million proposed for the
Skokomish project. The bill was approved, first by the U.S. Senate
and then by the House. A few details still need to be worked out,
but after years and years of planning, the Skokomish project became
virtually assured of funding just a week after Rich died.
Mike Anderson, chairman of the Skokomish Watershed Action Team,
said Rich had always been the “brains of the collaborative.”
“Rich was the holder of the technical vision of the watershed
restoration,” Mike noted. “He understood how all the different
parts of the watershed — from the mountains down to the estuary and
beyond — work together.
“When we started out, he acknowledged that he did not know what
the answers would be for the valley. One of his great achievements
was getting the GI (general investigation) completed and the …
support for authorization. He felt rightly proud of completing that
“Mr. Speaker, Richard was not only an environmental advocate and
steward, he was also a leader in the community. He excelled at
fostering collaboration and consensus among diverse community
stakeholders, including private landowners, businesses, Native
American Tribes, and local, state, and federal agencies, to achieve
Rich was born April 12, 1957, and graduated from Billings Senior
High School. He attended Gonzaga University in Spokane, where he
became an ROTC Cadet and earned a bachelor’s degree in civil
engineering. After graduation, he served as a lieutenant in the
Army’s 82nd Airborne Division and advanced to rank of major.
In 1994, he took a job with Mason County Public Works
Department, where he held a variety of engineering positions. In
2001, he joined the Mason Conservation District as district
The family has suggested that memorials be made to the
Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, a non-profit
organization committed to alleviating the suffering caused by
mental illness. The foundation awards grants aimed at making
advances and breakthroughs in scientific research.
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