“We went out yesterday with the mission of checking up on J39
who was seen earlier this week with a fishing lure hanging out of
his mouth. As of yesterday we were able to determine that his new
found accessory was no longer attached. Whether he swallowed it or
it fell out on it’s own, we may never know. He appeared fine
yesterday, and was behaving normally.”
Killer whale experts will be closely watching J-39, a
12-year-old male orca named Mako, to see how he manages to get
along with fishing gear caught in his mouth. So far, he does not
appear to be injured.
Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research said it is likely
that the young orca swallowed a fish on the end of the fishing line
and may have swallowed the hook as well. It appears a white flasher
— a type of lure — is still attached to the line just outside the
Ken said killer whales often swim in and around fishing gear,
though he has never seen a whale with a fishing lure dangling from
“I don’t think it is a major issue to their survival,” he said.
“They are pretty tough.”
Assuming the fisherman who lost the gear was fishing legally, it
would be a barbless hook, which might allow it and the flasher to
come loose. Ken said it might be helpful for the fisherman to come
forward to describe the setup on his line.
Ken said a male orca designated L-8 was found to have a large
mass of fishing gear in his stomach when he was examined after
death in 1978. The fishing gear was not what killed him, however,
Ken said. The whale was caught in a gillnet and drowned. (Today,
the articulated skeleton of that whale, named Moclips, is on
display at The Whale Museum in Friday Harbor.)
NOAA Fisheries, which has responsibility for managing marine
mammals, has hired the Center for Whale Research to locate and
observe J-39 to see whether he is free of the fishing gear or has
trouble getting enough food. Experts will look for a depression
behind the blowhole to see if the whale is losing significant
weight. The condition is called “peanut head” because of how the
“We need to see what the whale’s condition is and if it gets
peanut head,” Ken told me.
Howard Garret of Orca Network said he has not heard of any
recent sightings J-39 or J pod, one of the three groups of killer
whales listed as endangered. A photo taken Saturday near False Bay
(west side of San Juan Island) was provided to Orca Network by
Barbara Bender of All Aboard Sailing. Orca Network forwarded the
information to NOAA Fisheries.
Lynne Barre, chief of the Protected Resources Branch in NOAA
Fisheries’ Seattle office, said the following in a news release
issued this afternoon:
“We’re obviously very concerned about the lure and how it might
affect J-39’s feeding and behavior. We appreciate the reports from
whale watchers who first noticed this and we will work with our
partners on the water to watch J-39 carefully.”
It appears too early to decide whether a direct intervention
would be helpful or advisable, but I wouldn’t rule it out as a last
resort. NOAA Fisheries officials are hoping the fishing line will
come loose on its own, but they will use any new observations and
photographs by the Center for Whale Research to consider options
for helping the animal.
Meanwhile, in other orca news, Saturday will be Orca Network’s
annual commemoration of the killer whale captures 45 years ago,
when more than 100 orcas were herded into Whidbey Island’s Penn
The younger orcas were sent to marine parks throughout the
world. By 1987, all but one had died in captiivity, but the one
survivor — Lolita — still inspires an effort to bring her back to
her native waters.
Saturday’s commemoration will be from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Penn
Cove and Coupeville Recreation Hall. Speakers include John
Hargrove, author of “Beneath the Surface,” David Neiwart, author of
“Of Orcas and Men,” and Sandra Pollard, author of “Puget Sound
Whales for Sale.” Music includes the Derik Nelson Band.
The day’s events will be followed by an evening ceremony
involving the Sammish Tribe. For details and ticket info, visit
Time-lapse photography can add a new dimension to the way we see
things. When done well, these speeded-up videos not only help us
see things in a new way but also call us to remember feelings about
special places and natural wonders.
On their first visit to Olympic National Park, brothers Will and
Jim Pattiz captured images from various park locations for what
would become a captivating video for the series “More Than Just Parks.”
They traveled to some prime locations that many of us have visited,
but their careful use of time-lapse equipment create a new sense of
inspiration for familiar places.
