The Encyclopedia of Puget Sound has published the final two
parts of a seven-part series on shorelines, bulkheads and nearshore
As we researched the series, I was able to interact with a lot
of interesting people — from coastal geologists to property owners.
Today’s experts in shoreline ecology credit the late Wolf Bauer
with many of the ideas that have become commonplace in shoreline
restoration. I was pleased when Washington Sea Grant produced a
video tribute to Wolf, who died in January at 103 years old.
One story I wrote, which was published today, involved a boat
ride along the eastern shoreline of North Kitsap, which was the
perfect setting for describing the geology and natural forces that
shape the shoreline. I must thank Hugh Shipman of the Washington
Department of Ecology and Paul Dorn of the Suquamish Tribe for
their expertise. Check out “Sources of
On an earlier boat ride, I joined up with a group of shoreline
property owners who were learning about nearshore ecology and the
benefits of bulkhead removal. The boat trip, sponsored by the Shore
Friendly Kitsap program, is part of a pilot project to introduce
the idea of removing bulkheads.
The tour departed from Brownsville and went up through Liberty
Bay near Poulsbo, where we observed a mixed assortment of houses
and associated shoreline structures. Some of these waterfront homes
were protected with massive rock bulkheads; some featured stubby
wooden walls; and some were surrounded by vegetation with no
bulkhead at all.
“Taking this boat ride lets you see what the natural shoreline
should look like,” said Lee Derror, a Tracyton resident who has
been contemplating whether to remove her bulkhead, built of
Cost of removal is a major obstacle for many property owners —
unless their bulkhead is already failing. The other major concern
is whether alternative “soft shore” protection will be enough to
protect their shoreline from excessive erosion.
Leaving Liberty Bay, the boat headed to Port Madison on
Bainbridge Island to examine the Powel family property, where a
bulkhead was removed in 2013. The 1,500-foot bulkhead removal is
believed to be the largest private removal so far in Puget Sound.
Kitsap Sun, Aug. 29, 2013, or the Shore
Jim Brennan, a consulting marine biologist, told the passengers
that accommodations were made to protect a historic boathouse on
the Powel property by placing large rocks around the foundation.
Also, the beach was sloped back to absorb incoming waves. Other
than that, the shoreline is expected to eventually look much the
way it did in the 1800s, with a reconnected salt marsh providing
food and protection for migrating salmon.
Lee Derror told me that property owners should take a look at
their shoreline from the water side, especially if they plan to
remove their bulkhead. The Kitsap tour was especially helpful, she
said, “because you get to rub elbows with the experts.”
Kitsap’s Shore Friendly pilot project — one of five projects in
the Puget Sound region — will help property owners determine if
bulkhead removal is right for them. It includes with a visit from a
volunteer, followed up by an assessment from an independent
geotechnical engineer. The last time I checked, county officials
were hoping to offer additional boat rides in the future.
Below are the seven shoreline stories written by science writer
Eric Scigliano and myself for the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound and
the online magazine “Salish Sea Currents.” These are published by
the Puget Sound Institute, which is associated with the University
of Washington. Funding came from the Environmental Protection
A new controversy is beginning to rumble over the potential
injury to marine mammals from sounds transmitted in the water.
The National Marine Fisheries Service, also called NOAA
Fisheries, is moving closer to finalizing new “technical guidance”
for assessing temporary and permanent hearing loss in whales and
dolphins caused by human activities — including Navy sonar, seismic
explorations and underwater explosions. The guidance will be used
for approving “take” permits under the Marine Mammal Protection Act
and Endangered Species Act.
Meanwhile, in another development, Navy officials have
acknowledged that Navy personnel made a mistake by using sonar in
Puget Sound without getting approval through the chain of command.
I’ll describe the circumstances of that event in a moment.
The new guidance is focused on hearing loss rather than how the
behavior of marine mammals might change in the presence of loud
noise. Since foraging and social activity are essential among
whales and dolphins, further guidance is expected to assess how
animals may be affected in other ways by noise.
The new guidance does not include mitigation measures for
minimizing the effects of sound. In some cases, the new information
may lead to additional protections for the animals, but in other
cases protections may be reduced, according to information from
Currently, regulators use a single noise threshold for cetaceans
(whales and dolphins) and a single threshold for pinnipeds (seals
and sea lions). They do not account for the different hearing
abilities within the two groups or how different types of sound may
The new acoustic threshold levels divide sounds into two groups:
1) impulsive sounds lasting less than a second, such as from
airguns and impact pile drivers, and 2) non-impulsive sounds, in
which the sound pressure rises and declines more gradually, such as
from sonar and vibratory pile drivers. Measures account for both
peak sound pressure and cumulative sound exposure.
Marine mammals also are divided into groups based on their
general range of hearing. There are the low-frequency cetaceans,
including the large baleen whales; the mid-frequency cetaceans,
including the dolphins; and the high-frequency cetaceans, including
The pinnipeds are divided into two groups. The eared seals,
including sea lions, have a somewhat wider hearing range than true
seals, including harbor seals.
