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.
Jimmy Fallon and Bill Gates together make an interesting
combination. One is about finding new ways to solve serious world
problems, while the other is looking for new ways to surprise and
Bill gates recently challenged Jimmy Fallon to the “ultimate
taste test” involving two glasses of water. Jimmy would try to tell
the difference between bottled water and sewage effluent from an
innovative treatment plant built in Sedro Woolley, south of
Bellingham. As you’ll see from the video, there was a bit of
In his blog,
“Gates Notes,” Bill Gates describes the Omniprocessor, designed
by Janicki Bioenergy of Washington state. A video on that page
(shown here) demonstrates how the processor works, with an ending
in which Gates drinks water that had been in the form of human
feces just minutes before.
Gates makes the most of this humorous but deadly serious issue,
knowing that one of the greatest health threats in the developing
world is contaminated drinking water — and that a machine could
help solve the problem.
The Omniprocessor burns dried human waste as fuel to dry more
waste as it comes into the plant, providing an endless supply of
fuel that can be burned at a very high temperature, thus
controlling air emissions. The drying process produces steam, which
can run a generator for electricity. The water vapor is cooled and
goes through a final filter to produce clean drinking water.
I’ve read many articles written about the Omniprocessor over the
past month, but Mark Stayton of the
Skagit Valley Herald wrote the most informative piece I’ve
A working prototype is scheduled to be fabricated this spring in
Dakar, Senegal, West Africa, and go into use soon after. Graphics
and photos are available on the Omniprocessor home
I’ll be interested to see how this entire operation works in
practice. Not much is said about getting the waste to the machine.
Apparently, some locations have trucks that pump out latrines and
then dump the untreated waste someplace else, risking contamination
to groundwater or surface water. Transportation of the waste/fuel
might be less of an issue in cities with inadequate
sewage-treatment plants, but I don’t know how efficient trucks
would be in rural areas, where roads are often a problem.
Anyway, I will try to keep you informed about the Omniprocessor
and similar technology in the months to come.
While funding for Washington’s “basic education” remains a
potential budget-buster, some legislators are beginning to worry
about a $2.4-billion financial pitfall involving culverts and
In 2013, a federal judge ordered Washington state to replace
nearly 1,000 culverts that block or impede fish passage along
Western Washington streams. The $2.4-billion cost, as estimated by
the Washington State Department of Transportation, amounts to about
$310 million per biennium until the deadline of 2030.
Nobody has even begun to figure out how to come up with that
much money, although the WSDOT has pretty well spelled out the
problem for lawmakers.
In the current two-year budget, the state is spending about $36
million to replace fish-passage barriers, according to Paul Wagner,
manager of the department’s Biology Branch. That’s not including
work on major highway projects.
WSDOT is asking to shift priorities around in its budget to
provide $80 million per biennium for fixing culverts.
Meanwhile, Gov. Jay Inslee’s 12-year transportation plan calls
for increasing revenues to provide money for various improvements
throughout the state, including $360 million for culverts spread
over the 12-year period.
Even if all that funding comes to pass, the state would only
make it about halfway to the goal set by the court when the 2030
Although funding is a serious matter, the effect of fixing the
culverts sooner rather than later could boost salmon habitat and
help with salmon recovery, transportation officials
As of 2013, the agency had completed 282 fish-passage projects,
improving access to nearly 1,000 miles of upstream habitat. Another
10 projects were added in 2014.
Because the lawsuit was brought by 21 Western Washington tribes,
the court order applies to 989 Western Washington culverts, of
which 825 involve significant habitat. The case is related to the
Boldt decision (U.S. v Washington), which determined that tribes
have a right to take fish, as defined by the treaties, and that the
state must not undermine the resource.
The court adopted a design standard for culverts known as the
“stream simulation” model, which requires that the culvert or
bridge be wider than the stream under most conditions and be sloped
like the natural channel.