So find a quiet moment, sit back and enjoy their video
full-screen on your computer if not your TV.
If you’d like to learn more about the video project and what the
brothers learned about Olympic National Park, read the interview on
Exotic Hikes website, or check out the background on “More Than Just
One of my all-time favorite time-lapse videos was shot in
Yellowstone National Park, where photographer Christopher Cauble
captured the rhythms of nature in a place where geysers, streams,
clouds and even the animals move with a natural fluidity. I
especially like the sections where the video slows down to remind
us about the normal pace of events — something not seen in most
The last video on this page shows Mount Rainier in a time-lapse
video by West Coast
Time Lapse, a company of Nate Wetterauer and Chase Jensen. Like
the Olympic National Park video, this one about Mount Rainier was
posted within the past year.
I am still baffled, as are the folks at the University of
Washington’s Seismology Lab, why people freaked out over the
earthquake article, titled “The Really Big One,” published this
month in New
Could it be that Northwest residents were unaware or had
forgotten about the risk of earthquakes in this area until a
national magazine called attention to the problem?
Was it the lack of credible details about earthquake risks in
the original article, which included this quote from an
emergency-management official: “Our operating assumption is that
everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast.”
Or maybe it was the rapid spread of information via social media
and the huge number people living in other parts of the country who
texted, tweeted and inundated Facebook with worries about their
relatives in the Pacific Northwest.
“I don’t really know what it was,” said Bill Steele, my longtime
contact at the UW’s Seismology Lab. “We are a bit baffled by it.
There is nothing really new.”
Although the author, Kathryn Schultz, left out specifics about
which areas might be affected more than others, she did tell a
compelling — and fairly accurate — story about what could happen
when the North America plate breaks free of the Juan de Fuca plate,
which is sliding underneath it.
I was pleased to see that she came back this week with a
follow-up article describing where the greatest shaking would
occur and which areas would be at greatest risk from a tsunami
unleashed by slippage along the Cascadia subduction zone. She also
suggests steps that people can take to protect themselves and their
property — something I have always felt is a mandatory part of any
story I write about earthquakes. Review a webpage put together by the
I’ve been very fortunate to have worked as a news reporter
during a time when many important discoveries were made in
Northwest seismology. I accompanied researchers digging in swamps,
riverbanks and man-made trenches, where they found traces of
ancient earthquakes. That work and much more comprises a body of
evidence across many disciplines that helps us understand how bad
our “big one” could be.
In 1999, I paused from covering individual discoveries about
earthquakes to write a story for the Kitsap Sun focusing on a few
of the researchers and their key findings. We called the story
“Finding Fault: 13 Years of Discoveries.”
I can’t begin to recount all the stories I’ve written about
earthquakes through the years, but I do recall warning people a few
years ago to get prepared after the massive Japanese earthquake
made headlines across the the globe (Kitsap
Sun, March 11, 2011):
“While Japan struggles to recover from one of the greatest
earthquakes in world history, West Coast seismologists are warning
that a quake just like it could occur at any time off the
Washington and Oregon coasts.
“In broad-brush terms, ‘the two earthquakes are very similar,’
said John Vidale, director of the Pacific Northwest Seismograph
Network at the University of Washington. ‘As a first guess, what
might happen here is what happened there.’
Of course, we have had our own earthquakes that should give us
plenty of reason to get prepared. The 6.8-magnitude Nisqually
earthquake on Feb. 28, 2001, occurred in the Puget Sound region and
served as a powerful wakeup call for many people.
The Nisqually quake was called the “miracle quake” because
nobody was killed, although one man died from a heart attack that
could have been related to the event. About 400 people were injured
and damage estimates ranged up to $4 billion. (U.S.
In the Puget Sound region, the shaking from the Nisqually quake
could be something like area residents will experience in a
Cascadia subduction-zone quake, though shaking from a subduction
quake is expected to last longer, depending on how much of the
plate breaks free. Things will not be the same in all places, and
communities closest to the Olympic Mountains might experience the
most damage from a subduction quake.