After years of covering the effects of sonar and other noise,
I’m just beginning to understand the complexity of how sound is
measured and the mathematics used to calculate levels at various
locations. At the same time, the guidelines are growing more
complex — as they should to model the real world. New thresholds
account for the duration of sound exposure as well as the
intensity, and they somewhat customize the thresholds to the
animals affected. For additional information, see NOAA’
Fisheries webpage on the guidance.
Despite incorporating new studies into the guidelines, some
acoustics experts are finding serious problems with the methods
used to arrive at the new thresholds, according to Michael Jasny of
the Natural Resources Defense Council. The NRDC, an environmental
group, has a long history of battling NOAA Fisheries and the Navy
over sound exposures for marine mammals.
“This is an extremely technical subject,” Michael said, noting
that he relies on experts who have provided comments on the
methodology. “By and large, NMFS has drunk the Navy’s Kool-Aid with
the exception of low-frequency effects, even though the Navy’s
science has been sharply criticized.”
The statistical analyses leading to the guidelines are so flawed
that they call into question how they could be used to protect
marine mammals, Michael said, pointing to a paper by
Andrew J. Wright of George Mason University.
“These are high stakes we are talking about,” Michael said. “We
are talking about damaging the hearing of endangered species that
depend on their hearing to survive.”
The effects of sound on behavior, which are not described in the
new guidelines, may be just as important, he said, since too much
noise can impede an animal’s ability to catch prey or undertake
social behavior that contribute to the perpetuation of the species.
NOAA Fisheries needs to move forward to raise the level of
protection, not just for injury related to hearing but for other
effects, he said. One can review a series of related studies on
“If these guidelines are not improved, at least to address
fundamental statistical errors, then it is easy to imagine that
they might be legally challenged — and they would deserve to be,”
Michael told me.
Sonar in Puget Sound
As for the Navy’s mistake with sonar, the story goes back to
Jan. 13 of this year, when acoustics expert Scott Veirs of Beam
Reach Marine Science picked up the sound of sonar on hydrophones in
the San Juan Islands. About the same time, Ken Balcomb of the
Center for Whale Research was observing transient killer whales to
the south in Haro Strait.
At first, Scott believed the sonar may have been coming from the
Canadian Navy ship HMCS Ottawa, but Canadian officials were quick
to deny it. His suspicions shifted to the U.S. Navy. He was
disturbed by that prospect since the Navy stopped using sonar
during training exercises in Puget Sound shortly after the USS
Shoup incident in 2003. For a reminder of that incident, check my
story in the
Kitsap Sun, March 17, 2005.
Later, the requirement for approval from the Pacific Fleet
command became an enforceable regulation when it was added to the
letter of authorization (PDF 3.4 mb) issued by NOAA Fisheries.
The letter allows the Navy a specific “take” of marine mammals
during testing and training operations.
Within days of this year’s sonar incident, Scott learned from
observers that two Navy ships had traveled through Haro Strait
about the time that sonar was heard on a nearby hydrophone. Navy
Region Northwest confirmed the presence of Navy vessels.
Later, Scott received an email from Lt. Julianne Holland, deputy
public affairs officer for the Navy’s Third Fleet. She confirmed
that a Navy ship used sonar for about 10 minutes at the time of
Scott’s recording. The ship was identified as a guided missile
destroyer — the same type as the Shoup — but its name has never
“The Navy vessel followed the process to check on the
requirements for this type of use in this location, but a technical
error occurred which resulted in the unit not being made aware of
the requirement to request permission,” according to Lt. Holland’s
email to Scott. “The exercise was very brief in duration, lasting
less than 10 minutes, and the Navy has taken steps to correct the
procedures to ensure this doesn’t occur again at this, or any
Because no marine mammals appeared to be injured, the story kind
of faded away until I recently contacted Lt. Holland to tie up some
loose ends. She ignored my questions about whether disciplinary
actions had been taken against any Navy personnel. “The Navy has
taken appropriate action to address the issue, including reissuance
of specific guidance on the use of sonar in the Pacific Northwest.”
The memo was sent to “all units in the Northwest.”
After I reopened the discussion, Scott did some acoustic
calculations based on figures and graphs he found in a Navy report
on the Shoup incident. He located published estimates of the source
levels and concluded, based on NOAA’s old thresholds, that marine
mammals within 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) would experience noise
levels likely to change their behavior (level B harassment).
Based on the data available, Scott could not conclude whether
the transient killer whales in Haro Strait were within that range,
but he said it was encouraging that Ken Balcomb did not notice any
changes in their behavior. It was also helpful that the sonar was
used for a relatively short time.
“It was a little nerve racking to hear the Navy was making
mistakes,” Scott said, “but we can give them a pat on the back for
doing the exercise during the day” when lookouts on the ship at
least have a chance to spot the animals.
If you do an online search for “Earth Hour,” you’ll find lots of
people, organizations and businesses around the world participating
in this annual event on Saturday. But it appears that enthusiasm in
the U.S. and especially Washington state may be waning.