In an effort to gear up for culvert work, the Department of
Transportation established four design teams to prepare plans for
34 fish-passage projects for the next biennium and scope out
another 75 projects. State officials hope that by having teams to
focus on culverts and bridges, design work will become more
efficient. Agencies also are working together to streamline the
In Kitsap County, the Highway 3 culvert over Chico Creek
presents a real challenge for the department, Paul Wagner told me.
Everyone recognizes the importance of Chico Creek, the most
productive salmon stream on the Kitsap Peninsula. But replacing the
undersized culvert with a new bridge would cost more than $40
million — more than the entire budget for culverts in the current
“There are a lot of culverts,” Wagner said, “and our challenge
is that those on the state highway system are more complicated and
Not only are the state highways the largest, he said, but they
usually cannot be shut down during construction. State highways
typically have more complicated utilities and drainage systems, and
work may require buying new right of way.
Those are all issues for Chico Creek, which was rerouted when
the highway was built in the 1960s. The stream was directed into a
new channel parallel to the highway, crossing under the roadway at
a 90-degree angle.
The new design would restore the original channel, crossing
under the road at a steep angle that makes for a longer bridge. The
new route also could involve changing the interchange at Chico
“That project is definitely one we need to get at,” Wagner said,
“but it eats up a lot of the money we need for other projects.”
Removal of a county culvert under Kittyhawk Drive has increased
interest in removal of the state highway culvert, which lies
immediately upstream of the newly opened channel where the county
culvert was removed. See
Kitsap Sun (subscription), Aug. 26, 2014.
The Legislature will determine how much money will be allocated
to culverts and to some extent which ones get replaced first. New
taxes could be part of the equation for the entire transportation
budget, a major subject of debate this session.
While putting the final touches on a two-year, 10-part series
about the Puget Sound ecosystem, I couldn’t help but wonder about
the true character of Washington state and its citizens.
How much do people really care about salmon and rockfish, eagles
and herons, killer whales, cougars, and many lesser-known species
in and around Puget Sound? Do we have a political system capable of
supporting the needed efforts — financially and legally — to
correct the problems?
After interviewing hundreds of people over the past few years, I
have a pretty good feeling about this state, especially when
considering other parts of the country. There is hope that we can
save some of the remaining gems of the Puget Sound ecosystem while
restoring functioning conditions in other places.
Puget Sound Partnership, which is overseeing the restoration
efforts, still has the support of many people and organizations —
including many conservatives and business-oriented folks. That
support comes despite ongoing struggles by the partnership to find
a proper place within the state’s political system. Review my
latest story in the
Kitsap Sun (subscription).
“Let science lead the way” remains the refrain of both critics
and supporters of the partnership. But that is easier said than
done — even if you could take politics out of the equation.
Scientists in almost any field of research don’t always agree on
the fundamental problems, and there is a competition among
scientific disciplines for limited research dollars. Are endangered
fish more important than endangered birds or endangered whales, or
should we be studying the plankton, sediments and eelgrass that
form the base of the food web?
Really, where should we focus our attention and tax dollars?
That’s a key question. The correct answer is, and always has been,
“All of the above.”
When it comes to funding, the decision-making becomes widely
disbursed, and I’m not sure whether that is good or bad. At the
local level, we have Lead Entities and Local Integrating
Organizations. At the state level, we have the Salmon Recovery
Funding Board, the Recreation and Conservation Funding Board and
Then there is the Puget Sound Partnership, with its seven-member
Leadership Council and 28-member Ecosystem Coordination Board,
along with its science advisory panel. The partnership establishes
an Action Agenda to guide funding decisions by the others.
One would never want an individual man or woman deciding where
the money should go. But do the various groups help identify
important problems, or do they diffuse attention from what could be
a focused strategy? I believe this will always be somewhat a
One thing I confirmed in the final installment of the 10-part
series “Taking the Pulse of
Puget Sound” is that nobody was ever serious about a deadline
established in the law creating the Puget Sound Partnership.
