As the new report describes, increased flooding, more frequent
landslides and decreased salmon runs are likely, along with
declines in some native species and increases in others. We are
likely to see more successful invasions by nonnative species, while
summer drought could cause more insect damage to forests and more
“When you look at the projected changes, it’s dramatic,” said
lead author Guillaume Mauger in a
news release. “This report provides a single resource for
people to look at what’s coming and think about how to adapt.”
The report includes examples of communities taking actions to
prepare for climate change, such as merging flood-management
districts to prepare for increased flooding in King County and
designing infrastructure to contend with rising sea levels in other
“In the same way that the science is very different from the
last report in 2005, I think the capacity and willingness to work
on climate change is in a completely different place,” Mauger
Sheida Sahandy, executive director of the Puget Sound
Partnership, said the people of Puget Sound must be prepared for
changes that have already begun.
“To protect Puget Sound, we need to plan for the ever-increasing
impacts of climate change,” she said in a
news release. “This report helps us better understand the very
real pressures we will face over the coming decades. The effects of
climate change impact every part of what we consider necessary for
a healthy Puget Sound: clean water, abundant water quantity, human
wellbeing, and a Puget Sound habitat that can support our native
Work to compile the report was funded by the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency via the Puget Sound Institute at UW Tacoma, the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the state of
The report will become part of the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound,
where my climate-change stories will reside after publication over
the next three weeks. I’m currently working part-time for the Puget
Sound Institute, which publishes the encyclopedia and is affiliated
with the University of Washington — Tacoma.
For other news stories about the report, check out:
Beards Cove Community Organization and Newberry Hill Heritage
Park Stewards are this year’s winners of the Hood Canal
Environmental Achievement Awards.
The awards, sponsored by the Hood Canal Coordinating Council,
recognize people and groups that have taken actions and fostered
relationships to improve the health of the Hood Canal
The 500 property owners in the Beards Cove community were
credited with developing relationships with Great Peninsula
Conservancy and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to
restore an estuary near the Union River on the North Shore of Hood
The Beards Cove Restoration Project completes the final segment
of 1.7 miles of unbroken saltmarsh along the shoreline. The project
removed 45,000 cubic yards of fill, derelict structures and a
septic system. The work included reconfiguring the shoreline and
planting the area with native vegetation, all to enhance salmon
The Beards Cove project was described in a
Kitsap Sun story by Arla Shepherd Bull and in a
Water Ways blog entry I wrote about the history of the Beards
Cove development leading to the need for restoration.
Stewards working to improve Newberry Hill Heritage Park are
protecting fish and wildlife in the area, which includes the
Anderson Creek watershed, which drains to Hood Canal. The group
built a fence to protect a beaver dam, which provides habitat for
coho and other fish, along with a foot bridge that maintains access
to a flooded trail. The group helped develop a forest-management
plan to restore ecological health to the park. Members are known
for expanding their knowledge about forests, streams and
The awards will be presented Friday at a conference that will
celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Hood Canal Coordinating
Council. Speakers will include Donna Simmons, one of the council’s
founders who will describe the history of the organization. U.S.
Rep. Derek Kilmer will discuss his Save Our Sound legislation and
how to move forward with ecosystem restoration. I will contribute
to the discussion by talking about my reporting career as it
relates to Hood Canal.
The event will be held at Lucky Dog Casino Event Center. Those
who would like to attend should contact Robin Lawlis at the
coordinating council, (360) 394-0046 or email@example.com. For
information, check the fact
sheet on the HCCC’s website.
The Hood Canal Coordinating
Council was established in 1985 to improve the water quality of
Hood Canal. It has expanded its mission to include improving the
ecological health of the canal. The group is made up of the county
commissioners in Kitsap, Mason and Jefferson counties along with
the Port Gamble S’Klallam and Skokomish tribes.
Individuals with an interest in recreation and protecting the
environment are needed to help determine how millions of dollars in
state and federal grants are spent on projects related to habitat
restoration, farmland preservation, parks and outdoor
It is easy to overlook these various advisory committees that
evaluate projects proposed for grants each year. I often report on
the outcome of the grant decisions without describing the process
of evaluation, recommendation and listing by the Recreation and
Conservation Funding Board.