Five years after the Nisqually quake, Phyllis Mann, who was
director of Kitsap County Department of Emergency Management at the
time, was still wondering why many people were not prepared for an
earthquake in Kitsap County.
“Kitsap has never depended on the federal government as part of
its plan,” Phyllis told me in a
Kitsap Sun story published Feb. 28, 2006. “The federal
government can’t be with us the day of the disaster. With the
exception of the military, which is part of our community, you
can’t count on the feds early on.”
Mann used our interview to direct pointed questions at Kitsap
“Why aren’t you ready? What is it going to take? We keep asking
this question and finding out that people aren’t prepared. Where is
your food and water for three days? (A week is the latest
recommendation.) Where are your reunion plans? Is it my
responsibility as the county emergency manager to make sure
everyone does it?”
The New Yorker article failed to mention an earthquake threat
that should be of equal concern to residents of the Puget Sound
area. You may have heard of the Seattle fault, which runs from
Seattle across Bainbridge Island and Central Kitsap to Hood
Although the frequency of huge earthquakes on the Seattle fault
appear to be less than those along the Cascadia subduction zone, we
must not forget that a quake on the Seattle fault about 1,100 years
ago lifted up the south end of Bainbridge Island by 21 feet and
created a tsunami that inundated shorelines now occupied by people.
By contrast, a tsunami coming from the ocean after a subduction
quake might raise the water level quickly in Puget Sound but
probably no higher than what we see with daily tides.
In a way, the Seattle fault put the Kitsap Peninsula on the map
with a red bull’s-eye, which I wrote about five years ago. See
Kitsap Sun, May 8, 2010, along with the map on this page.
Bill Steele told me that he is sure that Kenneth Murphy,
regional director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency,
regrets saying, “Our operating assumption is that everything west
of Interstate 5 will be toast.” That may be a good “operating
assumption” for an agency trying to plan for the worse possible
emergency, but it is not a very good description of what
seismologists predict by modeling various scenarios.
Bill said many people failed to read the New Yorker article
carefully and took the comment to mean that most of Western
Washington would be hit with a 50-foot wall of water — something
that could not be further from the truth.
“The good news for us is that we have a pretty good 10,000-year
history of what happened on the fault,” Bill said. “We know how the
shaking will be distributed.” Again, look at the hazard map on this
page and note the strip of red along the coast.
While many earthquake experts are surprised by the reaction to
the New Yorker article, it has accomplished one goal of those who
understand the risks: getting people to create earthquake kits,
secure homes on their foundations and other things that could help
prevent damage and get people through the emergency.
“You have to take your hat off to the author,” Bill told me,
“because she got a lot of people thinking. It is not like the New
Yorker has that many subscriptions.”
Emergency managers may be studying the cascading events
triggered by the New Yorker article, including the initial
publication, the ripples running through social media and the
public alarm that rose up and eventually died down.
Directing public concern into action is what folks like Bill
Steele and others are doing right now. Check out the video in the
player below for Bill’s appearance on “New Day Northwest,” and
visit the webpage of the Pacific
Northwest Seismic Network for basic information and scheduled
discussions about earthquake risks. One public forum is scheduled
for Tuesday at the University of Oregon, and
other forums are under consideration at the UW.
With a key deadline approaching next week, Gov. Jay Inslee
decided today that he will not move forward on new water-quality
standards at this time.
The governor had hoped that the Legislature would approve his
plan to track down and eliminate sources of nonpoint pollution, the
kind that often gets into our waterways via stormwater. The
Democratic-controlled House approved a revised proposal for
chemical action plans
(HB 1472), which Inslee said he could support. But, in the end,
the Republican-controlled Senate failed to act on the bill.
“Without this legislation, we lack the necessary broad approach
to protecting our water in a way that advances human, environmental
and economic health,” Inslee said in a
news release issued today. “The lack of legislative action is
disappointing and forces us to reassess our approach.”
