The water understands Civilization well; It wets my foot, but prettily, It chills my life, but wittily, It is not disconcerted, It is not broken-hearted: Well used, it decketh joy, Adorneth, doubleth joy: Ill used, it will destroy, In perfect time and measure With a face of golden pleasure Elegantly destroy.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Floodplains by Design, a new program that combines salmon
restoration with flood control, is a grand compromise between
humans and nature.
Design is an idea born from the realization that building
levees to reduce flooding generally causes rivers to rush faster
and flow higher. Under these conditions, the rushing waters often
break through or overtop the levees, forcing people to rebuild the
structures taller and stronger than before.
Salmon, which have evolved through untold numbers of prehistoric
floods, were somehow forgotten in the effort to protect homes and
farmland built close to a river. Absent the levees, floodwaters
would naturally spread out across the floodplain in a more relaxed
flow that salmon can tolerate. High flows, on the other hand, can
scour salmon eggs out of the gravel and flush young fish into
Floodplains by Design offers a compromise, recognizing that it
is often not practical to restore the landscape to its original
condition. But loosening some of the man-made controls on a river
can lead to multiple benefits. Providing a river with room to roam
not only improves habitat but also reduces the need to continually
rebuild the eroding levee system. Improved habitat can increase
fish and wildlife populations and enhance recreational
opportunities for people.
Floodplains by Design is the right name for the program, because
it brings members of a community together to work out a specific
design for their reach of the river. Compromises must be made with
folks upstream and downstream and with nature itself. Should houses
and roads be protected or relocated? Can farms accommodate
occasional flooding? Will fish and wildlife flourish within a
restored floodplain where new levees are set farther back from the
I’m not sure if we need to entirely abandon our human impulse to
“fight the floodwaters,” but I like the idea that we should
understand water’s natural tendencies and try to work out a fair
Bremerton may need some help to get back on top in the National
Mayor’s Water Pledge Challenge, an annual competition that
encourages people to take specific steps to save water and help the
As usual, Bremerton started out on top in its population
category when the contest began on April 1. The city held its own
through most of last week. But now the city has slid down to number
4, which means that more water customers are needed to take the
pledge. Go to My Water
Bremerton has always done well in the competition, perhaps
largely because of the enthusiasm of Mayor Patty Lent, who likes to
see people conserve water and always wishes the city can come out
on top in the competition. This year, a good showing in the
competition would be especially nice, considering that Bremerton is
celebrating the centennial of its unique water system.
“One hundred years into its operation, we celebrate the
foresight of water professionals who built a drinking water system
anchored by Casad Dam and delivered by a complex network of pipes,
pump stations and reservoirs to serve a growing city through the
war years and beyond,” Mayor Lent said in a news
“Continued conscientious operation, maintenance, and watershed
protection ensure excellent quality at the tap,” she said. “We are
inspired by the past to be responsible water system stewards and we
look forward to the next century of service to our customers.”
An exhibit of the city’s water history opened Friday and will
remain open through September at Kitsap Historical Museum, 280
Fourth Street in downtown Bremerton.
A brief written history of the water system can be found on the
website. On this page, I’ve also posted a video produced for
the Kitsap County Historical Society and Museum. It features
historical photos of water infrastructure in Kitsap County going
back to the early settlement period.
As for the National Mayor’s Water Pledge Challenge, Mayor Lent
encourages participation by reminding everyone she knows to sign
the pledge. She hands out cards to people she meets and discusses
the contest standings in her regular reports to the City
“Water is Bremerton’s remarkable resource,” she said in a
release. “This challenge, which runs through April, is an
exciting opportunity to learn about water wise habits as we engage
in a friendly competition with other cities across the nation to
create a more sustainable environment.”
Kathleen Cahall, water resources manager for the city, said
outreach efforts for the challenge include displays, flyers and car
magnets plus appeals on social media. Water customers who do not
have online access can fill out a paper form at the utility’s
billing office on Oyster Bay Avenue, at Norm Dicks Government
Center or at Kitsap County Historical Museum.
The contest, sponsored by the Wyland Foundation, is based on the
percentage of people in a city or town who take the pledge in a
given year. Prizes are awarded to some residents of the winning
city in each population group.
When the contest began in 2012, Bremerton came in third place.
But the following two years, 2013 and 2014, the city claimed the
top spot before slipping to number 3 again in 2015. Last year,
Bremerton came in second. Since the contest began, Bremerton has
ranked ahead of all other cities in Washington state.
