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Environmental reporter Christopher Dunagan discusses the challenges of protecting Puget Sound and all things water-related.
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Posts Tagged ‘Bainbridge Island’

Bulkhead removal called ‘a story of bravery’

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

“I think it’s a story of bravery and a story of love for this place,” says Martha Kongsgaard at the beginning of the video on this page.

Kongsgaard, chairwoman of the Leadership Council of the Puget Sound Partnership, is celebrating the removal of a massive bulkhead on Bainbridge Island. The removal, known as the Powel Shoreline Restoration Project, occurred in the fall of 2012. The outcome was to reconnect a saltwater marsh with the lower shoreline by removing 1,500 feet of man-made bulkhead from property owned by the Powel family.

In the midst of the excavation — which removed rocks, logs and huge chunks of concrete — Babe Kehres, a family member whose house overlooks the site commented, “I think it’s going to be beautiful when it’s done. For me, it’s about taking things back to the way nature wanted them to be.”

Reporter Tad Sooter covered the story for the Kitsap Sun (Aug. 30, 2012). It turned out that removing the bulkhead was less costly than repair — but not by a whole lot. Still, restoring the natural conditions provided tremendous ecological benefits without creating undue shoreline erosion.

The video, by Quest Northwest reporter Sarah Sanborn, shows the excavation in progress and explains why we should celebrate the project and the Powel family. But my favorite part is a slideshow on Sarah’s blog, which shows before and after photos of the shoreline. It is easy to imagine why fish, wildlife and other creatures would prefer the more natural condition.


Puget Sound grants continue ecosystem restoration

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

About $22 million in state and federal grants were awarded last week for Puget Sound ecosystem restoration, another installment in the struggle to nurse Puget Sound back to health.

About $12 million in state and federal funds came through the Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program, or ESRP, under the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. As the name suggests, these funds are focused on improving nearshore and ecosystem processes.

Another $10 million came from the Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration (PSAR) Fund, which is focused mainly on salmon restoration. More of those funds will be awarded before the end of the year.

Reporter Tad Sooter and I wrote about the West Sound projects in Friday’s Kitsap Sun (subscription required), focusing a good deal of our attention on a key acquisition of property on the Bainbridge Island shoreline along Agate Passage.

The property includes 4.5 acres of tidelands, including 550 feet of undeveloped beach, along with 7.5 acres of upland woods and meadows, all to be preserved by the Bainbridge Island Land Trust.

Brenda Padgham, stewardship director for land trust, told Tad that this property is one of the last intact nearshore habitats on Bainbridge Island. “The whole reach is so pristine,” she said.

Of the $1.2 million provided for the Bainbridge Island purchase, $810,000 came from the PSAR funds and $396,000 came from the ESRP.

Betsy Lions, who manages the ESRP for the Department of Fish and Wildlife, said most of that money this year will go toward removing unnecessary bulkheads, replacing culverts that block salmon passage and restoring tidal functions.

The 20 ESRP grants are described in a news release from Fish and Wildlife.

The salmon recovery money was approved Thursday by the Salmon Recovery Funding Board. In a news release yesterday, Gov. Jay Inslee stressed the economic value of preserving the state’s salmon runs:

“These projects will increase salmon populations while giving a boost to the economy. Salmon are important economically to Washington state and these projects will provide construction jobs and help countless numbers of Washington families and businesses, including tackle shops, charter operators, restaurants and hotels, that rely on the world-renowned Pacific salmon.”

David Troutt, chairman of the SRF Board and natural resources director of the Nisqually Tribe, made this comment:

“Puget Sound Chinook are about one-third as abundant as they were a century ago. As we have developed our urban and rural landscapes, we’ve damaged many of the estuaries, floodplains and rivers that salmon need to survive. These projects have been selected as ones that will make big impacts on Puget Sound and salmon recovery. Those two things go hand in hand. Puget Sound needs healthy salmon, and salmon need a healthy Puget Sound.”