Environmental advocates and tribal officials have called for
stronger water-quality standards. Such standards, if approved,
could require industrial facilities and sewage-treatment plants to
extensively upgrade their systems to remove more pollutants from
Inslee and his supporters have argued that many of the
pollutants of greatest concern don’t come from industrial and
municipal discharges. Rather they come from “the small-but-steady
release of chemicals in everyday products – brakes on vehicles,
flame retardants in furniture, softeners in plastics, and metals in
roofing materials,” according to the news release.
That’s why Inslee has pushed for the more comprehensive approach
of dealing with the most troublesome chemicals, many of which are
not even regulated under the federal Clean Water Act. (Inslee
news release, July 9, 2014.)
Water-quality standards actually apply to streams and bodies of
water. Comparing results from water samples with numerical
standards tells us whether the waters are polluted or clean enough
to protect public health. The numerical standards become a starting
point for permitting any discharge through pipes, although
stormwater pipes are generally not regulated.
I have followed this story now for quite some time. The latest
two weeks ago in Water Ways covers the overall issue and
includes links to previous stories.
It isn’t clear what the next move will be. The news release says
the governor has “directed the state Department of Ecology to
reconsider its draft clean water rules while he and the agency
assess options on how best to assure protection for the health of
Washington’s people, fish and economy.”
Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency is developing new
standards for Washington state. If the state fails to act or fails
to protect public health, as determined by the EPA, then the
federal agency could impose its standards on the state. Proposed
EPA standards, like state standards, must undergo a rigorous
review, including public comments and probably public hearings.
Mark MacIntyre, EPA spokesman, issued a statement today in
response to Inslee’s decision:
“We believe it’s important to have human health criteria in
place that are protective for everybody in Washington, including
high consumers of fish such as members of tribal communities. In
terms of who writes the standards, EPA continues to prefer and
support Washington’s development of revised water quality standards
that we can approve. In the meantime, we are proceeding consistent
with our commitment to work on a federal proposal for Washington,
but will pause that work to review and act upon a state submittal,
should we receive one.”
Washington Department of Ecology, which enforces the Clean Water
Act for Washington state, was planning to approve the new standards
by next Thursday. But under Inslee’s latest order that will not
happen. If the rule is revised, it must undergo a new public review
More than 1,600 comments were received on the proposed
standards, which are not likely to be approved in their current
form. Most of the comments related to the higher cancer risk level
chosen by Ecology and the governor. Cancer risk is one factor in
calculating the water-quality standards, along with a
fish-consumption rate, chemical-toxicity factor and others.
When it comes to restoring the Puget Sound ecosystem, human
beings really do matter — in some ways that are obvious and in some
ways that are fairly subtle.
The Puget Sound Leadership Council, which oversees the
restoration of Puget Sound, acknowledged this fact yesterday when
adopting a new set of ecosystem indicators to measure how Puget
Sound influences the health and well-being of humans.
It’s often said that people have damaged the Puget Sound
ecosystem through years of abuse. They say it will take years of
restoration — by people — to return things to a healthy condition.
But why do we care? Are we spending millions of dollars on
restoration just to benefit fish and wildlife, or are we doing it
The answer, which comes from studies of economics and human
behavior, appears to be that helping fish and wildlife — by putting
the ecosystem back together — also benefits humans in a variety of
When the Washington Legislature told the Puget Sound Partnership
to go forth and lead the way toward restoring Puget Sound to
health, our lawmakers understood that people would be the primary
beneficiaries. The first two goals assigned to the partnership, as
articulated by RCW
A healthy human population supported by a healthy Puget Sound
that is not threatened by changes in the ecosystem;
A quality of human life that is sustained by a functioning
Puget Sound ecosystem;
The other three goals are related to native species, habitats
and water supplies.
Sometimes goals related to human values conflict with goals to
restore ecological functions. For example, one cannot build a house
on undeveloped land without altering the ecosystem in some negative
ways. Sometimes human values are aligned with ecological values,
such when we reduce pollution to clean up streams and drinking
water. In any case, these new ecosystem indicators will help people
understand the tradeoffs and opportunities of various actions.