Earth Hour involves the simple act of uniting people throughout
the world by turning off the lights, television and other
electrical devices for an hour — from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. Started in
2007 by the World Wildlife Fund, Earth Hour sends the message that
everyone can be involved in reducing the effects of climate
Through the years, I have enjoyed the quiet time, sometimes with
family and friends, sometimes with just my wife. Although it seems
like a good time to discuss the challenges of climate change, our
conversations don’t often go in that direction. Instead, we take a
moment to appreciate what we have, talk about things in general or
play some sort of game. Hide and Seek in a darkened house is what
the kids want to do.
I noticed in my online search that various restaurants around
the globe are offering candlelight dinners during Earth Hour this
year. I like that idea, although I’m not sure if it fits into the
pure spirit of Earth Hour. Still, to get out and be among a larger
group of people would be nice.
Restaurant & Bar in Toronto, Canada, has created a special
menu of locally grown foods for this Saturday’s Earth Hour. All 17
Brasserie Blanc restaurants in England will be celebrating the
DoubleTree Inn in Victoria to the north of here will be dimming
the lights throughout the hotel and encouraging people to recognize
“This year, we invite Finns to participate in the biggest candle
light dinner in the world to awake conversation about ecologically
responsible food. We ask people to turn off lights, light up
candles and spend an hour with their loved ones enjoying
“Food touches every single person, and about 20 percent of our
emissions are caused by what we eat. Approximately 60 percent of
the emissions are caused in the production and most of them are
related to producing meat, eggs and dairy.
“One of the most important things an individual can do to
protect climate is eating less meat and more vegetables and
sustainable seafood. Thinking about what we eat is a small act with
great impact. Organize your own candle light dinner and show your
support for action on climate change!”
These are just a few examples of how people are getting into
Earth Hour in other countries. However, I’m finding it harder each
year to find participants in Washington state, which has always
been a major part of the environmental movement. Check out the
The Space Needle and Pacific Science Center remain on the list
for going dark. (I’m not sure how the Space Needle restaurant is
involved.) Several other local groups on last year’s list have not
signed up so far this year.
The World Wildlife Fund boasts of support from 42,000 cities and
towns from 172 countries around the world. In Washington state,
Snoqualmie is the only city posted on the official participants
list, although Seattle is involved in the challenge to become
In addition to the Space Needle and Pacific Science Center,
landmarks going dark Saturday include the Golden Gate Bridge in San
Francisco, the Empire State Building in New York, Big Ben and
Buckingham Palace in London, the Forbidden City in Beijing, the
Eiffel Towel in Paris, the Borobudur and Prambanan temples in
Indonesia, and the Opera House in Sydney, where it all started.
Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle, a Filipino Cardinal of the Roman
Catholic Church, urged his followers in Manila to be one with the
rest of the world, as part of Pope Francis’ call for “ecological
justice,” according to a story by reporter Leslie Ann Aquino in the
“Let’s turn off our appliances and other things that use
electricity to give our world a little rest,” Tagle was quoted as
This year, for the first time, St. James Cathedral in Seattle
will participate in Earth Day by darkening its exterior, thus
“bringing awareness to the issue of climate change in the spirit of
Laudato Si, Pope Francis’ encyclical on environment and
poverty,” according to Earth
Perhaps before Saturday additional newcomers will become part of
Earth Hour, as others renew their participation in the annual
Overall, the Kitsap Peninsula is expected to have enough water
for people and fish for many years into the future, as long as the
water is managed well, according to a groundwater model developed
by the U.S. Geological Survey.
The model offers reassuring findings for residents of the Kitsap
Peninsula. It is also encouraging to see local water, sewer and
public works officials working together to plan for infiltrating
stormwater along with recycling wastewater for irrigation. Those
efforts will not only protect the peninsula’s water resources but
will save money for water customers.
Lonna Frans of the U.S. Geological Survey met this week with
members of WaterPAK — the Water Purveyors of Association of Kitsap
— to discuss the conclusions of a five-year, $1.4 million study of
water resources across the Kitsap Peninsula. Lonna said a final
written report should be available in about a month. (See website
The most impressive part of the groundwater model is the mapping
of geology across the entire peninsula, based on more than 2,100
well-driller logs that describe the type of soil at various depths.
Putting that information together provides a three-dimensional
picture of the underground structure, including sand and gravel
deposits, which contain water, along with layers of clay and
compressed soils, which slow down the water movement.
By monitoring water levels in 66 wells over time and accounting
for rainfall and groundwater withdrawals, the computer model
provides a dynamic picture of what happens under various
conditions. The model can be used to predict what will happen to
Kitsap’s aquifers under various rainfall scenarios, including long
periods of drought.
The model also can predict what will happen to streamflows under
various rainfall scenarios. The Kitsap Peninsula has no mountain
snowpack to supply the streams with water during dry summer months,
so the water must come from slow-moving underground supplies.
Now that the model is complete, it can be run for almost any
pattern of rainfall or drought that one wishes to dream up. For
example, running the model with average rainfall and no pumping at
all (close to a predevelopment condition) would bring the average
groundwater level up about 25 feet — although groundwater levels in
some places would be raised more than in other places.
Streamsflows under the no-pumping scenario would be an average
of about 2 percent higher — although this would be difficult to
measure with current instruments. Nobody would really notice the
If pumping across the peninsula were increased by 15 percent,
there would not be much difference in aquifers near the surface and
only a two- or three-foot drop in aquifers around sea level.
