Rainfall in most of Kitsap County was fairly normal or slightly
above average until April, when the spring rains basically stopped.
The lack of rain has led to extreme conditions, as anyone can see
by looking at the dry vegetation across Western Washington.
The total rainfall has now fallen below normal in most areas of
Kitsap County, as shown by the maps on this page. That
below-average condition is unlikely to change without some
uncharacteristic rainstorms between now and the end of the “water
year” on Oct. 1.
The Kitsap Peninsula, like islands throughout Puget Sound, does
not rely on snowpack for its water supplies, so a shortage of
drinking water is unlikely. The one exception might be residents
who rely on private shallow wells, some of which could start to dry
up by the end of summer, according to Bob Hunter, manager of Kitsap
Public Utility District.
Deeper aquifers used by most major water systems on the
peninsula are not affected by a single year’s weather. It takes
time for the water to trickle down to the deeper layers, where
groundwater levels reflect the pattern of rainfall occurring over
The soils and topography vary so greatly from one place to
another that nobody can say how soon shallow wells will be
affected. Some wells depend on springs or surface infiltration,
while others tap into aquifers with adequate supply. The rate of
withdrawal, including the number of homes in a given area, can have
an effect on water supply.
Although the deeper aquifers are not likely to be affected this
year, what if we are at the beginning of a dry period that lasts
three years or more? I would hate to look back on my current water
usage and regret not saving water when I had the chance. To a
varying extent, conserving water can protect our water supplies and
help the overall ecosystem.
In addition to affecting aquifers, the lack of rain has reduced
streamflows in creeks and rivers to below-normal rates throughout
the county. The resulting low flows could affect coho salmon, which
spend a year in freshwater. The fall salmon migration will be
mostly affected by whether rains show up to saturate the soils and
raise stream levels in September and October.
Bob Hunter says the per-capita use of water has been dropping,
but he’s not sure how much of the change is a result of personal
choices and how much is a result of new kitchen and bathroom
fixtures required by plumbing codes. Low-flush toilets and low-flow
faucets can really make a difference, he said.
People use large amounts of water on their lawns, so one
long-term effort is to reduce the amount of grass and thirsty
vegetation that homeowners maintain while improving the soil to
increasing its water-holding capacity.
“This year, people are irrigating a lot earlier than they were
in the past,” Bob told me. “That has to have an impact, especially
if the summer stays dry the whole way.”
The key to protecting future water supplies on the Kitsap
Peninsula is for everyone to change their habitats over time by
finding ways to use less water. If people understand the
trickle-down theory of aquifers, they might be less inclined to
take our water for granted.
Two members of the Washington’s congressional delegation — Reps.
Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, and Dave Reichert, R-Auburn — are
expressing confidence that the Land and Water Conservation Fund
will be reauthorized.
But with so many dollars on the line for conservation purposes,
many supporters are growing nervous about when it will happen and
what the final bill will look like. After all, what could possibly
go wrong in a Congress famous for getting nothing done, with less
than 100 days left to go before the law expires?
The Land and Water Conservation Fund is a major source of money
for recreation and habitat-protection projects across the country,
ranging from building local swimming pools to buying land for
national parks. Since 1965, more than 41,000 grants have provided a
total of about $4 billion, divided among every state and five U.S.
territories. For a list of completed projects in Washington state,
check out “50 Years of
Success” by the Washington Wildlife and Recreation
The current law places $900 million a year into the fund, but in
recent years only a fraction of that ever gets appropriated —
roughly between one-fourth and one-half. If not appropriated, the
money disappears into the general Treasury for other spending.
Revenues put into the fund come from royalties paid by energy
companies for drilling for oil on the outer continental shelf, so
no tax dollars are involved. As President Obama and others have
stated, the program allows money coming from the extraction of
natural resources to go into protecting natural resources.
In a conference call yesterday, Kilmer recounted how the fund
has helped bring businesses to Washington state, as employers look
for places with natural beauty and recreational opportunities. He
noted that in his previous life he worked for the Pierce County
Economic Development Board helping employers site their
“Just like in real estate, location matters,” Kilmer said.
“Access to natural beauty matters. Something our region has is a
natural environment that you won’t find anywhere else, and
innovators and employers are attracted to the Pacific
Kilmer said it is “hard to overstate the importance” of the Land
and Water Conservation Fund. He promised to work hard to have it
Reichert delivered a similar message, saying he helped gather
signatures in support from more than 200 representatives from both
“I want to reassure everyone… we are going to continue to fight
this fight back here,” he said. “We think it is absolutely critical
to invest in the LWCF … and support public land conservation
I did not get a clear picture of how the political battles are
shaping up, nor whether reauthorization is likely before the fund
expires at the end of September. But we can get some clues from
remarks by key leaders in the House and Senate, as well as
testimony in public hearings.