The 11 PSAR projects are outlined in a document (PDF 106 kb) on the state Recreation and Conservation Office’s website. By the way, projects in Hood Canal were held up until October, as members of the Hood Canal Coordinating Council continue discussions about priorities.


Yesterday’s ‘King Tide’ nearly broke all-time record

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Bolstered by a low-pressure weather system, yesterday’s “King Tide” was felt throughout Puget Sound. At its extreme, the high tide came within 0.01 feet of breaking the all-time tidal record set for Seattle on Jan. 27, 1983.

Reporter Chris Henry wrote about some of the local problems in a story published in today’s Kitsap Sun. And the Sun’s editors put together a “photo gallery” of pictures taken by area residents. Pictures from other areas were posted on the Flickr website, where the Department of Ecology manages the “Washington King Tide Photo Initiative.”

I especially liked Jim Groh’s photos of the Poulsbo waterfront. Take a close look at the picture taken yesterday (below) and compare it to the one in Sunday’s Water Ways entry, which shows last year’s King Tide. If the word “Poulsbo” doesn’t look right in the picture below, it’s because the bottom half of the letters are under water.

This week’s King Tides are declining, but they are expected to be high again starting Jan. 14.

Poulsbo’s waterfront on Liberty Bay. / Photo by Jim Groh

Silverdale Waterfront Park on Dyes Inlet. / Photo by John Yates

The boat ramp at Fort Ward on Bainbridge Island was nearly covered by water. / Photo by Julie Leung


Shoreline projects gradually restore Puget Sound

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

We’ve been writing a lot lately about shoreline restoration projects. As with road construction, it seems that the heaviest lifting on restoration projects gets going as summer draws to a close.

About 1,500 feet of bulkhead on Port Madison is being removed by the Powel family with help from Puget Sound Partnership and Bainbridge Island Land Trust. / Photo by Tad Sooter

Notable projects on the Kitsap Peninsula:

Judging from the comments on the stories, some people don’t believe the government should be spending money on environmental restoration when the state and nation are in an economic slump.

Two years ago, Gov. Chris Gregoire made it clear that she believed that the economic troubles did not outweigh the ongoing risks to Puget Sound. I quoted her in the Kitsap Sun Oct. 15, 2010:

Removing an aging bulkhead on Dyes Inlet is expected to improve nearshore habitat at Anna Smith Children’s Park.
Photo by Christina Kereki, Kitsap County

“We are in the hardest economic problem since the deep depression, but we cannot take a recess; we cannot take time out (from the Puget Sound cleanup).”

Investing in cleanup efforts to repair past problems is one thing, the governor said, but the solution is not just costly restoration projects:

“It comes down to individuals like us. We are all part of the problem and we can all be part of the solution.”

She was talking about reducing stormwater pollution by being careful with household and lawn chemicals, car washing, oil and oil leaks, pet waste and other things.

When it comes to restoration projects, it turns out that the recession was actually a good time to begin many of these costly projects. As I reported in “Water Ways” on Oct. 21, 2010, the economic stimulus package approved by Congress helped pay for more than 600 projects directed to Puget Sound problems. The projects carried a price tag of about $460 million and created nearly 16,000 jobs.

The economic downturn also turned out to be good timing in another way. Construction companies hungry for work offered much lower bids than they would have during economic boom times. In many cases, including the Union River estuary project, bids are still coming in at the low end of cost projections.

Property owners who wish to restore their streams and shorelines are getting help from the government and nonprofit groups. In most cases, these projects would not get done by the property owners alone.

The $460,000 Powel bulkhead removal, for example, became a partnership between the Powel family, the Bainbridge Island Land Trust and the Puget Sound Partnership. The partnership’s new executive director, Anthony Wright, stated in a news release:

“It’s exciting to see everyone coming together to do some good for Puget Sound. Puget Sound is going to be healthy again because of people like the Powel family, the land trust and regulatory entities all working together.”