Restoring Puget Sound by the year 2020 remains on the books as a
goal that needs to be changed.
If officials acknowledge that the goal cannot be met, will the
Legislature and the public continue their support for the current
level of funding or perhaps increase support?
That gets back to my wondering about the true character of
Washington state and its citizens. Based on past legislation, this
state is clearly a leader in ecosystem protection. We have the
Shoreline Management Act, the Growth Management Act (with its
urban-concentration and critical-areas protections), Municipal
Stormwater Permits, Forest Practices Act and more.
Are we ready to go all the way, by setting interim goals for
2020 and looking to the long term? We will need to better track
progress, which means gathering more data in the field —
monitoring, if you will.
Monitoring is not as inspiring as restoring an important
estuary. But think of all the time and money spent on forecasting
the weather, which relies entirely on monitoring with costly
investments in satellites and equipment, all needing continual
Envision a significant role for experts who can describe changes
in the ecosystem and help us decide if our money is being well
spent. If weather reporters can hold a central role on the evening
news, why shouldn’t we have ecosystem reporters discussing
I wouldn’t mind hearing a report on the news something like
this: “We are seeing improved conditions in southern Hood Canal,
with scattered salmon spawning at upper elevations, and a 90
percent chance that oyster beds will be opened in Belfair.” (Just
kidding, of course.)
Puget Sound Partnership’s proposed budget, as submitted by the
governor, contains more than $1 million for assessing Puget Sound
recovery. That could be an important step to providing information
about how the ecosystem is responding to the hundreds of millions
of dollars spent on protection and restoration so far.
In writing about the future for the final part of the “Pulse”
series, I described a 2008 report from the University of
Urban Ecology Research Lab. The report identified the primary
“drivers” of change that would determine the future of the Puget
It was interesting to learn that if we are lucky about climate
change — or even if we’re not so lucky — the future is largely in
our hands. How will we react to economic ups and downs? How will we
address land use with millions of new people coming in? Will we
embrace technology as the final solution or look to nature for
The report describes six remarkably different scenarios, though
others could be constructed. Perhaps the worst one is called
“Collapse,” in which warning signs of ecological problems are
ignored and economic challenges are met by relaxing environmental
regulations and allowing residential sprawl. In the end, the
ecosystem cannot withstand the assault. Shellfish beds are forced
to close, and hundreds of species — including salmon and orcas —
Two scenarios hold more hopeful outcomes. One, called “Forward,”
includes public investments to purchase sensitive areas, including
shorelines. Growth becomes concentrated in cities, and people learn
to fit into the ecosystem. The other, called “Adaptation,” includes
grassroots efforts to save water and resources and improve people’s
ecological behavior. Protecting shorelines, floodplains and
wildlife corridors help reduce flooding and protect species that
could have been wiped out. Check out
“Scenarios offer glimpses of a possible future for Puget
Sound,” Kitsap Sun (subscription).
Joel Baker, director of Puget Sound Institute, capped off my
“futures” story with a sense of optimism, which I find contagious.
I don’t know if Joel was thinking of the Frank Sinatra song, “New
York, New York” which contains the line, “If I can make it there,
I’ll make it anywhere.” But Joel told me something like, “If we
can’t make it here, we can’t make it anywhere.”
Here are his exact words:
“As an environmental scientist, I find it interesting that
things are starting to come together. We continue to grow
economically, so we have the money.
“Energy is lining up with the environment, and we’re forcing the
restoration program to think holistically. It’s as much about
transportation as it is about sewage-treatment plants.
“The Pacific Northwest is technologically savvy; we have smart
people here; and we have the collective will to get things done. So
I’m optimistic about cleaning up Puget Sound. If we can’t do it
here, God help the rest of the country.”
The Army Corps of Engineers is moving forward on a $40-million
restoration program along the Skokomish River, as I mentioned in
Water Ways last week.