Streamflows would go down by a fraction of a percent but not enough
Decreasing groundwater recharge by 15 percent, such as paving
over the landscape with new roads, houses and parking lots, would
have a greater effect on streamflows.
Again, not all areas on the peninsula will see the same effects.
The model can be used to zero in on specific streams and their
watersheds — although the smaller the area of study, the less
accurate the prediction is likely to be.
Bob Hunter, manager of Kitsap Public Utility District, said the
model can be used to predict the effects that new wells would have
on streamflows as the population grows. The model could advise
managers whether it would be advisable to pump certain wells at
certain times of the year and hold back at other times.
Kathleen Cahall, water resources manager for the city of
Bremerton, said the model can also be used to make sure
aquifer-recharge areas are protected and that industrial facilities
that store large quantities of chemicals are not located where a
spill could contaminate a major underground water supply.
Morgan Johnson, general manager of Silverdale Water District,
said he would like to use the model to predict what will happen
when highly treated effluent from the Central Kitsap Wastewater
Treatment Plant is used to irrigate ball fields and other areas in
Central Kitsap. Efforts between the water districts and Kitsap
County might lead to greater infiltration of water and greater
groundwater supplies to be pumped from existing wells throughout
The USGS provided half the costs for the study. The other half
was shared among Kitsap PUD; Silverdale Water District; West Sound
Utility District; North Perry Water District; Manchester Water
District; the cities of Bremerton, Port Orchard, Poulsbo and Gig
Harbor; Washington Water, a private utility; and the Suquamish and
Port Gamble S’Klallam tribes.
More than 50 people came together at the beginning of this month
in Washington, D.C., to share their stories and concerns about
Puget Sound. The annual event is becoming known as Puget Sound
The group included leaders from local government, tribes,
non-profit groups, businesses and state agencies, noted U.S. Rep.
Derek Kilmer, who organized the get-together and discussion about
federal legislation and funding.
Kitsap County Commissioner Charlotte Garrido, who is involved in
these issues, asked me to share my thoughts about Puget Sound on
the public access television program “Commissioner’s Corner.” If
you haven’t seen the show, you can view it on BKAT the next
two Mondays at 8:30 p.m. and Tuesdays at 2 p.m., or click on the
I have to say that speaking off the cuff in front of a
television camera is a lot different from writing a story or blog
post, but I was pleased to be invited. The broadcast includes Kathy
Peters of the county’s Natural Resources Division.
Three years ago, a newly elected Rep. Kilmer picked up on Puget
Sound issues where former Rep. Norm Dicks left off. Through the
years, Norm was able to secure funding for many Puget Sound
projects — ranging from the removal of Forest Service roads that
were smothering salmon streams with sediment to extensive studies
of Hood Canal’s low-oxygen problems.
Derek is now promoting a bill known as
Puget SOS Act, which calls for greater federal coordination
with state, local and tribal partners, as well as formal
recognition of Puget Sound as a “great water body’ under the Clean
Water Act. Check out the story in the
Kitsap Sun by reporter Tristan Baurick.
This month, Kilmer and Heck introduced a new bill, the
Green Stormwater Infrastructure Investment Act, to help
communities reduce the flow of toxic stormwater into streams and
ultimately Puget Sound. The basic idea is to use natural
infiltration to reduce stormwater at the source, before it can pick
up toxic pollution. This approach has been given the name “green
stormwater infrastructure” or GSI.
“If our legislation passes,” Derek said in a
news letter to constituents, “local communities would be able
to access dedicated funding within the Environmental Protection
Agency for water quality projects that utilize GSI. Our hope is
that this can increase the number of breakthroughs that are
happening in places like Tacoma to help protect these vital
“Stormwater runoff is the top contributor to pollution in Puget
Sound, but our nation’s largest estuary isn’t the only place
impacted by stormwater. Across the country, in every community,
rain mixes with chemicals, oils and other harmful pollutants to
flood into our waterways. A stronger federal investment in the
prevention of runoff allows for the implementation of cutting-edge
solutions and puts our communities on a course towards healthy
waters for everyone.”
Fishing seasons for coho salmon in Puget Sound are expected to
be cut back severely this year, as the latest forecasts of salmon
returns predict that coho runs will be less than a third of what
was forecast for 2015.
Salmon managers faced some tough facts recently when they read
over results from a computer model used to predict the effects of
various fishing scenarios. After they plugged in last year’s
fishing seasons and this year’s coho forecast, the computer told
them that essentially no fish were left to spawn in Stillaguamish
River in northern Puget Sound. Things were hardly better for the
Skagit or Snohomish rivers or for streams in the Strait of Juan de
Fuca and Hood Canal.
“With last year’s fisheries, you will catch every fish out
there,” said Doug Milward, who manages salmon data for the
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. “All the fisheries will
have to change to protect the Stillaguamish (coho) — from the ocean
fisheries to inside (Puget Sound).”
Last year’s fishing seasons are not even a good starting point,
as negotiations begin between salmon managers for the Washington
Department of Fish and Wildlife and Western Washington tribes.