At one end of the spectrum, Washington’s Sen. Maria Cantwell has
proposed legislation, S. 890,
that would not only reauthorize the law but require permanent and
dedicated funding at the full amount of authorization. If Congress
fails to appropriate the funds, presumably the money would stay in
the fund unless redirected to another program.
Separate bills in the Senate and House (S.
338 and H.R.
1814) would not go as far. They would make the fund permanent
but would not change the appropriation process. A provision would
be added to the law to require that 1.5 percent of the
appropriation, up to $10 million, would be set aside for opening up
public access to recreation.
In the Senate, an amendment to the Keystone XL pipeline bill,
which would do what S. 338 proposes, nearly passed with 59 votes,
one vote shy of the required 60 votes to pass in today’s Senate.
That is seen as decent support in the Senate, but nobody is
predicting what will happen in the House.
Republicans, who are in control of the committees, could shape
any bills that they decide to bring to a vote and move to
Rep. Tom McClintock, a Republican from California, chairs the
Subcommittee on Federal Lands Oversight of the House Natural
“This 50-year old act expires in September, offering the 114th
Congress an opportunity to thoroughly examine its mission and
impacts and to make adjustments accordingly,” McClintock said in a
hearing in April on the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
McClintock raised objections about buying more federal land when
there is a serious backlog of maintenance projects needed to meet
standards for fire prevention, fire suppression, wildlife
management and facilities maintenance. Money that goes to states,
on the other hand, comes under greater accountability because of
the funding match provided at the local level, he said.
The funding is entirely discretionary, he noted, so it is
“incumbent upon Congress” to decide whether to support additional
funding for the purchase of federal lands.
Similar views were expressed by Alaskan Sen. Lisa Murkowski,
Republican chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural
“I fully support reauthorizing this act, this year, in a way
that reflects changing needs and evolving viewpoints about
conservation in the 21st century,” Murkowski said during a
hearing in April.
“As we look to reauthorize LWCF, I believe that it makes sense
to shift the federal focus away from land acquisition, particularly
in Western states, toward maintaining and enhancing the
accessibility and quality of the resources that we have,” she said.
“This is the best way to put our nation’s recreation system on the
path of long-term viability.”
She stressed her support for state programs and for increasing
public access to federal lands.
In that same hearing, Washington’s Sen. Maria Cantwell, the
Democrats’ ranking minority member on the committee, said it is not
necessary to choose between maintenance and purchase. Maintenance
is already authorized, she said, and Congress decides how much to
spend on maintenance.
“Nearly half of the National Park Service’s estimated backlog is
attributed to needed repairs for roads and highways within the
national parks,” she said. “The single biggest improvement we could
make in reducing the maintenance backlog would be to increase the
funding level in the transportation bill for park roads.”
The Land and Water Conservation Fund is flexible, she argued. It
provides money for states to buy and develop local recreation
projects and to protect habitat for endangered species.
The fund also provides money for the Forest Legacy Program to
purchase development rights from private timberland owners to keep
the property in a forest condition.
On that point, more than 2,100 acres of forestland adjacent to
both Green Mountain and Tahuya state forests in Kitsap and Mason
counties were protected from development in 2009 with a $3.3
million purchase of development rights from Pope Resources. See
Kitsap Sun, Aug. 12, 2009.
In the latest round of funding, an effort is moving forward to
protect 20,000 acres of forestland between Shelton and Allyn in
Mason County. The plan is to take up to 10 years to buy the
development rights from Green Diamond Resource Company, which will
continue to manage the land under a federally approved habitat
As for extra money for state projects, Cantwell pointed out that
a relatively new program, the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act,
provides a dedicated source of funding for state grants. Money from
drilling in the Gulf of Mexico places up to $125 million a year in
the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
In a column published by the
Kitsap Sun, Washington State Sen. Christine Rolfes,
D-Bainbridge Island, said the Land and Water Conservation Fund is
important for protecting public property in every corner of the
state, including a land purchase to improve degraded water quality
in Lake Quinault near the coast.
Rolfes said she worries that in this “highly charged political
climate,” opponents of public lands could block spending from the
fund by failing to authorize its renewal.
“If they succeed,” she said, “the loss won’t be abstract — it
will be real and immediate.”
The video below, produced by The Nature Conservancy, makes an
argument for continuing the purchase and protection of public
Hood Canal Coordinating Council is made up of county
commissioners from Kitsap, Mason and Jefferson counties, along with
leaders from the Skokomish and Port Gamble S’Klallam tribes.
When planning efforts began five years ago, the idea was to
create an “integrated” plan that would recognize all the ecological
functions taking place in the Hood Canal watershed and create a set
of strategies for addressing all the various problems.