Some people doubt that the restoration projects are doing much good. Some say they simply are not worth the cost. But experts who have studied nearshore ecosystems argue that the ecological connections along the shoreline have been so severely disrupted that restoration is the best hope of saving the Puget Sound ecosystem.

I’ve heard people say that science does not support these kinds of restoration efforts. That’s an opinion not held by most experts, but if you are willing to do some reading, you can come to your own conclusions.

Some of the leading experts in our region have been taking part in the Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration Project, which includes a website of technical reports and plans. If you’re a fan of science, like me, you may feel like a kid in a candy shop as you peruse the many reports.

I would recommend the following as a beginning:

The pair of explanatory drawings below is taken from a chapter of the “State of the Science” report mentioned above. See Fish and Invertebrate Response to Shoreline Armoring and Restoration in Puget Sound (PDF 440 KB) by Jason D. Toft, Jeffery R. Cordell, Sarah M. Heerhartz, Elizabeth A. Armbrust, and Charles A. Simenstad.


Habitat-funding formula is sacred among supporters

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

Like a dark cloud, a fear of politics hangs over a program that allocates state money for projects that protect fish and wildlife habitat, build parks and trails and preserve farmland. Check out my story in yesterday’s Kitsap Sun, which relates methods of funding to a Bainbridge Island trails project.

A bit of history is needed to understand the controversy. In 1989, two prominent politicians, Republican Dan Evans and Democrat Mike Lowry, joined forces to create the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition. The idea was to attract both government and private money to the best projects of their kind in the state.

The following year, the Legislature created a funding structure called the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program. The strength of the program, according to many supporters, is the enduring formula for allocating state dollars, first by category (PDF 12 kb), then by project through detailed evaluation criteria.

Because of the established criteria, the Legislature has avoided fights over whether to fund particular projects. Instead, the Legislature sets the statewide budget for the program, and expert committees score the projects based on established criteria.

On the 20th anniversary of the program in 2009, an editorial in the Seattle Times noted that some people doubted that the political marriage of this “odd couple” — Evans and Lowry — would last for the long run, but so far it has:

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The PSP Interviews: Rep. Christine Rolfes

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

When I wrote my recent progress report on the Puget Sound Partnership, my story included little more than brief quotes and snippits of information from a variety of informed people. It is somewhat rewarding to have a blog where I can bring you more complete impressions of the people I interviewed. Here is the fifth in a series of expanded reports from those interviews.

Puget Sound may be suffering ecologically at this point in history, but the Puget Sound Partnership would do best by explaining in a positive way how things can be improved, said state Rep. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island.

“Don’t spend your time trying to bum people out,” she told me when I asked her to offer some advice to the partnership. “Focus on bringing people together to make it better. We all want more fish, more birds, more parks. How do we engage people to make it happen? I would say to them, ‘stay creative, stay positive and think local.’”

(more…)


Killer whales hang out in Central, South Puget Sound

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

Two of our local killer whale pods, J and K, have been hanging around Central and South Puget Sound the past few days — something quite unusual for the month of February.

As I write this late Sunday afternoon, a large group of orcas has been reported in Seattle’s Elliott Bay. On Friday, the whales came into Bremerton’s Sinclair Inlet as far as Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

J pod is known to travel in and out of Puget Sound in the winter, but the total amount of time spent in Central and South Sound the past few days — along with the presence of K pod — points toward a pattern I cannot remember seeing before.

Are they finding an abundance of fish, perhaps blackmouth (immature resident chinook) or herring? We’re in the midst of herring-spawning season for much of Puget Sound. Or could the orcas be here to help a newborn calf get off to a good start? There are no confirmed photos of a new calf, but Orca Network is getting some significant reports of a very small orca.

Brad Hanson and Candi Emmons of the Northwest Fisheries Science Center observed foraging during the current visit and collected some fish scales, which should provide information about what they are eating. (UPDATE, 2-7: Brad told me that fecal or scale samples have never been taken from killer whales in Puget Sound during February, at least not until now. So it will be interesting to see what this one fish turns out to be. Brad said he didn’t get a good look at it, but it was a salmonid of some kind.)