Volunteers play a vital role in understanding the proposals,
ranking them and making them better. They can also take part in
determining overall board policies used in the approval — such as a
current proposal to change policies related to farmland, trails and
changes to property-acquisition projects. See “Policies and
Rulemaking” on the website of the Recreation and Conservation
Office. For this round, comments are due by tomorrow.
Volunteers with special knowledge and abilities are always
needed, but average citizens also have a role to play in these
decisions. Information about duties and becoming a volunteer can be
found on RCO’s “Advisory
Committees” webpage. These volunteer positions are unpaid
except for travel expenses when money is available.
The RCO is looking to fill positions on nine advisory
committees, which will begin working on the next round of grants in
the spring and summer of next year. Applications are due by Oct. 30
for the following positions, which are four-year appointments.
The first group addresses grants in the Washington
Wildlife and Recreation Program:
Local Parks: One local government official and
two citizen volunteers are needed to focus on grants related to
acquiring, developing and renovating local parks.
Habitat Restoration: One citizen volunteer is
needed to focus on grants relating to buying and restoring
shorelines and state-owned land. The volunteer should be familiar
with the subject.
Trails: A volunteer is needed to address grants
to buy, develop and renovate non-motorized trails. An interest in
regional trails is important.
Water Access: One citizen and two local
government volunteers are needed to discuss grants related to
improving access for nonmotorized, water-related recreation.
Farmland Preservation: Two citizen volunteers
are needed to consider grants related to maintaining working farms.
Volunteers should be farmers who actively manage farms or
State Parks: One local government volunteer is
needed to help prioritize grants for buying and developing state
parks. A statewide perspective on parks and recreation is
State Land Development and Renovation: One
citizen volunteer and three local government volunteers are needed
to address grants for developing or renovating outdoor recreation
facilities on state land. A statewide perspective on parks and
recreation is important.
Other grant programs:
Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account: One citizen
and two local government volunteers are needed to deal with grants
to buy and improve shorelines for public use. The citizen volunteer
should be familiar with aquatic lands restoration or protection,
while the local government volunteers should be familiar with
recreation and public access interests.
Land and Water Conservation Fund: Two citizen
and three local government volunteers are needed to work with this
federal funding program, which provides grants to preserve and
develop parks, trails and wildlife lands. Congress failed to
reinstate this popular program before it expired under federal law,
but there is considerable political pressure to keep it going. The
committee will evaluate proposals in case Congress acts. The money
comes from oil and gas leases on federal lands.
If you have questions not answered on the website, you
can contact Lorinda Anderson by phone at (360) 902-3009 or TTY
(360) 902-1996 or by email.
Mark Powell made it, completing his swim today of the entire
Duwamish River, with the exception of some whitewater rapids
upstream and a stretch of the river through Tacoma’s protected
watershed. For background, see
Water Ways, Aug. 22.
During his remarks after
climbing out of the water in Elliott Bay, Mark said he had
concluded along the way that “the heart of the Duwamish River … is
“I started out with the idea that I would hope to find the heart
of the Duwamish River, and I think I succeeded. One thing I saw
stands out above all else, and to me it is the heart of the
Duwamish River. I saw thousands of wild pink salmon swimming up the
Duwamish and the Green River.
“There’s a huge run of pink salmon this year. I don’t know how
many people in Seattle know about it. Schools of salmon so thick
and so close that I reached out and touched the salmon with my
hand. I have never seen so many salmon except in videos taken in
“That’s not to say everything is fine on the Duwamish River.
There are some other species of salmon not doing so well. There are
some very well known pollution problems. But the thriving, healthy
wild pink salmon run to me is the heart of the Duwamish River. The
heart is still beating.”
The first video on this page shows the final leg of Mark’s
journey through the industrial Duwamish Waterway, a journey that
began where the Green River begins as a trickle south of Snoqualmie
Pass high in the Cascade Mountains.
Preservation is cheaper than restoration. If you need proof, one
place to look is the Beard’s Cove estuary-restoration project on
Hood Canal, about a mile outside of Belfair.
The project, nearing completion, is re-establishing 7.3 acres of
saltwater wetlands by excavating and removing about 4,000 dumptruck
loads of old fill dirt from an area originally built as a private
park for the Beard’s Cove community.
It is a rare restoration project, because essentially the same
dirt used to fill the wetlands in 1973 is being taken out and put
back where it came from — across North Shore Road from the
development. The cost is estimated at $1.1 million, as reported by
Arla Shephard in a story in the
Filling in the salt marsh was part of the development plan for
the Beard’s Cove plat, approved by the Mason County commissioners a
few years before construction began. The voter-approved Shoreline
Management Act and other environmental regulations were just coming
on the scene.