The effort got off to a good start by identifying many of the
problems, ranging from declining fish populations to fragmented
upland habitats. But the complexity of those problems, the
variability of conditions and the numerous agencies responsible for
data and decisions eventually overwhelmed the planners. It was as
if they were trying to complete a jigsaw puzzle containing a
The coordinating council decided to refocus the effort on issues
that are under its purview while maintaining the long-term vision
of a sustainable Hood Canal ecosystem that benefits humans in a
variety of ways.
“Ideally, we will eventually get to all the issues,” said Scott
Brewer, the council’s executive director. “The board decided it
wanted to focus on something that would be the first strategic
priorities and then pick up the other things over time.”
In this context, the plan identifies five focal components:
Commercial shellfish harvesting,
Also, four major “pressures” are called out for special
Commercial and residential development,
Transportation and service corridors,
Climate change and ocean acidification, and
Wastewater discharges and stormwater runoff.
These are issues that the county and tribal leaders were already
addressing in one way or another, either through local actions or
through the Hood Canal Coordinating Council, which is recognized
under state law.
The new website OurHoodCanal.org highlights the connections
between human well-being and natural resources. The first findings
focus on three natural resource indicators — one each for
shellfish, forests and salmon — plus five indicators for human well
being — positive emotions, communication, traditional resource
practices, communities, natural resource industries and access to
last year, for example, showed that Hood Canal generates
positive emotions (at least most of the time) for the vast majority
of respondents, yet most Hood Canal residents say they don’t often
work together to manage resources, prepare cultural events or solve
“This is a work in progress,” Scott said about the planning
effort and related website. “We can start by telling a really good
story about what is happening in Hood Canal, then going on to make
connections and asking whether we are doing the right things.”
The first strategies identified in the plan involve:
Working together on local land-use planning,
Identifying failing septic systems and other sources of
Continuing projects to restore healthy runs of salmon,
Furthering a mitigation program to fully compensate for the
effects of development,
Finding ways to adapt to climate change, and
Developing a regional plan to reduce stormwater problems.
Meanwhile, the coordinating council has developed a new ranking
system for setting priorities for salmon restoration. Refinements
will come later, Scott said, but the system is currently being used
to identify restoration projects to be proposed for funding later
Under the Salmon
Recovery Prioritization (see “guidance” document) projects will
be given more consideration if they help highly rated salmon
stocks, such as fall chinook in the Skokomish River, summer chum in
the Big Quilcene and so on. Projects are given points for
addressing specific habitat types and restoration actions deemed to
be the most important.
If successful, this approach will result in funding the most
important restoration projects, as determined through a more
precise ranking process than ever used before, although it does
leave room for judgment calls.
While the Hood Canal Coordinating Council works on projects in
Hood Canal, other groups continue with similar efforts in other
“Everyone is prioritizing one way or another,” Scott told me,
“but they haven’t looked at it like we have.”
Scott said agencies and organizations that grant money for
salmon recovery or ecosystem restoration could call for an improved
ranking process throughout Puget Sound.
“A lot of money gets spread everywhere,” he noted, “but there
are some key spots throughout Puget Sound that need it more than
These are the days of near-perfect growing conditions for plants
in Western Washington. If you are battling noxious weeds, it might
seem as if the weather is working against you, favoring these
destructive invaders along with other plants.
But one team of weed warriors, hoping to eradicate an invasive
plant called spartina, sees this growing season another way.
Instead of hindering the eradication effort, this rapid growth of
spartina — also known as cordgrass — makes it easier to locate and
eliminate the last of the invaders.
“The bad thing is you get a lot more plants than you expect,”
said Chad Phillips, spartina coordinator for the Washington State
Department of Agriculture. “The good thing is that a lot of the
plants you might not have seen (in a normal year) have germinated,
so you can get rid of them.”
Over the past 12 years, the total estimated acreage occupied by
spartina in Washington state has been reduced from 9,000 acres to
just eight acres. It has been a coordinated effort involving local,
state and federal agencies; tribal governments; universities;
private landowners; and many volunteers.
The search-and-destroy mission will continue, because the plants
have a way of coming back, sometimes showing up in new
Left unchecked, spartina spreads rapidly, crowding out native
vegetation while converting ecologically important mudflats into
meadows choked with a hardy marsh grass. Besides wrecking shellfish
beds, spartina wipes out shoreline habitat for shorebirds and
waterfowl while increasing the risk of flooding, experts say.
Those involved in the spartina effort this year are expected to
look for spartina plants — and eliminate any they find — over more
than 80,000 acres of saltwater estuaries and 1,000 miles of
shoreline in 12 counties.
After working for years in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor,
spartina crews turned their focus last year to Puget Sound, where
about 90 percent of the remaining spartina-infested acreage can be
found. The map on this page uses black triangles to depict areas
where spartina has been eradicated.