The whales were pretty active in and out of the San Juan Islands the second half of January, before being spotted Wednesday near the Fauntleroy-Vashon ferry route. Here’s a summary of their activities since then via reports to Orca Network:
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Killer whales have been in and out of Puget Sound

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

The three pods of Southern Resident killer whales have been in and out of Puget Sound the past few weeks, according to reports from Orca Network and the Center for Whale Research.

Today, people began reporting sightings of the killer whales from the Bainbridge Island ferry before 9 a.m. Apparently, there were lots of orcas and spread out, as folks began seeing them about the same time in Seattle’s Elliott Bay, according to reports from Orca Network.

By 10:30 a.m.,they were between West Seattle and Vashon Island. They continued south and reached about the halfway point on Vashon Island about 12:30 p.m., when they turned around and headed back north, according to reports. Some whales may have continued south around the southern tip of Vashon Island and came back north through Colvos Passage, as five or six whales were spotted near the Southworth Ferry Terminal about 5 p.m.

Below are videos taken from news helicopters over Elliott Bay in the morning, top from KOMO-4 and bottom from KING-5.


Passion for whales links woman to Sea Shepherd

Monday, November 1st, 2010

A Bainbridge Island resident, Izumi Stephens, will join Sea Shepherd in its upcoming campaign against the Japanese whaling fleet in the Antarctic, as I describe in a story in today’s Kitsap Sun.

Izumi Stephens

A native of Japan, Izumi will serve as an on-board interpreter for the anti-whaling group. While engaging whalers, Sea Shepherd has an occasional need to converse with Japanese ship captains as well as conveying information to Japanese news reporters.

If you’ve watched “Whale Wars” on television, you know about Sea Shepherd’s highly confrontational approach to the Japanese fleet, often maneuvering its vessels into dangerous positions in front, behind and alongside the massive whaling ships.

Capt. Paul Watson, who heads Sea Shepherd, broke away from Greenpeace in 1977 as he pushed for more severe actions against whaling operations throughout the world. In 1980, “operatives” from his three-year-old organization took credit for sinking the whaling ship Sierra in Lisbon, Portugal — the first of many similar attacks.

Sea Shepherd, which operates throughout the world, has an ongoing connection to the Northwest. Its international headquarters is located in Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands, and Watson frequently returns to this region.
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Interactive maps make the land more meaningful

Friday, April 9th, 2010

I love maps — especially the new-fangled, interactive, online ones based on geographic information systems. Click a box and roads appear. Click another box and you get city boundaries, and so on.

From Bainbridge Island's new mapping application. (Click to enlarge)

Bainbridge Island this week announced its new online mapping application, which allows anyone to build a map to his or her own specifications. For those focused on water issues, it’s an easy way to locate streams, wetlands and watersheds. I do wish, however, that the streams were named on the map.

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UPDATE: April 13, 2010

In a story in today’s Kitsap Sun, reporter Tristan Baurick says the mapping system will save city staff time and improve their efficiency.

He quoted Gretchen Robinson, a geographic information systems specialist, as saying, “A lot of people call just to find the elevation of their property. This mapping application will answer that.”
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I congratulate Bainbridge Island along with other local governments throughout Puget Sound who have developed this way of building maps without downloading special software.

Thurston County was one of the first and is still one of the best to build these maps and continue to upgrade its online mapping system.

Mason County uses the same mapping application, with plenty of information included.

King and Snohomish county maps work pretty well. I’m a little less impressed with Pierce County’s, possibly because I have not used it enough to understand its quirks.

I don’t believe Kitsap County has an interactive map of this kind, except for its parcel-search map, which works well for auditor, assessor and treasurer information but does not include natural resource data.


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"In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught."Baba Dioum, Senegalese conservationist

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