Hood Canal Environmental Council, a fledgling group at the time,
testified against the Beard’s Cove project. Phil Best, a young
lawyer who would later become Kitsap County commissioner, was a
founder of that organization.
“We were concerned that this project would set a precedent,”
Phil told me. “If you start filling in all these marsh areas, you
would be destroying a lot of salmon habitat throughout Hood
Although scientists today know much more about the value of
estuaries, Phil said there was plenty of evidence at the time about
the damage that would be caused by this kind of project. Much of
the scientific information was provided by researchers at the
University of Washington’s Big Beef Creek Research Station. That
facility, near Seabeck in Kitsap County, is still used for salmon
In the end, the Beard’s Cove developer prevailed with the county
commissioners and the courts, and the fill was dumped into the
estuary to create a park. Today, of course, a project like this
would not even get off the drawing board.
“We’re finally getting to where things should be,” Phil said,
“but it is unfortunate that we have to spend millions of taxpayer
dollars, when the permit for this should have been denied in the
first place. There is a lesson to be learned here: It is better to
err on the side of caution when it comes to environmental
For every restoration project we know about, someone could have
avoided the cost by not doing the damage in the first place. We
must recognize that we are paying for many mistakes made by our
At the same time, we must face the fact that — despite all we
have learned — we are still doing damage to the ecosystem. Some
damage is inevitable, as more development is needed to accommodate
a growing population. But we should be as careful as we can, so our
descendants don’t have to undo what we have done.
The alternative, of course, is far more dreadful. If we cannot
turn the tide on our ecological destruction and find a way to live
within the natural world, Puget Sound is doomed to ecological
collapse. Future generations might live on a large, sterile pond
and wonder what it once was like. They might as well live on the
The 540 or more families who live in the Beard’s Cove Community
today had nothing to do with the mistakes that were made. Who could
blame them for using the park and swimming pool developed for their
use? People who grew up in Beard’s Cove cherish the memories of
that park. I would suggest that it is of little value to blame
anyone for past mistakes, since society as a whole sanctioned all
sorts of activities that we would not allow today.
The Beard’s Cove community should be congratulated for breaking
with the past and allowing the restoration to take place. It may be
true that the decision was easier after the park fell into
disrepair. Someone apparently destroyed the old swimming pool by
draining it during an extreme high tide, causing it to “float” up
out of the ground — or so the story goes, says Louena “Louie”
Yelverton, president of the Beard’s Cove Community
Louie says the community supports the restoration of the marsh
and looks forward to seeing a more natural shoreline.
“it is nice to be part of a restoration project, realizing that
this is a small part of a 700-acre project that is going to help
salmon,” she said. “As a society, we are starting to learn that we
need to give forethought to the future. It might not affect us, but
it will be there for our grandkids and future generations. I am
glad to be part of this.”
Louie credits Kate Kuhlman of Great Peninsula Conservancy for
helping to generate goodwill in the community. Her concerns for the
people as well as the steadfast promotion of the science helped get
the project to construction. GPC coordinated the grants to get the
work done with some land left for community use.
“She has been a trooper through everything,” Louie said. “Now we
are going to have a park, and the shoreline is going to be good for
salmon. I am super-excited that we are toward the end of this and
will get to see what all the hard work has accomplished.”
Wetlands along the North Shore of Hood Canal have been
undergoing protection and restoration for 30 years. This is where I
chose to write the opening chapter of the book
“Hood Canal: Splendor at Risk.”
The Beard’s Cove project, including a permanent conservation
easement, fills in the final gap in a full 1.7 miles of unbroken
estuarine habitat to be preserved in perpetuity, thanks to GPC and
its North Mason predecessor, Hood Canal Land Trust, along with
Pacific Northwest Salmon Center, Washington Department of Fish and
Wildlife and the North Mason School District.
The project includes the construction of 2,530 feet of newly
formed tide channels, 1,200 feet of graveled beach and large woody
debris habitat structures.
Marsh areas like this are among the most productive places on
the planet, supporting a rich food web that includes salmon species
such as Puget Sound chinook, Puget Sound steelhead and Hood Canal
summer chum, all listed as “threatened” on the Endangered Species
A new worldwide map of sea level rise, plotted with precision
satellite instruments, shows that the Earth’s oceans are rising
faster with no end in sight.