Under federal court rulings, the two sides must agree on fishing
seasons, and the goal remains a 50-50 split of the various stocks
that can be safely harvested. NOAA Fisheries plays a role in
setting seasons for chinook, which are listed as threatened under
the Endangered Species Act. Coho are not listed, although some
people argue that they should be.
By April 14, if things go as planned, the two parties will reach
agreement on when and where salmon fishing will take place — for
tribal and nontribal, sport and commercial fishers.
“Unfavorable ocean conditions led to fewer coho salmon returning
last year than we anticipated,” John Long, salmon fisheries policy
lead for WDFW, said in a news release. “We expect to
see another down year for coho in 2016 and will likely have to
restrict fishing for salmon in a variety of locations to protect
wild coho stocks.”
It seems the tribes have a slightly different take on the
“There likely will be no coho fisheries in Western Washington
this year, as returns are expected to plummet even further than
last year because of poor ocean survival,” Lorraine Loomis,
chairwoman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, stated in
She said that when last year’s coho returns are finally tallied,
they may be as much as 80 percent below preseason forecasts. The
Nisqually Tribe last year canceled its coho fishery when less than
4,000 of the anticipated 23,000 fish returned to the area, she
Tribes fish at the end of the line, after all the other
fisheries — from up the West Coast to the inside of Puget Sound.
Because the treaties require tribes to fish within their “usual and
accustomed areas,” agreements on fishing seasons must allow for
salmon to return to their natal streams with numbers large enough
for tribes to take their share, Lorraine said.
“Every year we must wait and hope that enough fish return to
feed our families and culture,” she said. “Faced with low catch
rates last year, however, most tribal coho fisheries were sharply
reduced or closed early to protect the resource. The state,
however, expanded sport harvest in mixed stock areas last year to
attempt to catch fish that weren’t there. That’s not right. The
last fisheries in line should not be forced to shoulder most of the
responsibility for conserving the resource.”
The annual negotiations between the state and the tribes were
kicked off Tuesday at a public meeting where the salmon forecasts
were discussed with sport and commercial fishers.
In addition to a poor return of coho to Puget Sound, the
forecast for Puget Sound chinook also shows somewhat lower numbers
than last year.
One bright spot is for people who like to fish in the ocean.
About 951,000 fall chinook are expected to return to the Columbia
River. That’s higher than the 10-year average but lower than last
year’s modern record of 1.3 million. About 223,000 hatchery chinook
are expected to return to the lower Columbia River. These fish,
known as “tules,” make up the bulk of the recreational harvest.
Another bright spot is the prediction of a fair number of
sockeye returning to Baker Lake on the Skagit River, possibly
allowing a fishing season in the lake and river.
Norm Reinhardt, who heads up the Kitsap Poggie Club, has been
involved in advisory groups on salmon fishing and participates in
discussions about the seasons.
“This year, we have a significant challenge in the coho fishery,
and we will have to base decisions on conservation needs,” Norm
told me following Tuesday’s meeting.
Despite lower chinook numbers, there could be ways to work out
some opportunities to fish for hatchery chinook, he said.
Catch-and-release is one option on the table, but it is not popular
among sport fishers.
Anglers are still smarting from last year’s sport-fishing
closure in Area 10, a designated fishing area between Bremerton and
Seattle. Fishing for chinook was prohibited in that area at the
insistence of the Muckleshoot Tribe to protect hatchery chinook
returning to the Issaquah Creek hatchery.
Fishing should have been allowed at some level — with the
release of wild chinook — under an agreed management plan, Norm
says, but state managers yielded to the tribe at the last minute in
order to hasten a final agreement. On Tuesday, Norm told state
salmon managers that he doesn’t want to see that happen again.
“In area 10, our argument is going to be that if we have
adequate chinook, we should be allowed to fish on our fish — unlike
last year,” he said.
The reduced number of coho returning to Puget Sound has been
blamed on ocean conditions, including higher water temperatures off
the coast and a mass of warm water called “the blob,” which stayed
around for two years. Studies have shown that warmer water alters
the species of plankton available for fish to eat. The result is
that the fish are consuming a plankton lower in fat content,
causing coho to be thinner and fewer.
The 2016 forecast of about 256,000 Puget Sound coho is about 40
percent of the average return over the past 10 years and 29 percent
of the number predicted for 2015 — a prediction that turned out to
be too optimistic. Because of the failed coho forecast last year,
everyone is expected to be more cautious about aspects of the
computer modeling this year.
Charts on this page were presented during Tuesday’s meeting. The
new charts make the presentation easier to understand, compared to
the tables of data discussed at previous meetings. The data tables
are still available when one needs to dig into the finer details.
The new maps use colors to describe how streams are doing. Poor
(red) is if the run or forecast for a stream is less than 75
percent of the 10-year average. Good (green) is if the run or
forecast for a stream is more than 125 percent of the
10-year-average. Neutral (blue) is if the run or forecast falls
between 75 percent and 125 percent.
Anyone may attend the meetings where the ongoing negotiations
and possible tradeoffs are discussed. Allowing more fishing in one
place often results in less fishing somewhere else, and there’s
always the question about whether enough salmon are being left for
spawning in the streams.