According to Rachel Mesko of the Army Corps of Engineers, two
major projects have been dropped from the “tentatively selected
plan” for the Skokomish, which flows into the south end of Hood
Canal. That leaves five major projects to advance forward for a
likely recommendation to Congress.
It’s hard to remember how long I’ve been writing about the Army
Corps of Engineers’ involvement in the Skokomish. So I looked it
up. The agency completed a flood analysis in 1988, considered
dredging options in 1995 and began work on the current “general
investigation” in 2000.
Before I talk about the projects being proposed, I’d like to
recall what is at stake in the Skokomish, often cited as the most
frequently flooded river in Washington state. Many people believe
that the restoration of Hood Canal, a gem of an ecosystem, cannot
be successful without first fixing the Skokomish, where individual
restoration projects have been underway for years.
“High sediment load, reduced flows and encroachment on the
floodplain by man-made structures are causing continued degradation
of natural ecosystem structures, functions, and processes necessary
to support critical fish and wildlife habitat throughout the
“The decline in populations has resulted in the listing of four
anadromous fish species under the Endangered Species Act — chinook
salmon, chum salmon, steelhead, and bull trout — that use the river
as their primary habitat.
“The impaired ecosystem has adversely affected riverine,
wetland, and estuarine habitats that are critical to these and
other important fish and wildlife species such as bears, bald
eagles and river otters to name a few.”
Let me list some of the specific problems:
Historical removal of large woody debris has simplified the
stream, wiping out pools, eliminating places for young fish to hide
and reducing nutrients, which feed aquatic insects and support an
entire food web.
Logging along the river has eliminated the supply of large
woody debris, the shade to cool the stream and the overhanging
vegetation, a key part of the food web. Logging also has increased
erosion which prevents new vegetation from taking hold, smothers
salmon eggs and fills in pools, where salmon can rest.
Levees built to protect farmland from flooding halted the
natural movement of the river, known as channel migration, and
prevented the formation of new habitats.
Logging upstream in the South Fork of the Skokomish River and
Vance Creek increased erosion and movement of sediment into the
lower river, cutting off fish access to side channels, wetlands and
other aquatic habitats.
The Cushman Dam Project blocked 25 percent of the mainstem
habitat and 18 percent of tributary habitat available for salmon in
the North Fork of the Skokomish River. Reduced flows below the dam
increased sedimentation in the lower Skokomish. As a result, about
a mile of the river dries up about two months each summer, blocking
Highways 101 and 106 disrupted natural floodplains that can be
used by fish to find food and to escape high flows and then find
their way back to the river.
Five projects designed to reduce these problems are being
proposed by the Army Corps of Engineers:
Car body levee removal: This levee was built
with old cars at the confluence where the North Fork flows into the
mainstem of the Skokomish. Some 5,000 feet of the levee would be
removed. A small channel would be created to allow water from the
mainstem to flow into the North Fork and return at the existing
confluence. Large woody debris would help direct water into the
channel. Estimated cost: $7.5 million.
Large woody debris: Upstream of the confluence
with the North Fork, large woody debris would be installed. Large
clusters of trees with root wads, as well as some single trees,
would be placed between river mile 9 and 11, as measured from the
estuary in Hood Canal. Estimated cost: $3.2 million.
Setback levee at river mile 9: The existing
levee would be breached in four locations, and a new levee would be
built some 200 to 300 feet farther away. The levee would allow for
minor over-topping but would not increase the flood risk. Estimated
cost: $2.4 million.
Grange levee: Larger breeches are planned for
the levee near the Grange hall at river mile 7.5 to 8, compared to
the levee at river mile 9. A new levee, up to 10 feet tall and
2,900 feet long, would be constructed 1,200 feet farther back with
no increase in flood risk. Locations are still under discussion.
Estimate cost $3.3 million.