As I pointed out last month in
Water Ways, the Hood Canal Coordinating Council has completed a
plan and associated website
that highlights connections between human well-being and natural
resources in the Hood Canal region. Hood Canal became a pilot
project for the indicators approved yesterday for all of Puget
Sound. Some of the same folks — including social scientist Kelly
Biedenweg of the Puget Sound Institute — were involved in creating
nine new “vital signs” with indicators to track human-related
changes in the Puget Sound ecosystem.
Unlike the original human health and human well-being indicators
adopted in 2010, these new indicators have undergone an extensive
review by scientists and other experts to ensure their validity and
reliability. That is, these new indicators have real meaning in
connecting human beings to the ecological functions of Puget
In yesterday’s meeting, Martha Kongsgaard, chairwoman of the
Leadership Council, said the human dimension is often ignored in
favor of empirical science.
“This is a hard thing to do,” she said about developing the new
indicators. “This is sort of a brave new world, and I think it is
true that we live in this world whether we call it out like this or
Council member Stephanie Solien said she would like to see more
discussions about human health and well-being issues — not because
they are more important than species and habitats, but because they
make connections to average people.
“People are self-interested,” she said. “They care about their
health, their family’s health, the health of their communities. The
more we can draw those connections to Puget Sound and healthy
watersheds, I think we will be more successful in our work around
ecosystems and saving species.”
Here are the four new vital signs and associated indicators
related to human health:
1. OUTDOOR ACTIVITY: Measured by 1) Percent of
swimming beaches meeting bacterial standards (one of the existing
indicators), 2) Average hours people spend having fun outdoors, 3)
Average hours people spend working outdoors.
2. AIR QUALITY: Indicators to be determined
from existing data.
3. LOCAL FOODS: Availability of wild foods,
such the ability to catch fish, collect shellfish, harvest plants
and hunt for game.
4. DRINKING WATER: Indicators to be determined
from information about water systems.
Here are the five new vital signs and associated indicators
related to human well-being:
5. ECONOMIC VITALITY: Measured by 1) Value of
natural resources produced by industry, including commercial
fishing, shellfish harvesting, timber production, agriculture,
mining and tourism; 2) Value produced by natural-resource
industries compared to gross domestic product of all other
industries in the region; 3) Number of jobs in natural-resource
6. CULTURAL WELL-BEING: Percent of residents
who feel they are able to maintain traditions associated with the
7. GOOD GOVERNANCE: Percentage of people who
feel they have 1) the opportunity to influence decisions about
Puget Sound, 2) the rights and freedom to make decisions about
managing natural resources, 3) trust in local and regional
governments to make the right decisions about Puget Sound, 4) been
well represented by government leaders, 5) access to information
about natural-resource issues.
8. SENSE OF PLACE: Percentage of people who
feel: 1) a positive connection to the region, 2) a sense of
stewardship for the watershed, 3) a sense of pride about being from
9. PSYCHOLOGICAL WELL-BEING INDEX: Percentage
of people who experience: 1) inspiration from being in nature, 2)
reduced stress, calm or relaxation from being in nature, 3) Overall
life satisfaction based on criteria in national studies.
Leadership Council member Jay Manning, former director of the
Washington Department of Ecology, said he supports the indicators.
His only concern is that some are beyond the control of the Puget
Sound Partnership, and some may have nothing to do with people’s
connection to Puget Sound.
Jay makes a good point, but the social scientists who developed
the indicators stressed that there will be no targets or goals
associated with human values. What will be interesting to watch is
whether people feel better or worse about the restoration effort as
time goes on, and how the leaders choose to respond to any changes
in public opinion.
Much of the information that will fit into the new indicators
will be the result of phone surveys yet to be conducted. Other
information will be teased out of ongoing research studies. The
partnership has received funding from the Environmental Protection
Agency to hire a consultant to continue work on the human-related
indicators until the numbers are finalized.