“We’re going to have to be creative in order to provide
fisheries in some areas this year,” John Long said. “We would
appreciate input from the public to help us establish
Information about the salmon forecasts, the meeting schedule and
methods of commenting are available on WDFW’s North of Falcon
On March 14, various parameters for ocean fishing will be set by
the Pacific Fishery Management Council, a group empowered by the
federal government to manage fish in the ocean. The PFMC will adopt
ocean fishing schedules and harvest levels during its April 8-14
meeting, at which time state and tribal salmon managers are
expected to approve fishing seasons for the inland waters.
Store plenty of water. That’s my first bit of advice for
earthquake preparedness. I suggest storing water for drinking —
enough to last a week — and maybe some extra water for washing and
If we’re going to prepare for an earthquake, let’s prepare for a
big one. Then we’ll be ready for smaller ones or even severe storms
with the potential to isolate us. Getting ready for an emergency
can help reduce the anxiety of thinking about a long power outage,
broken water pipes and other damage. Do what you can, then realize
that recovery will come, though it could take time.
If you would rather ignore the dangers, I guess that’s one
option for dealing with this kind of anxiety. But it could be a
costly approach, one ultimately filled with regret.
I recently had the privilege to be part of a team of reporters
who wrote about the effects of a 7.2-magnitude earthquake along the
Seattle fault. If you haven’t read the stories in the Kitsap Sun, I
urge you to take a look at “The
Danger Below Us.”
It may seem like a random number — 7.2 magnitude, large for any
earthquake — but people need to understand that this earthquake
would occur at or near ground level on a fault that runs through
the center of Kitsap and King counties. That’s essentially right
next door to hundreds of thousands of people.
Such an earthquake is not imaginary. It has happened before —
long before any cities were built. Where the fault broke free, the
land and seabed were raised upwards by more than 20 feet. Evidence
is still visible at the south end of Bainbridge Island, where a
submerged beach is now high and dry.
Most of us have heard concerns about the worrisome Cascadia
subduction zone earthquake, which raised alarms after the New
Yorker magazine described its potential effects. But for many
residents of Puget Sound, a quake on the Seattle fault could be far
worse, though probably less likely over the next 50 years.
The Kitsap Sun stories were based upon an earthquake scenario
developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and presented
to local governments in a “Draft
Risk Report.” A separate scenario for a 6.7-magnitude quake was
developed in 2005 by
Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, which modeled the
effects of fault rupture from Seattle through Bellevue to the
The death and destruction in either scenario is hard to imagine,
and who wants to think about devastation in this seemingly peaceful
part of the world? Keep in mind that even in a worst case, most
people will survive to rebuild and go on with their lives, as they
have in other parts of the world, including Japan. As we have
learned from other areas, being prepared can make a real
When I think about getting prepared, I begin with water. We
cannot live without it. The preparedness
list published on the Kitsap Sun’s website includes developing
an emergency plan for your family, addressing structural problems
with your house, learning first aid and several other things.
In the matter of the early-warning system, President Obama’s
proposed budget to Congress, released Tuesday, includes $8.2
million for the early-warning system. See the
news release from Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Derek Kilmer.
A good explanation about how people might benefit from the
early-warning system is provided by Richard Allen in a presentation
Feb. 2 in Washington, D.C., called “The Resilience Summit.” This
issue is discussed in a YouTube video
from 7:40 to 14:00 minutes into the video.
Another video, below, provides additional details about the
design of the early-warning system and how it would function in the
Los Angeles region. Called Shake Alert, the project has its
own website. The
Pacific Northwest Seismic Network is a key part of the
For the past month, K-33, a Southern Resident orca bearing a
satellite transmitter, has been moving up and down the West Coast,
presumably with the rest of his pod. I’ll tell you more about those
travels in a moment.
NOAA Fisheries today released a list of “priority actions” for
eight endangered “species in the spotlight,” including the Southern
Resident killer whales of Puget Sound. These species are highly
recognized by the public and considered among those at greatest
risk of extinction.
Protect killer whales from harmful vessel impacts
through enforcement, education and evaluation: This
includes direct interference by boats and ships as well as noise
and other problems to be identified.
Target recovery of critical prey: Because
chinook salmon are known to be the primary food supply for the
whales, efforts must be taken to restore the salmon species to
healthy populations throughout the orcas’ habitat.
Protect important habitat areas from anthropogenic
threats: Since the orcas spend more than half their time
in the ocean, it is important to identify and protect the places
that are important to them.
Improve our knowledge of Southern Resident killer whale
health to advance recovery: Identifying why some whales
are dying at a young age and why some females are unable to
reproduce are among the research efforts taking place.
And that brings us back to K-33, a 15-year-old male orca named
Tika who has been carrying a satellite transmitter on his dorsal
fin since New Year’s Eve. Researchers, including Brad Hanson of the
Northwest Fisheries Science Center, say that it is likely that all
of K pod and possibly part of L pod are traveling with him.