Sea levels have gone up an average of 3 inches since 1992, with
some locations rising as much as 9 inches. Meanwhile, some limited
areas — including the West Coast — have experienced declining sea
levels for various reasons.
Two years ago, climatologists released an international
consensus, which predicted a sea-level rise of between 1 and 3 feet
by the end of this century. It was a conservative estimate, and new
evidence suggests that ocean waters are likely to meet or exceed
the top of that range, possibly going much higher, according to
four leading researchers speaking at a news conference
The implications are huge and growing more important all the
time. At a minimum, waterfront property owners and shoreline
planners need to begin taking this into consideration. It doesn’t
make sense to build close to the shoreline if extreme high tides
will bring seawater to one’s doorstep.
If we hope to avoid local extinctions of key intertidal species,
we must start thinking about how high the waters will be in 50 to
For clues to the future, we can watch Florida, where vast areas
stand at low elevations. Even now, during high tides, Miami is
beginning to see regular flooding in areas that never got wet
before. This is the future of low-lying areas in Puget Sound, such
as estuaries. In the Pacific ocean, the threat of inundating
complete islands is becoming very real.
Along the West Coast, sea levels have actually declined over the
past 20 years, largely because of the cooling effect of the Pacific
Decadal Oscillation, a warming/cooling cycle that can remain in one
phase for decades. The cycle appears to be shifting, with the
likely effect that sea levels on the West Coast will soon rise as
fast or faster than the worldwide average, according to Josh
Willis, an oceanographer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in
The cause of sea level rise is attributed to three factors.
Scientists estimate that roughly one-third of the rise is caused by
thermal expansion of ocean waters, which absorb much of the energy
from global warming. Another third comes from the melting of the
massive Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. The remaining third
comes from the melting of mountain glaciers throughout the world.
Researchers at yesterday’s news conference said they expect the
melting to accelerate.
Measuring the change in sea-level rise has become possible
thanks to advanced technology built into altimeters carried aboard
satellites. The instruments can distinguish changes in elevation as
small as one part in 100 million.
“The instruments are so sensitive that if they were mounted on a
commercial jetliner flying at 40,000 feet, they could detect the
bump caused by a dime lying flat on the ground,” said Michael
Freilich, director of NASA’s Earth Science Division.
While sea level rise can now be measured, predicting the rate of
future rise is difficult, because much of the melting by ice sheets
occurs out of sight under the water.
The Greenland ice sheet covers 660,000 miles — nearly the size
of Alaska. Satellite measurements have shown that an average of 303
gigatons of ice have melted each year over the past decade. The
Antarctic ice sheet has lost an average of 118 gigatons per year,
but some new studies suggest it could begin to melt much
In Greenland, researchers are reporting that one of the largest
chunks of ice ever to break away from land cleaved from the
Jakobshavn glacier in a “calving” event that left researchers
awestruck. More than 4 cubic miles of ice was loosed quickly into
the sea. Check out the news release by the
European Space Agency.
“This is a continuing and evolving story,” glaciologist Eric
Rignot said during yesterday’s news conference. “We are moving into
a set of processes where we have very tall calving cliffs that are
unstable and start fracturing and break up into icebergs …
“We have never seen something like this on that scale before,”
said Rignot, associated with JPL and the University of California
at Irvine. “Personally, I am in awe at seeing how fast the icefall,
the calving part of the glacier, is retreating inland year by
Other new information from NASA, including lots of graphics:
By swimming the entire Green/Duwamish River in King County, Mark
Powell hopes to show that the river’s full length — roughly 85
miles from the mountains to Puget Sound — is a single system worthy
of protection and restoration.
I believe that most people have heard about the Duwamish
Waterway in Seattle, a channelized, industrialized section of the
lower Duwamish River where decades of pollution are being cleaned
up, one step at a time. But how much does anyone know about the
upper end of the river, which begins as a trickle of crystal clear
water in the Cascade Mountains south of Snoqualmie Pass?
“Almost nobody knows the river well, not even the people who
live along the river,” Mark told me.
Mark, the Puget Sound Program director for Washington
Environmental Council. said the idea of swimming the entire river
came to him during the kickoff of a new
Green/Duwamish Watershed Strategy by King County and Seattle.