None of the new information about human health and well-being
will be included in the State of Puget Sound report to be issued
later this year, according to Kari Stiles, staff scientist for the
partnership. But some information could go into the Vital Signs wheel within
the next year.
I’m not a big fan of compilation videos that show a series of
accidents in which people get hurt and are obviously in pain. I
tend to wince and just want to know if the person involved is OK.
I’m sure I could laugh if only I was assured that the person didn’t
die or get laid up in a hospital — although this kind of video does
not normally convey this kind of information.
Getting wet is quite survivable, which is why I get a real kick
from videos showing mishaps involving boats. I keep returning to
the blooper videos by TV fisherman Bill Dance, who I blogged about
Water Ways two months ago.
America’s Funniest Home Videos put together a nice compilation
of minor incidents involving people on the water. The pacing is
just right, and the accompanying music, “Somewhere Beyond the Sea”
by Frank Sinatra, couldn’t be better. This video is in the first
video player on this page.
I don’t know if a person is more or less likely to be hurt on a
large ship than a small boat when things go awry, but property
damage from a ship can be enormous. I can easily forgive myself for
laughing about terrible property damage as long as nobody gets
hurt. Don’t ask me why. Check out:
Shifting gears a little, have you ever wondered what it would be
like if Weird Al Yankovik were performing on the Titanic at the
time the historic ship went down? I find this video funny, despite
the human tragedy that occurred. I think it is because the story
itself has become nearly a cliché. The video is called “Weird Al
Yankovic On A Boat (And The Band Played On).”
Finally, there’s a commercial for Nitro boats featuring a
fisherman guy who finds himself choosing between his boat and his
new girlfriend. His answer to the question is simple, as you can
see in the video below.
After leaving the staff of the Kitsap Sun, I was profoundly
thrilled and honored this year to have my environmental reporting
career recognized by two organizations that I greatly respect.
The two awards got me to thinking about the role that
environmental reporters can play in bridging the gap between
scientists studying the Puget Sound ecosystem and residents wishing
to protect this beloved place.
Conservancy, which plays a central role in acquiring and
protecting vital ecosystems on the Kitsap Peninsula, chose to honor
me with its Conservationist of the Year Award. The award is
especially humbling, because I see myself as a storyteller, not a
conservationist. But I was reminded that stories can help bring
people together to accomplish great things. One major project that
involves GPC and its many partners is the Kitsap Forest and Bay
Project, a major land-acquisition effort in North Kitsap.
When I attended GPC’s annual fund-raising dinner in April, it
felt like some sort of reunion. People I had known for years from
all sorts of organizations and agencies came up to shake my hand.
Some I knew very well. For nearly everyone, I could look back over
more than 35 years of reporting and recall their connection to one
or more environmental stories. It was a bit overwhelming.
The second award, from the SeaDoc Society, was equally
satisfying, since it recognized my work across the Puget Sound
region. The Octopus Award acknowledges groups and individuals
outside SeaDoc who have advanced the organization’s goal of
protecting the health of marine wildlife.
SeaDoc’s director and chief scientist, Dr. Joe Gaydos, a
veterinarian, has a rare ability. He not only conducts research
with a precision required to advance science, but he also
communicates general scientific knowledge in ways we can all
understand. I cannot count the times I’ve asked Joe to help me put
some ecological issue into perspective.
Joe teamed up recently with author Audrey DeLella Benedict to
write an informative and entertaining book about the inland
waterway that extends from Olympia, Wash., to Campbell River, B.C.,
including Puget Sound and the Strait of Georgia. The title is
“The Salish Sea: Jewel of the Pacific Northwest.”
Unlike my experience at the GPC dinner, I knew only a handful of
people at SeaDoc’s annual fund-raising auction on Orcas Island two
weeks ago. I was able to become acquainted with many wonderful
people who seemed interested in all aspects of the Puget Sound
ecosystem. I was SeaDoc’s guest for the entire weekend, which
turned into a much-needed mini-vacation. It was the first time I’ve
been able to get away this year.