The tracking project is designed to see how far the whales go in
winter, where they linger and what they are eating, as well as any
behavioral observations. The satellite can tell us where they go
and how long they stay, but food and behavioral issues must be
assessed on the water.
Brad and his research team are scheduled to meet up with the
whales during a cruise that begins 10 days from now, on Feb. 20.
NOAA’s research ship, Bell M. Shimada, will leave from Newport,
Ore., and use the satellite data to locate and follow the whales,
assuming the satellite tag stays on that long. Fecal samples and
fish scales could be collected if the weather cooperates.
Brad told me he is eager to get as much information as he can,
as his agency is beginning to put together a plan to protect
coastal areas that are important to the whales. A possible
expansion of the Southern Residents’ critical habitat is scheduled
for next year.
“We’re trying to build up our sample size,” Brad said. “A big
part of critical habitat is not just range. Where are they spending
time, and why are they spending time in those areas?”
The researchers are trying to account for differences among the
pods and smaller groups of whales and how they react under various
conditions. With this being a strong El Niño year, the researchers
would like to see whether the whales are going to different places
or acting differently.
Besides the satellite tags and direct observations, the
researchers are using a network of hydrophones along the coast to
record the sounds of the whales as they swim by. Those recordings
are collected at the end of the season.
In terms of the health assessment — called out as one of the key
actions — fecal samples can be used to identify individual whales
and provide information about hormone levels and other indications
of general health.
Now, let me bring you up to date on the travels of K-33 and his
companions. In my last report on Jan. 19, the whales had reversed
their southerly course after going all the way to Cape Mendocino,
Calif., on Jan. 17. Coming back north, they reached Washington’s
Willapa Bay on Jan. 20, when they turned south again. This time,
they went as far as Alsea Bay in Central Oregon, arriving on Jan.
Continuing the north-south pattern, the whales traveled north
from Alsea Bay all the way up the Olympic Peninsula, turning into
the Strait of Juan de Fuca. On Jan. 25, they reached Point Renfrew
on the southern shore of Vancouver Island, from where they turned
back west and headed out to the open ocean. The next day, they were
Juan de Fuca Canyon, a nutrient-rich area fed by strong
currents rising up from the underwater chasm.
The whales followed the canyon awhile, then made a beeline for
the Hoh River, about halfway down the Washington Coast, reaching
Hoh Head north of the river on Jan. 27. The whales didn’t stay long
but continued south and arrived at the mouth of the Columbia River
on Jan. 29.
From the Columbia River, they turned north and went halfway up
the Long Beach Peninsula before turning south and arriving back off
the Columbia River on Jan. 30. They made another round trip, going
as far as Willapa Bay this time, returning to the Columbia on Jan.
Their back-and-forth travels continued for the next five days,
mostly between Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor, sometimes approaching
the edge of the continental shelf.
On Saturday, Feb. 6, the whales took off at a good pace, going
all the way up the coast, turning into the Strait of Juan de Fuca
and passing the town of Sekiu. They remained in that area for about
a day, before turning back toward the ocean and heading down the
coast. As of this morning, they were in the vicinity of Westport
(not yet depicted on the map).
Tomorrow is the annual Ways of Whales Workshop on Whidbey
Island, a chance to enjoy the company of top-level whale experts,
careful observers of marine mammals and people inspired by
Tickets will be available at the door. Go to
“Ways of Whales Workshop” for the schedule and details, such as
lunch and the post-workshop gathering at Captain Whidbey Inn.
For those who cannot attend, Orca Network is planning to stream
the event live on the Internet. Connect with the
Livestream network to join the event via computer.
In addition to speakers providing the latest information about
orcas, humpbacks and other species, Howard Garrett of Orca Network
will discuss progress in the long-running effort to return Lolita,
or Tokitae, from the Miami Seaquarium to her original home in the
For this blog post at least, I will go with Howie’s suggestion
that we call the whale “Toki.” “Tokitae” was the first name she was
given, and Howie says her trainers and staff in Miami shortened
that to “Toki.”
“She is accustomed to being called ‘Toki,’ so now with
indications that a combination of changing public attitudes,
questionable revenue prospects and legal developments may actually
bring her home some day soon, ‘Toki’ sounds fitting and proper,”
Howie wrote in a recent email to supporters.
A lawsuit involving Toki is scheduled for trial in May, although
the date could change. The lawsuit claims that keeping her in
captivity is a violation of the Endangered Species Act. If you
recall, she was listed as a member of the endangered Southern
Resident pods following a legal dispute with the federal government
— but so far that determination has been of little consequence.
The latest lawsuit will consider, at least in part, the plan to
return Toki to the San Juan Islands, where she would be kept in an
open net pen until she can be reunited with her family. If a
reunion does not work out, she would be cared for under better
conditions than in a confined tank for the rest of her life, or so
the plan goes.
It came as a surprise when Howie told me that attorneys for the
Miami Seaquarium plan to visit the exact site in the San Juan
Islands where Toki would be taken. One argument will consider which
location — a tank in Miami or natural waters of the San Juans —
would be more suitable for her health and well-being. Of course,
attorneys for the Seaquarium will argue that she has done well
enough for the past 40 years, so leave her alone.