The plan is to identify all the significant problems in the
PDF 1.1 mb) and to increase restoration efforts where
“I thought this would be an interesting way to connect with
people,” Mark said. “I’m a guy who likes to get outdoors, so this
is a personal commitment I could make.”
Mark swam around Bainbridge Island in the winter of 2008-09.
““By swimming the whole coastline, I’m not just diving to the
pretty spots. I’m forced to look at the gross parts,” he told
reporter Michelle Ma in a story for the
So far, Mark has been swimming the upper and middle portions of
the Green/Duwamish River. He said his biggest surprise is finding
pockets of good habitat everywhere he goes.
Earlier this month, he was accompanied on the river by Sheida
Sahandy, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership, and
Martha Kongsgaard, chairwoman of the partnership’s Leadership
Council. A few days before they swam the river near Auburn, the
Leadership Council approved new “vitals signs” indicators for
“human health” and “human well-being” to emphasize the human
connection to the Puget Sound ecosystem. See
“Water Ways” July 30.
The human connection was still on Sheida’s mind when I talked to
her about a week after her trip to the Green River. The most
“eye-opening” part of the swim for her was the condition of “this
incredibly beautiful natural element coursing through a very urban
She saw evidence of people living along the river in
less-than-desirable conditions, she said. There were barbecues and
trailer houses but no suggestion that people had any connection to
the river — except that some individuals apparently were using it
as a toilet, she said.
“I haven’t quite wrapped my head around that, but it feels very
right that we are considering human well-being,” she explained. “On
the one hand is what we have done to the river. On the other hand
is what we have done to ourselves. We need to figure out how it all
Mark’s adventures on the river are chronicled in a blog called
Duwamish.” He hopes to swim every section of the river where he
is allowed to go and be safe. A portion of the Green River
controlled by the city of Tacoma has no public access, because it
is a source of the city’s water supply. Rapids in the Green River
Gorge are said to be dangerous, so Mark will look for a guide to
help him. And because of heavy marine traffic in the Duwamish
Waterway, he may use a boat to escort him on his approach to
Seattle’s Elliott Bay.
The Green/Duwamish River may be the most disjointed river in
Puget Sound, both physically and psychologically. People who have
seen the industrialized lower river find it hard to visualize the
near-pristine salmon stream spilling clean water down from the
mountains. It is the upper part that provides the inspiration to
clean up the lower part, Mark told me.
“If there was a reason for sacrificing a river, you could find
it in the Duwamish,” he said. “But we can’t afford to sacrifice
even one river. To me, this is what protecting Puget Sound is all
about. By the time the pollution gets to Puget Sound it is too
If salmon can make it through the gauntlet in the lower river,
they may have a fighting chance to spawn and produce a new
generation of Green River fish. Improving their migration corridor
is not an impossible dream.
I suggested to Mark that the name of the river be officially
changed to “Green/Duwamish” or “Green-Duwamish” to help people
recognize that this is a single river from the mountains to Puget
Sound. After all, the name “Salish Sea” has helped some people
realize that we share an inland waterway with Canadians. The other
name-change option would be to call it Duwamish all the way.
Until I started reading about the Duwamish, I didn’t realize how
this river once captured water from the Black River and the White
River as well as the Green River and the Cedar River. But the
system has changed drastically over the past century or so.
As you can see in the map on this page, the Green River once
joined the White River and flowed north, picking up waters from the
Black River. The Black River, which took drainage from Lake
Washington, picked up water from the Cedar River.
Where the Black River merged with the White River, it became the
Duwamish all the way to Puget Sound.
Two major events changed the rivers’ flow and subsequently the
nomenclature. In 1906, a flood diverted the White River to the
south into the channel of the Stuck River, which flowed into the
Puyallup River. Shortly after that, the White River was
artificially confined to keep it flowing south. Because the river
flowing north contained water only from the Green River, the name
“White” was changed to “Green” downstream to where the Duwamish
The other big event was the construction of the Lake Washington
Ship Canal in 1917 to connect the lake with Puget Sound. The
construction lowered the lake by more than 8 feet, with the lake
level controlled by the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks. The Black River,
which had taken the discharge flow from Lake Washington before
construction, then dried up. The Cedar River, which had flowed into
the Black River, was diverted into the lake.