For whatever success I’ve had in my career, I owe a debt to all
the scientists willing to give their time to help me understand
their research. Science is a journey of discovery, and I’ve been
privileged to hitchhike with all sorts of researchers on their way
to understanding how the world works.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the teaching of science
and the need to encourage future researchers. Although I have a
degree in biochemistry, I’ve never worked as a scientist — unless
you count the year I toiled as a lab assistant growing tomato
plants. It was a research project designed to figure out how the
plants protect themselves from damaging insects.
I grew up believing that science was a particular set of facts
that explained the workings of nature. For the longest time, I
failed to see that the most important thing about science was
formulating the right questions about things we don’t know. Science
teachers should, of course, convey what is known, but I believe
they should also lead their students to the edge of the unknown,
revealing some of the questions that scientists are attempting to
answer right now.
That is what much of my reporting on Puget Sound has been about.
We’ve known for years that the health of the waterway is in
decline. It has been rewarding to help people understand why things
have been going wrong and what can be done to reverse the downward
trends. While there is much work to do, we’re at a point where we
can expect Puget Sound residents to limit their damage to the
ecosystem and become part of the restoration effort.
Finally, I have some advice for science reporters and scientists
alike. I feel like I’ve been lucky to be able to connect well with
researchers, though I’ve heard it said that the relationship
between reporters and scientists can be rough at times.
I’ve known reporters who are more interested in getting a scoop
than in learning, more interested in getting to some perceived
conclusion than in understanding the whys and hows. I’ve also known
scientists who are convinced that their research is too complex for
reporters to grasp, not to mention write about accurately.
For myself, it has always worked to follow my curiosity wherever
it takes me. Gathering far more information than I need for today’s
story, I find that this wandering gives me a better understanding
of the big picture while identifying future stories. Thanks to
those who have tolerated my detailed questioning.
Scientists also can take steps to make sure they are well
understood. Spell out key points for reporters, go over the
essential elements more than once, and even put information in
writing if a reporter seems to need some extra help.
When this kind of collaboration is successful, the result is a
story that captures the imagination, provides accurate information
and sometimes even changes the way people see the world.
The historic town of Port Gamble is about to get a new-fangled
sewage-treatment plant, one that will allow highly treated effluent
to recharge the groundwater in North Kitsap.
The old treatment plant discharges its effluent into Hood Canal,
causing the closure of about 90 acres of shellfish beds. After the
new plant is in operation, those shellfish beds are likely to be
reopened, officials say.
The new facility will be built and operated by Kitsap Public Utility
District, which owns and manages small water systems throughout
the county. The Port Gamble plant will be the first wastewater
operation to be managed by the KPUD, which views the project as a
step toward reclaiming more of Kitsap County’s wastewater by
putting it to beneficial use, said manager Bob Hunter.
The PUD already manages the Port Gamble water system, which will
undergo a future renovation, he said. Dealing with the community’s
sewage is the next logical step.
“Nobody can do reclaimed water without the sewage-treatment part
of the equation,” Bob told me, “and it seems potentially more
efficient to have one entity do it.”
In a related development, the district is expected to ask Kitsap
County voters for authority to own the plant as well as operate it.
Under its current authority, the district can own water utilities
but not sewer utilities.
A $2-million state grant to eliminate the discharge of sewage
into Hood Canal requires that a public entity own the sewer system.