As of today, Bremerton ranks fourth in the 30,000-100,000
population category followed by Olympia, which is ranked seventh.
Seattle ranks sixth and Tacoma 84th among cities with populations
over 600,000. Port Townsend was ranked 42nd in its category.
Most of the cities in Washington state seem to be losing ground
at this point. I hope that can be turned around. To see the
standings, go to Nationwide
Geology experts in Washington and Oregon have produced an
easy-to-read brochure that can help people understand landslide
risks, the underlying geology of slides and precautions that could
avoid a disaster.
I have written a lot of words about landslides through the
years, often relating stories of people involved in a catastrophic
slope failures. But this new publication excels as a concise
discussion of what people need to know if they live on or near a
After the Oso landslide in the Stillaguamish Valley three years
ago, I wrote a piece in the
Kitsap Sun to help residents of the Kitsap Peninsula understand
the risks they could be facing. Now I can point people to this
graphically rich pamphlet, called
“A Homeowners Guide to Landslides for Washington and Oregon” (PDF,
3.8 mb). It was produced by the Washington Department of
Natural Resources and the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral
“Our job is to understand Washington’s complex geology and how
it impacts the people who live here,” Washington State Geologist
Dave Norman said in a
news release. “We want to make sure we put that information
into their hands.”
Water is often the key ingredient in determining whether the
soils on a slope will hold together or become a dangerous mass of
moving earth. A cubic foot of water — just 7.5 gallons — weighs
62.3 pounds. Water not only weighs down a slope, it also pushes the
grains of soil apart, making for a more slippery material.
To prevent water from increasing the risk of slides:
Maintain healthy vegetation,
Use drought-resistant plantings,
Fix leaking plumbing immediately,
Direct downspout runoff well away from slopes, and
Plant trees and shrubs, which uptake water more efficiently
Actions that people should avoid are mostly related to water and
the pressures exerted from piling up dirt. The publication advises
Adding water to steep slopes,
Placing fill soil on or near steep slopes,
Placing yard waste or debris on steep slopes, and
Excavating on or at the base of steep slopes.
An appropriation by the Washington Legislature in 2015 allowed
DNR to extend its hazard mapping with the use of high-resolution
lidar. See the Washington
Lidar Portal for locations where high-res imaging has been
applied, or learn more about
LIDAR and the mapping project.
Halfway through the current water year, which began on Oct. 1,
rainfall patterns on the Kitsap Peninsula are shaping up to look a
lot like last year.
For most areas, total rainfall is well above average, as it was
last year at this time. It is also well below the record
accumulation in most places. One exception is Hansville in North
Kitsap, as you can see in the first chart on this page. There, the
total rainfall is tracking both last year and 1999 — the highest
year on record, which goes back 35 years at that station.
Moving into the drier half of the water year, it is now obvious
that we will be above average in rainfall for the entire year,
since we have already reached the average in most places.
Average rainfall on the Kitsap Peninsula varies a great deal
from north to south. Since 1990, the average precipitation at Holly
in the southwest has been close to 80 inches, according to records
from the Kitsap Public Utility District. That compares to Hansville
in the north, which averages a little more than 30 inches.
Checking the scale on the charts, one can see that Holly has had
about 95 inches of precipitation over the past six months, which is
more than all of last year and about 15 inches above the yearly
average already this year.
In drier Hansville, the rainfall chart does not flatten out
quite as much during the second half of the year. More than 32
inches has accumulated so far this year, which is just above the
average for the entire year. Hansville is still chasing the record
annual accumulation of 43.8 inches set in 1999. Last year’s total
accumulation of 42.5 inches fell just short of that mark and was
the second-highest on record.
In Central Kitsap, where most of the population resides, the
total rainfall for the past six months has reached 51.7 inches,
which is above the average for the entire year and just about equal
to last year at this time. It looks like the record of 76.9 inches
is safe for this year unless we get extreme rains during the last
six months of the water year.
The next three months in the Northwest are likely to be close to
average for precipitation, according to the National Weather
Climate Prediction Center. Some chance of El Niño conditions
are predicted for later in the year. If that occurs, it could
reduce the amount of precipitation, but the effects are unlikely to
make much difference before the end of the water year in September
— although it could have an effect going into the 2018 water year
World Water Day, coming up on Wednesday, is an annual event
first established by the United
Nations in 1992 to focus on the importance of freshwater and to
encourage actions to provide clean drinking water while reducing
water-borne illness around the world.