When crews go into an area, they remove all the plants they can
find. Individual plants or clusters of plants can be dug by hand,
whereas larger infestations may be treated with herbicide.
Crews typically return to a given site twice in a year. A site
is considered eradicated if no plants are seen for at least three
years with a minimum of six surveys. After that, they will
typically return once a year to make sure the plants don’t come
The crews are scheduled to visit every shoreline at least once
every five years to look for any new infestations of spartina.
The workers obtain permission from property owners before
removing or killing plants. But often the neighbors are unaware of
what they are doing. Chad said it is not unusual for neighbors to
approach crew members to ask why they are there. Sometimes, the
crews are suspected of being shellfish poachers.
“If you see us working, feel free to come over and say ‘hi,’”
Chad said. “We’ll be on a beach in knee boots with a shovel.”
In Kitsap County, the largest infestation has been at
Doe-Kag-Wats, an estuary on the Port Madison Indian Reservation
north of Indianola in North Kitsap. After years of removing
truckloads of vegetation, the total infestation there was down to
61 square feet last year.
Another infested area has been Foulweather Bluff near Hansville,
where 24 square feet of spartina were removed.
Areas considered active because of recent infestations but where
no plants were found last year are Manzanita Bay on Bainbridge
Island and Coon Bay near Manchester.
Mason and Thurston are the only counties that have never had an
infestation, but beaches in those counties remain part of the
ongoing five-year survey cycle.
In Puget Sound, most of the spartina found has been identified
as the species Spartina anglica, or common cordgrass. This
species was introduced to Snohomish County in 1961. The largest
infestation in the state today is an area in South Skagit Bay and
Port Susan near Stanwood.
Bays on the Pacific Ocean contain primarily Spartina
alterniflora, known as smooth cordgrass or saltmarsh
cordgrass. It was introduced to Willapa Bay in the late 1800s,
eventually spreading to 8,500 acres. Since 2003, about 99.9 percent
of that spartina acreage has been killed or removed, making it one
of the largest eradications of an invasive species anywhere in the
Spartina patens, known as saltmeadow cordgrass or salt
marsh hay, is a native of the Atlantic Coast. It was discovered in
the 1990s at Dosewallips State Park on Hood Canal. Dosewallips held
the only known infestation of S. patens in Washington
state until 2013, when a survey crew found the plant on Navy
property on the Toandos Peninsula across from the Bangor submarine
base. After receiving permission, the site was treated in 2014.
Ongoing efforts will be necessary, as the invasive plant blends in
well with native marsh plants.
After much success in cleaning up streams in Kitsap County,
pollution investigators for the Kitsap Public Health District plan
to turn their backs on most state and federal grants and reorganize
their approach to local waterways.
I’m talking about the folks who literally wrote the book on
pollution identification and correction, or PIC, a strategic
approach to tracking down bacterial contamination and eliminating
the sources. A 2012
“Protocol Manual” (PDF 10.6 mb) and a 2014
“guidance document” (PDF 4.3 mb) — both developed by Kitsap’s
pollution investigators — are now being used by local health
departments throughout the state.
That’s why I was surprised to hear that the health district
plans to change course for its pollution-cleanup program this fall
— especially the part about reducing reliance on state and federal
grants. For many Puget Sound jurisdictions, these grants provide
the major sources of funding, if not the only funding for their PIC
Kitsap County is fortunate to have a stormwater fee collected
from rural property owners. For single-family homeowners, the fee
will be $82 this year. The money goes into the Clean Water Kitsap
program, which funds a multitude of clean-water projects —
including street-sweeping, improving stormwater systems and
restoring natural drainage.
The fee also supports the health district’s ongoing monitoring
program, a monthly sampling of more than 50 Kitsap County streams,
along with lakes and marine waters. The program has successfully
reported improvements in various streams while providing
early-warning signs for water-quality problems. The program was
started in 1996.
None of that will change, according to Stuart Whitford,
supervisor for the health district’s PIC Program. While state and
federal grants have been helpful in tracking down pollution
problems, most of the major problems have been identified, he
“We know what we have, and the patient has been stabilized,” he
The problem with grants is that they require specific
performance measures, which must be carefully documented and
reported quarterly and in final reports.
“The administrative burden is heavy, and the state grants don’t
fully pay for the overhead,” Stuart said. “Looking out into the
future, we think state and federal grants will be reduced. We are
already seeing that in the Legislature. So we are going to wean
ourselves off the grants.”
Future efforts need to focus on identifying failing septic
systems and sources of animal waste before they become a serious
problem, Stuart told me. The process of doing that is firmly
established in local plans. Work will continue, however, on nagging
pollution problems that have not been resolved in some streams. And
he’s not ruling out applying for grants for specific projects, if
the need returns.