Howie said he is hopeful that efforts by the investment firm
Arle Capital to sell off the company that owns Miami Seaquarium
(Spain’s Parques Reunidos) will help with the cause to return Toki
to Puget Sound. (See
Reuters report.) Perhaps the whale’s value has diminished as an
investment, encouraging corporate owners to try something new?
It’s turning out to be a good Christmas for the Skokomish
watershed in southern Hood Canal, where numerous restoration
projects recently received a green light.
Restoring the Skokomish River ecosystem is often regarded as
essential to restoring Hood Canal to a healthy condition. Work over
the past 10 years has reduced sediment coming from the Olympic
Mountains, improved flow conditions in the river and restored tidal
mixing and native vegetation in the vast Skokomish estuary.
Continuing efforts — including a new
fish-passage facility in the North Fork of the Skokomish — are
contributing to an increase in species diversity and improved
The latest news involves future restoration efforts, including
an award of five grants totaling $1.4 million from the state’s
Recovery Funding Board. In addition, top officials in the Army
Corps of Engineers have endorsed the long-awaited Skokomish River
Basin Ecosystem Restoration Plan, expected to cost about $20
“We are making solid progress on all fronts,” said Mike Anderson
of The Wilderness Society who serves as coordinator of the
Skokomish Watershed Action Team. The action team, which celebrated
its 10th anniversary this year, includes representatives of
federal, state and local agencies, the Skokomish Tribe,
environmental groups, business interests and area residents.
It has been rewarding for me to watch the coordinated efforts —
from the U.S. Forest Service working high up in the Olympic
Mountains to the Skokomish Tribe and Mason Conservation District
working on the tidelands of Hood Canal. For a history of the
struggle, please read my 2009 series “Taming the Skokomish.”
Part 1, the people;
Part 2, farming;
Part 3, logging;
Part 4, the restoration.
On a related note, the Forest Service recently announced that it
has completed its effort to remove unneeded logging roads and make
sure they no longer contribute sediment to nearby streams and the
Skokomish River. In all, more than 200 miles of roads have been
decommissioned over the past 20 years.
The Forest Service is now moving ahead with “vegetation
management” on some 4,500 acres of timberland in the Lower North
Fork and Lower South Fork of the Skokomish River. The project
involves commercial timber harvest and restoration treatments in an
effort to accelerate the return to old-growth conditions. See
Vegetation Management Project.
Dec. 14 letter (PDF 818 kb) from the Army’s chief of engineers
moves the Skokomish restoration project one step closer to
“The recommended plan provides restoration on a total of 277
acres in the study area and provides substantial benefits to
nationally significant resources,” states the letter from Lt. Gen.
Thomas Bostick. “In addition, the removal of the levee at the
confluence of the North and South Forks of the Skokomish River
provides significant benefits for upstream fish passage to an
approximate additional 40 miles of habitat in the South Fork
Skokomish River that is periodically inaccessible due to the lack
of water in the river channel adjacent to the confluence.”
Although the project names have been modified to stress
ecosystem functions, I reported on all five in
Water Ways a year ago:
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.
If approved by Congress, the federal government would pay 65
percent of the cost, with 35 percent coming from state and local
The ecosystem investigation by the Army Corps of Engineers also
identified other worthy projects that did not qualify for funding
through the Corps. Some of those projects are being funneled
through other state and federal programs. Projects recently
approved by the Salmon Recovery Funding Board:
Reconnecting Weaver Creek, $200,000: A new
750-foot channel will connect a stagnant portion of Weaver Creek to
the free-flowing Purdy Creek, and about 25 logs will be installed.
In addition to improved flows, the project will boost oxygen levels
in the stream. The sponsor, Mason Conservation District, will
contribute $153,000 from a separate federal grant.
South Fork Logjams, $225,000: Twenty-two
man-made logjams will be added to the Holman Flats area in the
South Fork of the Skokomish River to create salmon habitat, reduce
sediment flows and stabilize the stream channel. This area was once
cleared for a reservoir that was never built, resulting in excess
sediment that destroys salmon spawning beds. The sponsor, Mason
Conservation District, will contribute $469,000 from a separate
Logjam priorities in Upper South Fork,
$305,000: Mason Conservation District will study a 12-mile stretch
of the Upper South Fork of the Skokomish to develop a prioritized
list of the best places to install future logjams. Logjams are
designed to improve fish habitat, reduce sediment movement and
stabilize stream banks. The conservation district will contribute
$54,000 and labor.
Logjam designs for Skokomish, $265,000: Mason
Conservation District will work with landowners to select a design
for logjams on a 1.6-mile stretch of the Skokomish River that lacks
shoreline structure. The conservation district will contribute
$47,000 in donations of equipment.
Concepts for moving Skokomish Valley Road,
$363,000: Moving the road away from the South Fork of the Skokomish
River would allow for the removal of levees, restoration of the
river banks and reconnection of the river to about 60 acres of
floodplain. This project would investigate possible locations for a
new road as well as the possible addition of a meander to the river
channel and the removal or relocation of a bridge over Vance Creek.
The sponsor, Mason Conservation District, will contribute $64,000
from a separate federal grant.