Following those changes, the Green River and the Duwamish became
essentially the same river, with the total flow perhaps one-third
as much as it had been before the changes. If you are interested in
this history and other geological forces at work in the area, check
out the 1970 report by the U.S. Geological Survey
(PDF 53.1 mb).
It’s hard to describe the surprise I felt when I first glanced
at a new graph plotting bulkhead construction and removal along
Puget Sound’s shoreline since 2005.
On the graph was a blue line that showed how new bulkhead
construction had declined dramatically the past two years. But what
really caught my eye was a green line showing an increase in
bulkhead removal. Amazingly, these two lines had crossed each other
in 2014, meaning that the total length of bulkheads removed had
exceeded the total length of bulkheads built last year.
Not only was this the first time this has ever happened, it was
totally unexpected. Few people really believed that bulkhead
removal could exceed construction anytime soon. I was happy to
write up these new findings in the latest
newsletter for the Puget Sound Institute, where I’m now
“It was pretty shocking — in a good way,” said Randy Carman of
the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, who coordinated the
data based on state permits. “It makes me optimistic going
Randy helped develop the “vitals signs indicator” for shoreline
armoring, along with a “target” approved by the Puget Sound
Partnership. The target called for the total length of armoring
removed to exceed the total length constructed for the 10-year
period from 2011 through 2020.
Like many of the vital signs
indicators, this one for shoreline armoring was far from a sure
thing. In fact, like most of the indicators, the trend was going in
the wrong direction. Some people believed that the Puget Sound
Partnership was setting itself up for failure.
These were “aspirational” targets, Randy recalled, and meeting
them would be a tremendous challenge for many individuals,
government agencies and organizations.
As I described in some detail in the article for PSI, the number
of new bulkheads has declined, in part because of new government
rules. Meanwhile, the number of bulkheads removed has increased, in
part because of government funding.
But something else may be afoot, as pointed out by Sheida
Sahandy, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership, and
David Price, habitat program manager for WDFW. A new “culture” may
be taking hold in which people realize that bulkheads are neither
good for the environment, attractive nor functional when it comes
to people enjoying their own beach.
When talking to shoreline property owners who have removed a
rock or concrete bulkhead, often the first thing they tell me is
how much nicer their beach has become. No more jumping or climbing
off a wall. No more rickety stairs. One can walk down a slope and
plop down a lawn chair wherever the tide tells you is the right
“The factors are all in place for a paradigm shift,” Sheida told
me. “When people see the geotech reports for their own beach, they
can see there is a different way. People can take off their shoes
and put their toes in the sand.”
Getting contractors and real-estate agents to understand and
support new methods of beach protection and restoration is one
strategy being considered. Personally, I was impressed with the
change in direction by Sealevel Bulkhead Builders. Check out the
story I wrote for the
Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal.
It takes a little land to create the right slope to dissipate
wave energy without any man-made structure. In some cases, large
rocks and logs — so-called “soft shore protection” — can help
reduce erosion. In some situations where land is limited and wave
energy is high, a solid wall may be the only remedy. No matter
which option is used, one must consider the initial cost and
long-term maintenance — including consideration of sea-level rise
caused by global warming.
“The secret,” said Dave Price, “is less about the strong arm of
regulation and more about helping people understanding what they
Scientific evidence about the damage of bulkheads has been
building for several years. Among the impacts:
Loss of beach and backshore, which reduces the area used for
recreation, shellfish, bird habitat and forage-fish spawning.
Loss of slow, natural erosion, which helps maintain the
quantity and quality of sand and gravel along the shoreline.
Alteration of wave action, which can impede natural movement of
sand and gravel and scour the beach of fine sediment, leaving
hardpan and scattered rocks.
Increased predation of juvenile salmon by larger fish where
high tides leave deep water along the bulkhead, plus fewer insects
for food caused by loss of shoreline vegetation.
Bulkheads can cause a coarsening of a beach over time, with
harder and harder substrate becoming evident. Damage from one
bulkhead may be slow and limited, experts say, but alterations to
more than 25 percent of the shoreline, as we see today, has taken a
serious toll in some parts of Puget Sound.
Dave told me about the time he stood next to a concrete bulkhead
and watched the tide coming in. Large fish, such as sculpins, were
able to swim right up to the wall.
“I stood there and watched these fish come right in next to
shore,” he said. “These were big fish, and they came up right next
to the bulkhead. There was nowhere for the juvenile salmonids to
get out of there.”