To increase efficiency in the ongoing program, health district
staff will be reorganized so that each investigator will focus on
one or more of the 10 watersheds in the county. In the process, the
staff has been cut by one person. The assignments are being made
now and will be fully implemented in the fall.
“The stream monitoring will remain the same,” Stuart said. “But
each person will be able to do more intensive monitoring in their
Having one investigator responsible for each watershed will
allow that person to become even more intimately acquainted with
the landscape and the water-quality issues unique to that area.
Because of the extensive problems in Sinclair Inlet, two people
will be assigned to that drainage area, which includes a good
portion of South Kitsap and West Bremerton.
Dave Garland, regional water-quality supervisor for the
Department of Ecology, said he, too, was surprised that the Kitsap
Public Health District wishes to avoid grants, but he is confident
that Stuart Whitford knows what he is doing.
“They are definitely leaders in the state and have been very
successful in their approach,” he said. “We wish more health
districts and surface water departments would be more like Kitsap.
They are improving as they go.”
Garland said Kitsap County officials have done more than anyone
to remove streams and waterways from the “impaired waters” list
that Ecology compiles. The list — also known as 303(d) under the
federal Clean Water Act — is part of Ecology’s
“Water Quality Assessment,” now being finalized for submission
to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
In 2008, Kitsap County had 69 stream segments listed as
“impaired.” As a result of work over six years, now only 7 are
proposed for the upcoming list. Many streams were removed when they
came under state cleanup plans for Dyes and Sinclair inlets,
between Port Orchard and Silverdale, or in Liberty Bay near
Poulsbo. Those state plans identify cleanup efforts to reduce
pollution loading and bring the waters into conformance with state
water-quality standards. They are called TMDLs, short for total
maximum daily loads.
Because the Kitsap County PIC Program has been so successful,
Ecology has allowed the local program to substitute for TMDL
studies for many streams where stormwater outfalls are not an
issue. Under the Clean Water Act, the local program comes under
Category 4B (for local planning), as opposed to 4A (the state’s
“No one has done a more thorough job,” Dave said of Kitsap’s
effort. “It is very impressive to see that they have gone to TMDLs
or to 4B. That does not mean the waters are clean, but it means
they are under a plan.”
Of the remaining seven “impaired” water bodies, some should be
removed because of Kitsap’s cleanup plans, Stuart said. They
include Anderson Creek and Boyce Creek, which flow into Hood Canal,
and Murden Creek on Bainbridge Island, which is undergoing a
special study. Phinney Creek in Dyes Inlet is already part of a
TMDL, and an area in southern Hood Canal should not be on the list
because it meets water-quality standards, he said. Stuart hopes to
get those changes made before the list is submitted to EPA this
Currently, nothing is being done with regard to Eagle Harbor or
Ravine Creek, two “impaired” water bodies on Bainbridge Island. The
health district’s program does not extend to cities, although
Bainbridge could contract with the health district for monitoring
Eagle Harbor could become subject to a TMDL study by the
Department of Ecology, but it is not currently on the state’s
priority list. As a result, work is not likely to begin for at
least two years.
The Environmental Protection Agency has finally completed a new
rule that defines which waterways across the country fall under
federal jurisdiction for clean-water permits.
Enforcement of the federal Clean Water Act has been stuck in a
state of confusion since 2006, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled
that the Army Corps of Engineers was overreaching by requiring
permits for all sorts of waterways beyond the agency’s
jurisdiction. For background, check out my
Water Ways post from March 25, 2014, in which I describe the
court’s interpretation of “waters of the U.S.” — the key phrase in
The EPA requisitioned a scientific report about hydraulic
connectivity, concluding that even small streams can affect
downstream waters. The final language in the rule, designed to
reduce judgment calls by federal regulators, says tributaries would
come under federal jurisdiction only if capable of delivering
significant pollution downstream. Such tributaries would need to
have flowing water or related features — such as a streambed, bank
or high-water mark.
The rule has worried farmers, who want to make sure the federal
government does not try to regulate ditches designed for irrigation
and drainage. Language in the final rule says ditches will not be
regulated unless they are shown to be a remnant of a natural stream
that has been diverted or altered.
Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary for the Army, said the rule
represents a “new era” for the Clean Water Act. As she stated in a
“This rule responds to the public’s demand for greater clarity,
consistency, and predictability when making jurisdictional
determinations. The result will be better public service
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the rule is grounded in
science and law. For downstream waters to be clean, upstream waters
also must be clean, she said.
