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
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.
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
Lawn Dude, a cartoon character invented to convey a
water-conservation message, has appeared on billboards in Southern
California, where he has become known for his frank but witty
When first introduced in the summer of 2014, Lawn Dude had this
to say: “I’d be the first to admit that I love using lots of water,
but I’m cutting back on my drinking because, take it from me,
nobody likes a drunk lawn.” Read the
press release issued on July 31, 2014.
Lawn Dude was launched as a cooperative effort between the
Southern California Water Committee, a nonprofit educational
partnership, and Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings, one of the world’s
largest outdoor advertising companies.
Appearing as a personified lawn, this unique cartoon character
can offer a unique perspective that might incite human action. He
can encourage people by saying things in ways that governments,
utilities and even conservation groups cannot.
“I’m fresh off a water cleanse and have never looked better,
thanks to that H2O diet Governor Brown put me on,” Lawn Dude said
upon his return in 2015. “I know people thought I might be all
dried up, but I’m back and ready to kick some grass.”
In addition to appearing on billboards the past two summers,
Lawn Dude continues to provide comments on his Twitter feed, and I would not
be surprised if he came back next year.
California remains in a serious drought. Gov. Jerry Brown and
the California Water Resources Control Board have imposed a series
of water conservation measures to protect the remaining water
supplies. For specifics, check out this
fact sheet (PDF 507 kb).
Charles Wilson, chairman of the nonregulatory Southern
California Water Committee, said the donation of billboards by
Clear Channel has made it possible to reach many people with a
reminder about water conservation.
“The Lawn Dude campaign has been a valuable way for the Southern
California Water Committee to grab the public’s attention when it
comes to outdoor water conservation, going beyond the limitations
typically placed on what public agencies and water districts can
say,” Wilson noted in a
One aspect of the campaign has been to encourage Californians to
remove their lawns. That’s when Lawn Dude got a new hairdo
featuring succulent plants, and he discussed it on Twitter:
“It’s time to take it all off, California!”
“Lawn Dude stripped nude. Now won’t you take it off?”
“Keeping me thirsty isn’t enough. I need a new look and I’m
loving the succulent style.”
“My trainer has been kicking my grass. It’s a good thing I lost
that water weight.”
The following video from KCAL-TV in Los Angeles is a news story
posted last year when the Lawn Dude campaign was launched.
Atmospheric scientists with NASA and the University of
Washington chose a doozy of a week on the Olympic Peninsula to
launch their four-month effort to measure precipitation and
calibrate the super-sophisticated Global Precipitation Measurement
The heart of the GPM system is an advanced satellite called the
GPM Core Observatory, designed to measure rainfall and snowfall
from space. If the system can be perfected, meteorologists and
climatologists will have a fantastic tool for measuring
precipitation where no ground-based instruments are located.
To improve the satellite system, ground-based radar and other
equipment were moved to remote areas of the Olympic Peninsula to
take measurements (see video below). Meanwhile, aircraft flying
above, below and inside the clouds were taking their own
The program, called Olympex for Olympic Mountains Experiment, is
impressive. Researchers chose the west side of the Olympics because
that’s where storms arrive from the Pacific Ocean, laying down
between 100 and 180 inches of rainfall each year. Sure, these folks
were looking for rain, but did they really know what they were
On Friday, a Doppler-on-wheels radar system was nearly flooded
when between 4 and 14 inches of rain fell in various portions of
the Quinault Valley, raising Lake Quinault by about six inches per
hour over a period of several hours. For details, check out
science summary for the day, which describes some of the
measurements that were taken.
“We’re not just checking the satellite’s observations, the way
you might double-check a simple distance measurement,” said project
manager Lynn McMurdie in a
news release from the University of Washington.
“We’re checking the connection between what the satellite sees
from space, what’s happening in the middle of the storm system and
what reaches the ground, which is what most people ultimately want
to know,” McMurdle said. “So we’re not just improving the
satellite’s performance — we’re learning how storm systems
Education” website explains how weather systems from the
Pacific Ocean are experienced on land and how Olympex will sort
“Large weather systems arrive in the Pacific Northwest from the
ocean, and not all parts of the system are equal. The leading edge,
called the pre-frontal sector, tends to be warmer and have steady
rainfall. Next, the frontal sector marks the transition from the
warmer air to the colder air and processes that produce rainfall
are often most intense in this region. Finally the post-frontal
sector, characterized by colder temperatures, will often bring
showery rain and snow, and can produce large snowfall accumulations
at higher elevations.
“The (Olympex) field campaign will be looking inside these storm
clouds with ground radar and aircraft instruments to determine the
accuracy of the GPM satellite constellation in detecting the unique
precipitation characteristics in these different storm sectors.
“One of the aircraft will be flying through the clouds to make
detailed measurements of raindrops, ice particles, and snowflakes
as they are falling to Earth’s surface. Combined with data from the
ground radars and the total amounts caught by the rain gauges and
other instruments on the ground, scientists will be able to improve
the computer models of precipitating clouds – the same types of
computer models used to forecast the weather and project future
If you’d like to learn more about Olympex, check out these
Despite concerns about drought in much of Washington state,
Kitsap County came through the water year (ending Sept. 30) with
precipitation just about normal.
As you can see from the graphs on this page, precipitation in
2015 (blue line) fairly well tracked the average (pink line). The
previous water year (orange line) was more concerning, although
both 2014 and 2015 water years ended in fairly decent shape.
Areas in North Kitsap ended the year somewhat above average. In
Hansville, the annual total was 34.3 inches, compared to an average
of 30.2 inches. In Central and South Kitsap, many areas were
slightly below normal. In Holly, the annual rainfall was 69.4
inches, compared to an average of 76.6 inches.
The Kitsap Peninsula largely relies on groundwater for its water
supplies, and we have gotten enough rains to keep the aquifers in
fairly decent shape, according to Mark Morgan of Kitsap Public
“Aquifers experienced their typical summer drawdown, driven more
by demand than by drought, but (it was) nothing exceptional,” Mark
said in a summary of the water year.
Concerns about drought in other parts of the state were largely
based on a lack of snowpack coming out of last winter.
Meanwhile, flows in many streams hit low-flow conditions a month
earlier than normal this past summer, but some maintained their
typical flow, Mark said. Adequate streamflows are critical for coho
salmon, which spend a year in freshwater, as well as for year-round
residents, such as trout.
The forecast for the winter is based on strong El Nino
conditions (see map below), which means that sea surface
temperatures off the coast of South America will be significantly
higher than usual — up to 3.4 degrees F (2 degrees C). Above-normal
temperatures are expected across the western U.S. as well as the
northern tier states and Eastern Seaboard, with the greatest chance
of above-normal temperatures in the Pacific Northwest.
Below-average temperatures are expected in New Mexico and West
Texas. For details, see the prediction maps at the bottom of this
page or check out NOAA’s
Climate Prediction Center.
While much of the country will benefit from greater rainfall,
below normal precipitation is expected for the Northwest and areas
in the Eastern Great Lakes, New York and northern New England.
Climatologists predict with 95 percent certainty that the El
Nino will continue through the winter in the Northern Hemisphere
before gradually weakening in the spring.