To comply with that requirement, Mason County PUD 1 will take over
ownership until Kitsap PUD obtains the needed authority, Bob
The KPUD commissioners are expected to decide on Tuesday whether
to place a measure on November’s ballot. Hunter said he doesn’t
expect opposition, but he hopes to address any concerns people may
have. The commissioners meet at 9:30 a.m. in their Poulsbo
The new treatment plant will be a membrane bioreactor, a type of
filtering system capable of producing effluent close to the quality
of drinking water. The plant, which comes assembled, will treat up
to 100,000 gallons of sewage per day. That’s enough capacity to
serve the existing homes in Port Gamble. And if the town’s
redevelopment is approved
(Kitsap Sun, Jan. 24, 2013), as proposed by owner Pope
Resources, the plant could serve up to 350 homes — provided the old
sewer pipes are replaced to reduce the amount of stormwater that
The plant will be located on 1.3 acres near Carver Drive, south
of Highway 104. Effluent will be pumped to a new drainfield at the
top of a nearby hill. Eventually, water from the plant could be
used to irrigate forestland or else lawns and ballfields in the
Construction is expected to get underway soon, with the system
operational by May of next year. The entire project, including the
treatment plant, pumping system, pipes, drainfield and site work,
is expected to cost $5 million with most of the cost paid by Pope
The KPUD has no plans to operate other sewer systems at this
time, Hunter said, but the district hopes to be in a position to
respond to community needs, as it as done with failing water
systems. Small sewage-treatment plants could be feasible where a
lot of septic systems are failing, he noted, but state law
precludes the use of sewers in rural areas except during a health
emergency. Even then, the systems must serve only existing needs,
not future growth, he noted.
Without snowpack, Kitsap Peninsula is entirely dependent on the
amount of rain that falls on the peninsula. With limited storage,
future water supplies can be bolstered by recharging the
groundwater with high-quality sewage effluent or by using effluent
to replace drinking water used for irrigation and industrial
The Central Kitsap Wastewater Treatment Plant, which produces an
average 3.2 million gallons of water each day, is undergoing a
major upgrade to produce water that can be used for a variety of
uses in nearby Silverdale. In preparation, Silverdale Water
District has been installing a new piping network to bring the
reclaimed water into the community.
“We have been talking for a long time about getting water into
the ground instead of dumping it into Puget Sound or Hood Canal,”
said Bob Hunter. “With this project in Port Gamble, we can learn
and be prepared when other situations come along.”
Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research has confirmed that
Paul Pudwell of Sooke
Whale Watching located the five missing killer whales that have
not been seen in U.S. waters this year. The whales were spotted
July 15 off Sooke, B.C., which is west of Victoria on Vancouver
Paul was able to get pictures of all five whales suitable for
identification by Ken and company.
By my reckoning, this should account for all the Southern
Residents. While four new orca babies are thriving, we have had
just one death to mourn over the past year. That brings the
population to 82, up from 79 last year at this time. That number
includes Lolita, a Southern Resident being kept at Miami
Seaquarium. For a full accounting of the population, see
Water Ways, July 1 and
Water Ways, July 7.
It isn’t the rare man-bites-dog story, but a humorous
dog-sprays-man video has created a major buzz on the Internet since
it was posted last week on YouTube and Facebook. Watch as the
speedy dog chases his owner around the yard with a garden hose.
a website affiliated with the television show America’s Funniest
Home Videos, posted the video, and lots of people passed it on,
adding their own headlines. Among them were: “Revenge-seeking dog
drenches owner with hose” and “This dog demands that his owner stay
hydrated in the summer heat.”
It turns out that the video was shown on “America’s Funniest
Home Videos” back in 2007, when the announcer made this comment,
“Max is a little bitter that he is not a Dalmatian with a swanky
I understand the notion of a dog getting revenge, after
reviewing dozens of videos in which the dog’s owner sprays his pet
with a jet of water. The dogs seem to love it, and it becomes a
game between the human hose-bearer and the canine on the other
The video that went viral last week is not the only one showing
a dog using a hose to chase a man. In fact, one video, posted by
in 2010, seems to be less staged than the one that launched this
blog post. You can hear the camera operator laughing and asking at
the end, “Is this payback for all the time we sprayed her with a
And we must not mention dogs without offering at least one cat
video. That’s exactly the number of videos I could find showing
cats having fun playing in water. Chloe posted a video last year
Cat Playing With Water Hose” (video player below), along with
the following comments on her YouTube Channel Clover
“I recently discovered that my cat likes to play with the water
that comes out of my garden hose. He gets really wet after playing
with the water. He hates getting wet, but he doesn’t seem to care
if the hose wets him. I think he only likes to get wet on his