McCarthy said the language was revised significantly since the
first proposal, taking into account more than a million public
comments and discussions in 400 meetings across the country. As she
told reporters in a telephone conference call:
“I think you will see that we have made substantial changes that
basically made this rule clearer, crisper and did the job we were
supposed to do. And I’m very proud of the work we have done
McCarthy also told the reporters that climate change increases
the importance of protecting water resources:
“Impacts from climate change — like more intense droughts,
storms, fires and floods, not to mention sea-level rise — affect
our water supplies. But healthy streams and wetlands can help
protect communities by trapping flood waters, retaining moisture
during drought, recharging groundwater supplies, filtering
pollution and providing habitat for fish and wildlife.”
The new rule was applauded by many environmental groups,
including the Sierra Club. Michael Brune, executive director,
“No longer will the Supreme Court’s confusing decisions on the
issue allow dirty fossil fuel companies to threaten people’s health
by dumping toxins into our lakes, rivers, and streams.”
Still, plenty of people contend that the EPA and Army Corps have
contrived this new rule to continue their over-reach into streams
that should be beyond federal jurisdiction. House Speaker John
Boehner, R- Ohio, issued
this statement in response to the EPA’s release of the new
rule, sometimes called “WOTUS” for “waters of the U.S.”
“The administration’s decree to unilaterally expand federal
authority is a raw and tyrannical power grab that will crush jobs.
House members of both parties have joined more than 30 governors
and government leaders to reject EPA’s disastrous WOTUS rule. These
leaders know firsthand that the rule is being shoved down the
throats of hardworking people with no input and places landowners,
small businesses, farmers and manufacturers on the road to a
regulatory and economic hell.”
The House has already passed a bill, HB
1732, that would put the brakes on implementation of the new
rule and send the EPA back to the drawing board for new language.
As you could expect, the vote was mostly along party lines. If the
Senate approves the bill, it is likely to be vetoed by the
The new rule is scheduled to go into effect 60 days from its
publication in the Federal Register. For more details, visit the
EPA’s website “Clean
Bremerton has another winner in the Wyland Foundation’s National
Mayor’s Challenge. Teacher Bobbi Busch and her seventh and eighth
grades classes at Mountain View Middle School were declared the
Northwest regional winner in the Classroom Edition of the
The 100 or so students in Busch’s three seventh-grade and two
eighth-grade classes joined the competition simply by going online,
taking the water pledge and listing their teacher.
Busch said she heard about the contest from Bremerton’s Kathleen
Cahall during a meeting of science and math teachers. One winner
was chosen at random from each region of the country. Thanks to the
effort, Busch will receive a $250 gift card for purchasing supplies
for her classroom, and the school principal will receive an
identical $250 card to buy something for the school.
Bremerton came in third this year in the National Mayor’s
Challenge for Water Conservation, a contest that encourages people
to take a pledge to save water.
Third place is a very good showing, but not as good as the past
two years, when Bremerton took the first-place spot in the nation.
In 2012 — the first year of the contest — Bremerton came in third
as well. That makes Bremerton the only city to place among the top
three for its size in all four years of the contest, noted Kathleen
Cahall, Bremerton’s water resources manager.
The two cities that exceeded Bremerton’s efforts this year were
Ponway, Calif., in first place, and Hot Springs, Ark., in second.
Each had more people, by percentage, who took the pledge than those
lower on the list. Olympia, which is in the same population
category as Bremerton (30,000 to 100,000), came in ninth, not a bad
showing at all.
Seattle came in eighth among cities with populations of 600,000
and more. No other cities in Washington state made the list of the top
If Bremerton area residents carry through on their pledges, they
will save enough water to fill 24 Olympic-size swimming pools each
year, according to a news release from the
Wyland Foundation (PDF 360 kb), which sponsors the competition.
That’s 15.6 million gallons.
Beyond the water savings, Bremerton area residents agreed to
reduce their use of disposable water bottles by 46,424 bottles,
according to the report. Other proposed actions could save 495,000
pounds of trash going to the landfills, 138,000 gallons of oil and
75 million pounds of carbon dioxide.
In all, residents from more than 3,900 cities signed more than
391,000 online pledges to save water. As in last year’s contest,
residents from the winning cities will be entered into a drawing
for more than $50,000 in prizes.
Kathleen Cahall and city employees Lisa Campbell, Teresa
Sjostrom and Kelsie Donleycott did a good job getting the word out
about this year’s challenge, and many local businesses provided
information to their customers. As always, Mayor Patty Lent’s
personal involvement and interest in water resources helped
generate support for Bremerton’s high standing in the contest.
On a somewhat related topic, state and local water-quality
officials have been spreading the word this month about using
commercial car washes to recycle washwater from vehicles. The goal
is to save water and prevent pollution from going into storm drains
that flush into streams and bays.