This year’s theme, waste water, was formulated into a question
that creates a double meaning. It can be either “Why waste water?”
or “Why wastewater?” The first question emphasizes the water-supply
issues associated with World Water Day. The second emphasizes the
closely related health aspects of sanitation. For a serious
discussion of these two questions, listen to the talk on YouTube by
Guy Ryder, director general of the International Labour
Organization and chairman of UN-Water.
Detailed planning and design, followed by thoughtful
construction projects, have begun to tame the stormwater menace in
Clear Creek, an important salmon stream that runs through
Silverdale in Central Kitsap.
Stormwater has been identified as the greatest pollution threat
to Puget Sound. In Kitsap County, many folks believed that the
dense development pattern in and around Silverdale has doomed Clear
Creek to functioning as a large drainage ditch for runoff into Dyes
But reducing stormwater pollution is not beyond the reach of
human innovation, as I learned this week on a tour of new and
planned stormwater facilities in the Clear Creek drainage area. The
trick is to filter the stormwater by any means practical, according
to Chris May, director of Kitsap County’s Stormwater Division and a
key player in the multi-agency Clean Water Kitsap program.
Projects in and around Silverdale range from large regional
ponds of several acres to small filtration devices fitted into
confined spaces around homes and along roadways.
Five major Puget Sound projects have been given the provisional
go-ahead by Congress in a massive public works bill signed
yesterday by President Obama.
It seems like the needed federal authorization for a $20-million
restoration effort in the Skokomish River watershed has been a long
time coming. This project follows an extensive, many-years study of
the watershed by the Army Corps of Engineers, which winnowed down a
long list of possible projects to five. See
Water Ways, April 28, 2016, for details.
In contrast, while the Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem
Restoration Project (PSNRP) also involved an extensive and lengthy
study, the final selection and submission to Congress of three
nearshore projects came rather quickly. In fact, the Puget Sound
package was a last-minute addition to the Water Resources
Development Act, thanks to the efforts of U.S. Reps. Rick Larson,
D-Lake Stevens, and Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, along with Sens.
Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell.
Water Year 2017, which began on Oct. 1, got off to a rip-roaring
start this month in terms of rainfall, and now records are falling
for October rainfall totals across the Kitsap Peninsula.
As shown in the three charts on this page, the graph started
climbing steeply above the lines shown — including the green lines,
which denote the highest annual precipitation recorded for the past
25 to 33 years.
So far this month, 19.5 inches of rain have fallen at Holly,
which has averaged about 7 inches in October for the past 24 years.
As you can see in the annual rainfall map at the bottom of this
page, Holly lies in the rain zone on the Kitsap Peninsula — the
area with the greatest amount of rainfall in most years. With four
days left in the month, Holly has about an inch to go to break the
record of 20.5 inches going back to 1991.
A giant piece of a cedar log stands erect in a barren landscape
north of Silverdale, where a new channel for Clear Creek stands
ready to receive water.
Well, maybe this channel won’t be entirely new. Designers
working to restore this portion of Clear Creek studied old maps.
They tried to align the new man-made channel to the meandering
stream that existed 150 years ago, before farmers diverted the
creek around their fields.
During excavation, workers uncovered buried gravel — remnants of
the old streambed — along with chunks of cedar that had lain along
the edge of the stream. Buried and cut off from oxygen, these
pieces of wood survived for decades underground, while cattle
grazed in the fields above.
Workers excavating for the new channel used their heavy
equipment to pull out what remained of a great cedar log. They
stood the log vertical and buried one end in the ground — a
monument to the past and future of Clear Creek.
Chris May, manager of Kitsap County’s stormwater program, showed
me the new channel this week. He said it was rewarding to uncover
some buried history and realize that the stream would be restored
in roughly the same place.
“We found the old channel,” Chris told me, pointing to a deposit
of gravel. “We are pretty confident that we got it right.”
This $3-million project has been conceived and designed as much
more than a stream-restoration project. The elevations of the land
around the stream have been carefully planned so that high flows
will spill into side channels and backwater pools. That should
reduce flooding in Silverdale and help stabilize the high and low
flows seen in Clear Creek.