Side channel connection near Highway 101: An
old remnant channel between river mile 4 and 5.6 would be restored
to take water from the mainstem at high flows. Woody debris would
help define the inlet and outlet to the channel, which would become
a ponded wetland at low flows. Estimated cost: $3.1 million.
The costs above were taken from the feasibility study and do not
include design, planning and related costs.
You might note that the River Mile 9 levee and the Grange levee
fit the concept of “Floodplains by Design,” an idea supported by
The Nature Conservancy and funded by the Washington Legislature
with $44 million. Check out the
Associated Press story.
After discussions with nearby property owners, two projects were
removed from the preliminary list. They involve excavation work on
both Hunter and Weaver creeks to restore the tributaries to more
Rich Geiger, engineer for Mason Conservation District, said the
Skokomish restoration program seems to have wide support among
landowners in the Skokomish Valley as well as among interest
groups, including the Skokomish Watershed Action Team. As a result,
he expects that the project will maintain momentum all the way to
“It is fairly rare to have a watershed working together,” Rich
said at the SWAT meeting. “The ones that are difficult are when you
have two parties, one saying ‘yes’ and other saying, ‘Don’t you
“There is support (for the Skok project) through the Corps chain
of command and all the way up to the national level,” he added.
If things go well, a final plan for the Skokomish could be ready
by late next summer, according to Rachel Mesko.
By the way, I would like to publicly thank the SWAT for the
“certificate of appreciation” I was given for my reporting on
Skokomish River through the years. It’s an honor to be associated
with this group of men and women who are fully committed to seeing
the Skokomish River restored to a healthy ecosystem.
Big money is beginning to come together for planning,
engineering and design of major restoration projects along the
Skokomish River. If approved by Congress, the cost of construction
could exceed $40 million — a lot of money to you and me, but maybe
not so much for the Army Corps of Engineers.
Last week, the state’s Salmon Recovery Funding Board approved
grants for more than 100 projects in 29 counties throughout the
state. The total, from state and federal sources, was about $18
million for this round of funding.
Mason County was one of the big winners this time, receiving
$1.25 million for seven projects, including a $360,000 contribution
to planning and engineering for transformative projects on the
Skokomish. The total cost for a “35-percent level of design” is
expected to be $2.45 million, mostly from the Corps of Engineers.
That level of design is needed to give top officials in the Corps
and members of Congress a good idea of cost before they commit to
the massive undertaking along the Skok.
I’ll address the specific Skokomish River projects, along with
new information from the Corps, in a separate blog post to come.
For now, I’d like to describe other projects approved in the latest
round of SRF Board funding.
In addition to the design work on the Skokomish, the Mason
Conservation District will move ahead with the construction of 21
man-made logjams in the Holman Flats area along the South Fork of
the Skokomish. That is an area that was logged and cleared in
preparation for a dam that was never built.
The clearing destabilized the river and degraded salmon habitat
for more than a mile downstream. The logjams will add structure to
the river and create places for fish to hide and rest, ultimately
improving the channel itself. The $362,000 from the SRF Board will
be supplemented with another $900,000 in grants.
Beards Cove, $297,000: This project, outside of
Belfair on Hood Canal, will remove fill, structures and invasive
plants and restore the grade to the way it was before development
in 1973. The project will restore about a quarter-mile of natural
shoreline and seven acres of tidal marsh. Along with a separate
seven-acre land-preservation agreement and other efforts, about 1.7
miles of Hood Canal shoreline will be preserved forever. Great
Peninsula Conservancy will use a separate $491,000 grant from the
state’s Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program.
Allyn Shoreline, $14,000: Mason Conservation
District will complete final designs to enhance 480 feet of
shoreline along Case Inlet in Allyn, including removal of about 120
feet of bulkhead.