The 3 million cars in the Central Puget Sound region can
contribute nearly 10,000 gallons of gasoline, diesel and motor oil
to waterways each year, along with 19,000 pounds of phosphorus and
nitrogen, 2,900 pounds of ammonia and 1.4 million pounds of solid
waste, according to a news release from the
Puget Sound Car Wash Association.
School and other nonprofit groups can sell tickets to car washes
— an alternative to holding car washes in parking lots that lack
adequate controls for pollution. In Kitsap County, check out the
Wash Program. One can also contact local car wash operators
directly, or view a list of operators in
the Puget Sound region that have joined the PSCWA program.
As far as I know, nobody has come up with a good name for the
type of pollution that gets picked up by rainwater that flows
across the ground, carrying contaminants into ditches, streams and
eventually large waterways, such as Puget Sound.
“Stormwater pollution” is a term I have frequently used. But
Sheida Sahandy, executive director of Puget Sound Partnership, made
a good point when I interviewed her last summer about the perils of
“I don’t really like calling it ‘stormwater,’” Sheida told me.
“It doesn’t have much to do with storms. It has to do with people.
We’re talking about our dirt, our detritus, our filth. Everyone has
it, and we all dump it into the sound to one degree or
Stormwater is relatively pure when it falls from the sky as
rain. It only gets dirty because the runoff picks up dirt, toxic
chemicals, bacteria and other wastes, mostly left behind by
“Stormwater has gotten a bad wrap,” Sheida said. “It’s really
what we’ve done to the poor thing that makes it evil.”
Officially, the Environmental Protection Agency and Washington
Department of Ecology tend to call it “nonpoint source pollution.”
It’s a term that tells us what this kind of pollution is not.
Specifically, it is not pollution coming from a point source, such
as a pipe. But “nonpoint” does not describe what it really is.
Technically, nonpoint pollution is more than stormwater. It
includes waterborne sources such as marinas and atmospheric
deposition from air pollution. Taken together, this form of
pollution remains the most serious threat facing those who would
clean up and protect Puget Sound.
We need a new term like “mess-left-behind pollution,” because it
generally results from someone leaving some kind of contamination
on the ground — such as animal waste or leaking motor oil — or
failing to anticipate future problems — such as those caused by
toxic flame retardants in furniture or mercury from a multitude of
coal-fired power plants.
Agriculture, including livestock wastes;
fertilizers and pesticides; and erosion from grazing practices and
over-cultivation of fields.
Atmospheric deposition, including emissions
from automobile, industrial and agricultural sources and backyard
burning of trash.
Forest practices, including turbidity from
erosion caused by loss of vegetation and road-building, as well as
pesticides and fertilizers from forest applications.
including increased temperature from loss of vegetation or water
impoundment; turbidity from erosion caused by shoreline alteration;
and increased bacteria and chemical concentrations from loss of
Recreation, including sewage, paint and
solvents from boats.
Urban/suburban areas, including bacteria from
failing septic systems, pet wastes and urban wildlife; erosion from
construction and landscaping; lawn chemicals; road runoff; chemical
spills; and increased stream temperature from loss of
UPDATE: April 24, 2015
Cliff Mass, professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of
Washington, says in his
blog that it is too early to be predicting severe drought in
Western Washington this summer because of possible late-spring
“I believe the media and some local politicians have gotten a
bit too worried about our ‘drought.’ We have NOT had a
precipitation drought at all….we are in a snow drought due to warm
temperatures. The situation is unique and I suspect we will weather
this summer far better than expected.”
The word seems to be getting around about the record-low
snowpack in the mountains, which could create a shortage of
drinking water and even lead to problems for salmon swimming
upstream. Read about Gov. Jay Inslee’s expanded drought emergency, issued
today, as well as the last
update from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Kitsap Peninsula and the islands of Puget Sound are in their own
worlds, fairly insulated from what is happening in the higher
elevations. In these lower elevations, the key to water supplies is
rainfall, not snow, and the outlook for the year is normal so
As you can see from the charts on this page (click to enlarge),
this year’s rainfall has been tracking closely the long-term
average. If the rains are light and steady, much of the water will
soak into the ground and recharge the aquifers where most area
residents get their water. The aquifer levels tend to rise and fall
over multiple years, depending on the rainfall.
Casad Dam on the Union River, which supplies a majority of
Bremerton’s water, filled in January, well ahead of schedule, said
Kathleen Cahall, water resources manager for the city. The dam is
scheduled for a normal drawdown, and Kathleen said she does not
expect any water shortage.
“We filled the reservoir fairly early this year,” she said. “We
are looking pretty good for the summer.”
October, the first month of the water year, was unusually wet,
Kathleen said. December precipitation also was high. The other
months were fairly normal for precipitation.