The engineers did not calculate the reduced frequency of
flooding, but floodwater storage is calculated to be 18.4
acre-feet, the equivalent of a foot of water spread over 18.4 acres
or 29,700 cubic yards or 6 million gallons.
In all, about 30,000 cubic yards of material have been removed
across 21 acres, including the former Schold Farm on the west side
of Silverdale Way and the Markwick property on the east side.
Native wetland vegetation will be planted along the stream and in
low areas throughout the property. Upland areas will be planted
with natural forest vegetation.
The topsoil, which contained invasive plants such as reed
canarygrass, was hauled away and buried beneath other excavated
soils to form a big mound between the new floodplain and Highway 3.
That area will be planted with a mixture of native trees.
Plans call for removal of 1,500 feet of an existing road with
upgrades to two aging culverts. Adding meanders to the straightened
channel will create 500 feet of new streambed that should be
suitable for salmon spawning.
Plans call for adding 334 pieces large woody debris, such as
logs and root wads to the stream. Some of that wood will be formed
into structures and engineered logjams to help form pools and
“This will be one of the first streams to meet the Fox and
Bolton numbers,” Chris told me, referring to studies by Martin Fox
and Susan Bolton of the University of Washington. The two
researchers studied natural streams and calculated the amount of
woody debris of various kinds needed to simulate natural
conditions, all based on the size of a stream. (Review
North American Journal of Fisheries Management.)
The elevations on the property were also designed so that high
areas on opposite sides of the stream would be in close proximity
in several locations.
“Beaver will pick that spot,” Chris said, pointing to one
location where the stream channel was squeezed by elevated banks on
each side. “We want to encourage beaver to come in here.”
Beaver ponds will increase the floodwater storage capacity of
the new floodplain and provide important habitat for coho salmon,
which spend a year in freshwater and need places to withstand both
high and low flows. Because the county owns the flooded property,
there won’t be any complaints about damage from beavers, Chris
Clear Creek Trail (PDF 390 kb), which begins on the shore of
Dyes Inlet, will be routed along the higher elevations as the trail
winds through the property. Three new bridges will provide vantage
points to watch salmon after vegetation obscures other viewing
areas from the trail. Viewing platforms, as seen along other parts
of Clear Creek Trail, were not included in this project but could
be subject to further discussions.
Count me among the many people — experts, volunteers and users
of Clear Creek Trail — who are eager to see how nature responds
when water (now diverted) returns to the new stream channel. For
decades, the lack of good habitat has constrained the salmon
population in Clear Creek. The stream still has problems related to
its highly developed watershed. But now a series of restoration
projects is providing hope for increased coho and chum salmon and
possibly steelhead trout as well as numerous other aquatic
In a story in the
Kitsap Sun, Reporter Tristan Baurick described work this week
on the Markwick property, where fish were removed in preparation
for final channel excavation.
Here are some details (including photos) of various Clear Creek
projects, as described in the state’s Habitat Work Schedule for
Bremerton remains a solid contender in the fifth National
Mayor’s Water Pledge Challenge, which encourages people to become
involved in water conservation.
At the beginning of this month, Bremerton started out in the
contest ranked first among cities of similar size across the United
States. Since then, the city has dropped to second, behind Andover,
Minn. To get back into first place, a fair number of residents in
Bremerton and the surrounding area will need to take the pledge for
water conservation before the end of the month.
The pledge involves answering a series of questions about one’s
willingness to save water, electricity and other natural resources.
To enter, go to www.mywaterpledge.com. When
finished with the questionnaire, one can enter a contest to receive
some nice prizes.
In 2013 and 2014, Bremerton came in first in the competition
among cities of similar size. In 2012 and 2015, Bremerton came in
third. In all four years so far, Bremerton has ranked first among
similarly sized cities in Washington state.
“Water is Bremerton’s remarkable resource,” Mayor Patty Lent
said in a
news release (PDF 139 kb). “I encourage all Bremerton residents
to pledge to learn more about their water and energy use at home.
This challenge, which runs through April, is an exciting
opportunity to learn about water wise habits as we engage in a
friendly competition with other cities across the nation to create
a more sustainable environment.”
Seattle, which is ranked fifth among cities its size, is the
only other city in Washington state to rank in the top 10. Olympia
is 12th for its size. Port Townsend is 17th. Port Orchard is 74th.
Poulsbo is 94th. Bainbridge Island is higher than 500th.
The water pledge, which is available until the end of April, is
sponsored by the Wyland