Likes Creek, $85,000: South Puget Sound Salmon
Enhancement Group will remove a culvert under the Simpson railroad
that blocks salmon migration on Likes Creek, a major tributary of
Goldsborough Creek. Another grant will provide $43,000 for the
project, and Mason County will assist with removal of another
Goldsborough Creek, $111,000: Capitol Land
Trust will buy 420 acres on the North Fork of Goldsborough Creek
near Shelton. The property provides habitat for endangered salmon
and steelhead. The land trust will contribute $20,000 in donated
Oakland Bay, $24,000: Capitol Land Trust will
use the money to remove invasive and dead vegetation and maintain
12 acres of shoreline plantings on Deer, Cranberry and Malaney
creeks. About $5,000 in donations will be added.
Three projects were funded in Kitsap County:
Springbrook Creek, $62,000: Bainbridge Island
Land Trust will assess the creek’s watershed and design five
salmon-habitat projects for one of the island’s most productive
streams. The land trust will contribute $11,000 in donations of
Curley Creek, $33,000: Great Peninsula
Conservancy will assess how to protect salmon habitat in Curley
Creek in South Kitsap, one of the largest salmon and steelhead
streams in the area. The conservancy will contribute $6,000 in
donations of labor.
Steelhead assessment, $50,000: Kitsap County
will analyze existing information on steelhead habitat in the East
Kitsap region, south to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, to help with a
recovery plan for the threatened fish. The county will contribute
Other notable projects include the following in King,
Snohomish, Thurston and Whatcom counties:
Mill Creek, $327,000: The city of Kent will
built a floodplain wetland off Mill Creek near the confluence with
the Green River, an important stream for chinook salmon and
steelhead as well as coho, chum and pink salmon and cutthroat
trout. The project includes the construction of 1,000 feet of new
off-channel habitat, where salmon can find refuge and food during
floods, and 43 log structures. Work also will restore seven acres
of native vegetation. A local grant will provide $1.4 million.
Stillaguamish River floodplain, $402,000: The
Stillaguamish Tribe will purchase 200 acres on the North Fork and
main stem of the river, remove invasive plants and restore about 25
acres of riverbank with native vegetation.
Black River wetland, $90,000: Capitol Land
Trust Grant will buy 54 acres to conserve a rare wetland unique to
the Black River and protect 1.3 miles of side channel. The property
is adjacent to 75 acres already protected by the land trust in the
Black River Sub-basin, one of the largest remaining wetland systems
in Western Washington.
Nooksack River logjams: The Nooksack Tribe will
receive $320,000 for logjams in the South Fork Nooksack and
$283,000 for the North Fork Nooksack. Eight logjams in each stream
will slow the river and provide resting pools for salmon. Federal
grants will add $56,000 in the South Fork and $60,000 in the North
In announcing the $18 million in salmon-restoration grants
statewide, Gov. Jay Inslee commented:
“Salmon are important to Washington because they support
thousands of jobs in Washington — fishing, seafood-processing, boat
sales and repair, tourism, and more. When we restore land and water
for salmon, we also are helping our communities. We get less
flooding, cleaner water and better beaches. We also make sure that
our grandchildren will be able to catch a fish or enjoy watching
the return of wild salmon.”
Funding for the grants comes from the sale of state bonds
approved by the Legislature along with the Pacific Coastal Salmon
Recovery Fund, approved by Congress and administered by the
National Marine Fisheries Service.
David Trout, who chairs the SRF Board, said the restoration
projects are a lifeline for salmon:
“Without these grants that fund incredible projects, we wouldn’t
have any salmon. That’s unacceptable. We’ve seen these grants make
a difference. They create jobs, support local communities and their
involvement in salmon recovery, and most importantly the projects
are helping bring back the fish.
“After more than a decade of work, we’ve seen that in many areas
of the state, salmon populations are increasing or staying the
same. At the same time, we still have some important areas where
fish populations are continuing to decline. We can’t get
discouraged and must continue working at this. It’s too important
to stop now.”
Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club has decided against undertaking a
formal environmental cleanup of its property on Seabeck Highway —
at least not any time soon, according to club officials.