The cartoon below was part of this week’s “Amusing
Monday” feature, and it illustrates the situation that Dave
described. I could say much more about changing trends in
bulkheads, given new studies funded by the Environmental Protection
Agency, but that can wait for future blog posts.
A selected group of art students has created a unique collection
of posters, videos, illustrations and a mural to deliver a
coordinated message about protecting water quality and salmon
The project, supported with a grant from NOAA Fisheries,
involved students from the Pacific Northwest College of Art in
Portland. The art students have been producing various elements of
the projects over the past year.
Animation student Beryl Allee teamed up with illustrator Grace
Murphy to produce a potential media campaign called “Citizen in the
Watershed,” focusing on how human damage to the ecosystem
eventually comes back to harm humans. The first video on this page
is called “Littering.” Two other videos, one dealing with yard care
and the other with driveway runoff, can be viewed on NOAA’s website
“NOAA 2015 Science in the Studio Award” or on Beryl’s Vimeo’s website.
An illustration to accompany public-outreach information about
household products has been completed, with two more to be done
before the end of August. See
A mural design produced by PNCA graduate Esteban Camacho
Steffensen depicts examples of human alterations to the landscape
comingled with images of the natural ecosystem. These images are
all wrapped together inside an outline of a chinook salmon — a key
symbol of the natural Northwest.
The mural design can be printed on posters or painted on the
wall of a building with instructions provided by the artist. The
idea is that human activities cannot be separated from natural
systems but that people can make choices to reduce their impacts.
Read about the artist and his work on
Interdisciplinary artist Stephanie Fogel created a poster to
encourage people to properly dispose of medicines. The design
features a salmon surrounded by pills, and the message can be
customized for Washington, Oregon or California with specific
information about disposing of pharmaceuticals. Read more about
Stephanie J. Fogel.
The final video, below, was completed last year by Beryl Allee,
who created the interesting illustrations, and John Summerson, who
helped with animation and managed the sound design. The video helps
people understand just one way that fish can be affected by hard
armoring, such as bulkheads, constructed to protect shorelines from
erosion. How the video was produced and other information can be
found on NOAA’s website,
“Bridging art with science to protect salmon habitat.”
I am still baffled, as are the folks at the University of
Washington’s Seismology Lab, why people freaked out over the
earthquake article, titled “The Really Big One,” published this
month in New
Could it be that Northwest residents were unaware or had
forgotten about the risk of earthquakes in this area until a
national magazine called attention to the problem?
Was it the lack of credible details about earthquake risks in
the original article, which included this quote from an
emergency-management official: “Our operating assumption is that
everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast.”
Or maybe it was the rapid spread of information via social media
and the huge number people living in other parts of the country who
texted, tweeted and inundated Facebook with worries about their
relatives in the Pacific Northwest.
“I don’t really know what it was,” said Bill Steele, my longtime
contact at the UW’s Seismology Lab. “We are a bit baffled by it.
There is nothing really new.”
Although the author, Kathryn Schultz, left out specifics about
which areas might be affected more than others, she did tell a
compelling — and fairly accurate — story about what could happen
when the North America plate breaks free of the Juan de Fuca plate,
which is sliding underneath it.
I was pleased to see that she came back this week with a
follow-up article describing where the greatest shaking would
occur and which areas would be at greatest risk from a tsunami
unleashed by slippage along the Cascadia subduction zone. She also
suggests steps that people can take to protect themselves and their
property — something I have always felt is a mandatory part of any
story I write about earthquakes. Review a webpage put together by the
I’ve been very fortunate to have worked as a news reporter
during a time when many important discoveries were made in
Northwest seismology. I accompanied researchers digging in swamps,
riverbanks and man-made trenches, where they found traces of
ancient earthquakes. That work and much more comprises a body of
evidence across many disciplines that helps us understand how bad
our “big one” could be.
In 1999, I paused from covering individual discoveries about
earthquakes to write a story for the Kitsap Sun focusing on a few
of the researchers and their key findings. We called the story
“Finding Fault: 13 Years of Discoveries.”
I can’t begin to recount all the stories I’ve written about
earthquakes through the years, but I do recall warning people a few
years ago to get prepared after the massive Japanese earthquake
made headlines across the the globe (Kitsap
Sun, March 11, 2011):
“While Japan struggles to recover from one of the greatest
earthquakes in world history, West Coast seismologists are warning
that a quake just like it could occur at any time off the
Washington and Oregon coasts.