Precipitation in the Puget Sound region is expected to be below
average for June, July and August, according to models by the
NOAA’s Climate Prediction
Center. Interestingly, large portions of the Central and
Southwest U.S., Alaska and Florida can expect above-average
precipitation. See U.S. map.
Streams on the Kitsap Peninsula are fed by surface water flows
and shallow aquifers. At the moment, most of the streamflows are
near their historical average. That’s not the case for the larger
rivers in the Northwest, which rush out of the mountains. Most are
well below their normal flows, as shown by the map with the
Low streamflows usually mean higher temperatures and stress for
salmon. Low flows also can affect fish passage in some stretches of
the rivers while also reducing spawning areas.
While things look fairly good on the Kitsap Peninsula now,
things can change quickly. We have different vulnerabilities than
elsewhere. Climate-change models predict that rains will grow more
intense in the future without changing annual precipitation very
much. That means more of the water will run off the land and less
will soak in, potentially reducing aquifer levels over time.
Managing those underground water supplies will become more and more
UPDATE: March 18, 2015
The U.S. Board on Geographic Names on Thursday approved the map
correction outlined in this blog post. The change was made on a
vote of 15-0 with one abstention after the board heard the
explanation about why the correction was needed.
If you check for the name “Heins” on the Geographic
Names Information System, the official names database, you will
find updated coordinates for Heins and Alexander lakes. If you plot
the coordinates, you’ll probably find that the map still bears the
incorrect name. I’m not aware of any map that has been updated, but
this should take place over time, according to officials with the
U.S. Geological Survey.
A pair of lakes long hidden within Bremerton’s vast watershed —
Heins Lake and Alexander Lake — should have their names reversed on
future maps, according to officials with the U.S. Board on
The switch-around is designed to correct a map error that
apparently occurred in 1953.
The map correction, scheduled to be endorsed March 12 by the
federal naming board, will fulfill efforts by Sue Hein Plummer to
get the maps corrected. Sue is a descendant of the homesteader for
whom Heins Lake is named.
I met Sue in 2012 when I accompanied members of her family to
the old homestead in the watershed (Kitsap
Sun, Sept. 30, 2012). It was then that Sue told me that the
names had been reversed on an old Metsker’s map sometime after
1928, and she had been unable to convince the mapmakers to change
Sue is a history buff and the genealogist in the family. The old
homestead was closest to Heins Lake, which has been called
Alexander Lake on all modern maps.
It frustrated her that mapmakers wanted to leave the names
alone, wrong as they were. She knew that if she did not get the
names corrected soon, they could stay wrong for all eternity. Odd
as it seems, we might be stuck with Heins Creek running out of
Alexander Lake. when it should be associated with Heins Lake, she
I told her about the Washington State Committee on Geographic
Names, which has the power to change any name in the state. With
her extensive research, I thought she would eventually convince
both the state and federal naming boards to make an official
It never went that far, because staff of both boards came to
recognize the error, so a name change was not needed. All that is
needed is to change the location of Heins and Alexander
lakes in the Geographic
Names Information System — a database that records the official
names and locations of geographic features.
During an investigation, Jennifer Runyon, a staff researcher for
the U.S. board, found some field notes from 1953, in which two
people working at the Gorst Creek pumping station said the name of
the northern lake should be Heins — opposite of what the maps said
in 1937 and before.
Here’s what a typed portion of the notes say:
“The name Alexander Lake would apply to the southernmost lake,
according to those who work for the Bremerton watershed and are
familiar with the area. According to the city engineer, the
northernmost lake has long been known as Alexander. This view would
seem most widespread locally…”
In handwriting, these notes follow:
“according to the city engineer. Though the city engineer’s view
seemed possible, it was not in accordance with the personnel who
work with the name daily at the Gorst Creek pump plant.”
The notes named the two plant workers who must have gotten the
names turned around: “Mr. Jarstad, foreman of the Gorst Creek Pump
Plant,” and “O.R. Moritz, pump operator.”
“Mr. Jarstad” is presumably Otto Jarstad, for whom the city park
at the abandoned pump plant is named.
Sue Hein Plummer thinks the mistake may have been made on some
maps before 1953 and that Jarstad and Moritz just wanted to leave
the names alone.
Kitsap County Auditor’s Office has already made the change on
county maps. Runyon told me the change is likely to be made in the
federal database within two days of the March 12 meeting of the
U.S. Board of Geographic Names, — assuming no further issues
By the way, Heins Lake — which probably should have been “Hein’s
Lake” based on the name Hein — now belongs to Ueland Tree Farm as a
result of a land trade with the city of Bremerton. At least that’s what the maps
indicate. Check out Josh Farley’s story,
Kitsap Sun, April 14, 2014.Once the maps get corrected, Ueland
will actually own Alexander Lake — the northernmost lake — and
Heins Lake will remain in the Bremerton watershed.