The property is listed as a “hazardous site” by the Washington
Department of Ecology, mostly because of lead and metals associated
with shooting activities. The club had entered into the state’s
Voluntary Cleanup Program — which puts a property owner in charge
of the cleanup — but then withdrew from the program in late
Marcus Carter, executive officer for KRRC, told me that the club
had been assured by state officials that if it entered the
Volunteer Cleanup Program, it would not be placed on the state’s
Hazardous Sites List.
“But they went ahead and ranked us anyway,” he said.
I wrote about that ranking in the
Kitsap Sun in January of 2013. The gun range was rated a “2” on
a scale from 1 to 5, with “1” being the worst. I noted in the story
that many sites ranked a “2” go without action for years. KRRC
later disputed the ranking, saying available evidence should place
it no higher than a “3.”
A letter written in October by Bruce
Danielson (PDF 889 kb), attorney for the club, explained why
KRRC was withdrawing from the program. He also noted, “Our
voluntary participation has been an unacceptable drain on valuable
resources that KRRC can no long afford to expend for no
As an example of wasteful spending, Danielson cited a charge for
a “fraudulent” phone call from the state Attorney General’s Office
related to the site. The unwarranted billing was dropped, he noted,
but only after significant effort by club officials.
Marcus Carter said he realizes that the shooting range could get
stuck on the “Hazardous Sites List” for many years, similar to the
situation with the Navy’s Camp Wesley Harris. The abandoned
shooting range on Navy property also was ranked a “2.” Other than
an initial cleanup, the Navy has taken no steps to get the property
removed from the list. For a full list of hazardous sites, download
Hazardous Sites List (PDF 535 kb).
Marcus said the club initiated an extensive recycling program
years ago to regularly remove lead and other contaminants from
earthen berms that stop the bullets. The only contamination outside
the range itself are small amounts of materials where shooting took
place years ago, he said.
“Nothing is leaving our property,” Marcus insisted. “There have
been no suggestions from DOE to make our operations more efficient
or to do anything differently.”
As described in a
Kitsap Sun story in April of 2012, the gun club has been
following an approach generally accepted by the federal
Environmental Protection Agency:
“The club has relied on using EPA’s ‘best management practices’
to avoid being deemed a hazardous waste site subject to cleanup.
State law does not include such provisions, but Ecology endorses
EPA’s suggested practices, which are outlined in a 1997 letter
written by Jeff Hannapel in EPA’s Office of Solid Waste.”
I then quoted from the Hannapel’s letter:
“The agency has taken the position that the discharge of
ammunition or lead shot does not constitute hazardous waste
disposal, because the agency does not consider the rounds from the
weapons to be ‘discarded.’ Furthermore, the lead shot has not been
‘discarded’ by virtue of its discharge at the shooting range,
because the discharge is within the normal and expected use pattern
of the manufactured product. Accordingly, lead shot would be
considered scrap metal for regulatory purposes.”
Ecology officials admit that they don’t have enough money to
force property owners to clean up the most-contaminated sites, let
alone those lower on list.
For several years, the group CK Safe and Quiet, which includes
residents living near the shooting range, has been urging Ecology
to get the site cleaned up. The group has expressed concerns about
contamination leaving the site and getting into nearby
In 2011, the organization filed a notice saying it would sue for
cleanup under the federal Clean Water Act, which allows
citizen-initiated lawsuits. I mentioned the claims in a
Kitsap Sun article at the time.
The group never filed the federal case, pending legal action
against the club by Kitsap County, which focused on land-use and
noise issues. A ruling in the county’s case was recently handed
down by the Washington State Court of Appeals. See
Kitsap Sun story by reporter Josh Farley.
Some members of CK Safe and Quiet say they are now considering a
renewal of their Clean Water Act claims. Ryan Vancil, an attorney
who wrote the
2011 letter (PDF 134 kb), no longer represents the group, but
members are consulting with a new lawyer.