“In broad-brush terms, ‘the two earthquakes are very similar,’
said John Vidale, director of the Pacific Northwest Seismograph
Network at the University of Washington. ‘As a first guess, what
might happen here is what happened there.’
Of course, we have had our own earthquakes that should give us
plenty of reason to get prepared. The 6.8-magnitude Nisqually
earthquake on Feb. 28, 2001, occurred in the Puget Sound region and
served as a powerful wakeup call for many people.
The Nisqually quake was called the “miracle quake” because
nobody was killed, although one man died from a heart attack that
could have been related to the event. About 400 people were injured
and damage estimates ranged up to $4 billion. (U.S.
In the Puget Sound region, the shaking from the Nisqually quake
could be something like area residents will experience in a
Cascadia subduction-zone quake, though shaking from a subduction
quake is expected to last longer, depending on how much of the
plate breaks free. Things will not be the same in all places, and
communities closest to the Olympic Mountains might experience the
most damage from a subduction quake.
Five years after the Nisqually quake, Phyllis Mann, who was
director of Kitsap County Department of Emergency Management at the
time, was still wondering why many people were not prepared for an
earthquake in Kitsap County.
“Kitsap has never depended on the federal government as part of
its plan,” Phyllis told me in a
Kitsap Sun story published Feb. 28, 2006. “The federal
government can’t be with us the day of the disaster. With the
exception of the military, which is part of our community, you
can’t count on the feds early on.”
Mann used our interview to direct pointed questions at Kitsap
“Why aren’t you ready? What is it going to take? We keep asking
this question and finding out that people aren’t prepared. Where is
your food and water for three days? (A week is the latest
recommendation.) Where are your reunion plans? Is it my
responsibility as the county emergency manager to make sure
everyone does it?”
The New Yorker article failed to mention an earthquake threat
that should be of equal concern to residents of the Puget Sound
area. You may have heard of the Seattle fault, which runs from
Seattle across Bainbridge Island and Central Kitsap to Hood
Although the frequency of huge earthquakes on the Seattle fault
appear to be less than those along the Cascadia subduction zone, we
must not forget that a quake on the Seattle fault about 1,100 years
ago lifted up the south end of Bainbridge Island by 21 feet and
created a tsunami that inundated shorelines now occupied by people.
By contrast, a tsunami coming from the ocean after a subduction
quake might raise the water level quickly in Puget Sound but
probably no higher than what we see with daily tides.
In a way, the Seattle fault put the Kitsap Peninsula on the map
with a red bull’s-eye, which I wrote about five years ago. See
Kitsap Sun, May 8, 2010, along with the map on this page.
Bill Steele told me that he is sure that Kenneth Murphy,
regional director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency,
regrets saying, “Our operating assumption is that everything west
of Interstate 5 will be toast.” That may be a good “operating
assumption” for an agency trying to plan for the worse possible
emergency, but it is not a very good description of what
seismologists predict by modeling various scenarios.
Bill said many people failed to read the New Yorker article
carefully and took the comment to mean that most of Western
Washington would be hit with a 50-foot wall of water — something
that could not be further from the truth.
“The good news for us is that we have a pretty good 10,000-year
history of what happened on the fault,” Bill said. “We know how the
shaking will be distributed.” Again, look at the hazard map on this
page and note the strip of red along the coast.
While many earthquake experts are surprised by the reaction to
the New Yorker article, it has accomplished one goal of those who
understand the risks: getting people to create earthquake kits,
secure homes on their foundations and other things that could help
prevent damage and get people through the emergency.
“You have to take your hat off to the author,” Bill told me,
“because she got a lot of people thinking. It is not like the New
Yorker has that many subscriptions.”
Emergency managers may be studying the cascading events
triggered by the New Yorker article, including the initial
publication, the ripples running through social media and the
public alarm that rose up and eventually died down.
Directing public concern into action is what folks like Bill
Steele and others are doing right now. Check out the video in the
player below for Bill’s appearance on “New Day Northwest,” and
visit the webpage of the Pacific
Northwest Seismic Network for basic information and scheduled
discussions about earthquake risks. One public forum is scheduled
for Tuesday at the University of Oregon, and
other forums are under consideration at the UW.