I’ve always heard that downtown Seattle and its waterfront area
were built on a massive amount of fill, but I never knew how
massive until I viewed the video on this page.
According to the researchers involved, Seattle is “one of the
most dramatically re-engineered cities in the United States.”
The video was completed two years ago, but I had not heard of it
until I read a recent blog post by archeologist Peter Lape,
researcher Amir Sheikh, and artist Don Fels, who together make up
the Waterlines Project. The three have collaborated to study the
history of Seattle by focusing on how the shorelines changed over
time. As they state in the
blog post for the Burke Museum:
“For more than ten years, we’ve worked as an informal group,
known as the Waterlines Project, to examine Seattle’s past
landscapes. Drawing from data gathered by geologists,
archaeologists, historians and other storytellers, we are literally
unearthing and imagining our collective pasts…
“What have we found? Among other things, Seattle is one of the
most dramatically re-engineered cities in the United States. From
the dozen or so settlers who founded it on Coast Salish land in
1851 to its current status as America’s fastest growing city,
hardly a decade has gone by without its residents taking on some
major ‘improvement’ projects affecting its shorelines.”
The maps and photos
collected during the Waterlines Project will take you back to
another time. Thanks to photographer Asahel Curtis, much of the
history of our region has been preserved for us to see. Some of his
notable photographs on the waterfront theme:
I’ve completed the seventh story package in a 10-part series
examining the Puget Sound ecosystem, with a special focus on
indicators of ecological health. We’re calling the project “Taking
the Pulse of Puget Sound.”
The latest stories, which ran Sunday and Monday, addressed
freshwater quality. The opening piece looked at the huge amounts of
pollution coming into our streams via stormwater — one of the
highest priorities for cleanup, yet one of the most difficult to
As the Puget Sound Partnership’s executive director Sheida
Sahandy told me, industrial discharges are still a concern, but
they are no longer the biggest problem.
“Now we’re dealing with stormwater, which is trickling in here
and trickling in there, and everybody has a finger in it,” she
Solutions are many, and the goal should be to shut off pollution
at the source, beginning with removing dangerous chemicals from
everyday products. Since the sources of pollution are numerous,
everyone needs to play a part — from cleaning up pet wastes to
properly using of household chemicals to reducing the use of lawn
and garden pesticides. (Those who don’t subscribe to the Kitsap Sun
may still find value in the graphics on the
Freshwater Quality page.)
I led off the first story by showing the increased efforts by
city and county governments to better manage their stormwater
systems, such as pumping out their catch basins, sweeping their
streets and converting outdated stormwater ponds into filtration
systems, commonly known as “rain gardens.”
I also introduced readers to the Washington Stormwater
Center, a research facility in Puyallup where scientists are
testing the effectiveness of rain gardens and pervious pavement.
Jenifer McIntyre, a Washington State University researcher, has
demonstrated that stormwater from highway runoff is 100 percent
effective at killing adult coho salmon. Yet that same stormwater
filtered through soil — such as in a rain garden — is cleaned up
enough that fish can survive, apparently unaffected.
Monday’s story addressed the increasing use of benthic
invertebrates — water bugs — to measure the health of streams. The
bugs are doing double duty, since they are both a measurement of
stream quality and a critical part of the food web for the
Some 27 local governments and organizations are involved in
collecting data on benthic invertebrates from about 850 stream
locations throughout Puget Sound. For results, check out Puget Sound Stream
When I began this project on freshwater quality several weeks
ago, I thought it was going to be easier than some of the other
story packages I have done, such as on fish, birds and marine
mammals. If anything, this issue is more complex. I’ll admit that
I’ve neglected this blog while pursuing these issues, and soon I
will be moving into the issue of freshwater quantity.
Overall, I must say that I’ve been impressed by the many people
dedicated to finding answers to the mysterious problems brought on
by pollution and by those finding solutions even before the
questions are fully identified.