Bremerton continues to lead cities its size in the National
Mayor’s Challenge, a program sponsored by the Wyland Foundation
to encourage people to conserve water and energy, reduce waste, and
do other conservation-minded things.
The challenge runs through April, so there is still time to join
with other Bremerton residents or else boost the results for any
city you wish to support. The pledge is basically a list of 17
conservation questions, and you just check a box for commitments
you are willing to make — either with new practices or with ongoing
good habits. To start,
you name your city.
Bremerton was the winner last year among cities with populations
from 30,000 to 100,000. As they did last year, Bremerton Mayor
Patty Lent and her staff have done a good job in spreading the word
about the contest, which includes prizes. I’ve seen posters in
local stores and restaurants.
“Water is Bremerton’s remarkable resource. 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.”
Following Bremerton in its population category are Folsom,
Calif., and then Greeley, Colo.
Since I wrote a story about this for the
Kitsap Sun (subscription) on April 11, Seattle has moved up
from seventh to fourth place among the largest cities (600,000 and
over). No other Washington cities have made it into the top 10 for
any population group.
In Kitsap County, Port Orchard is ranked 44; Poulsbo is ranked
162; and Bainbridge Island is out of the running at this point.
When it comes to ecosystem restoration, I love it when we can
see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s rare when we have a
chance to say that restoration is nearing completion, since we know
that habitat work continues on and on, seemingly without end, in
many areas of Puget Sound.
So let us anticipate a celebration when Kitsap County’s regional
stormwater projects are completed, when all the deadly ghost nets
have been removed from the shallow waters of Puget Sound, and when
there are no more creosote pilings left on state tidelands.
Of course, the light at the end of the tunnel may be a mirage,
but let’s not go there quite yet.
Kitsap regional ponds
Kitsap County has been collecting a Surface and Stormwater
Management Fee from residents in unincorporated areas and using
some of that money to leverage state and federal stormwater grants.
The fee is currently $73.50, but it will rise to $78 in 2014, $82
in 2015, $86.50 in 2016, $91 in 2017 and $96 in 2018. See
Kitsap Sun, Nov. 27, 2012.
The good news is that the effort to retrofit old, outmoded
stormwater systems is nearing completion, with remaining projects
either in design or nearing the design phase. Check out the Kitsap
County Public Works Capital
Facilities Program for a list of completed projects with maps
as well as proposed projects with maps. As the documents show, the
regional retrofits are on their way to completion.
So what are the sources of future stormwater problems? The
answer is roads, and the problem is enormous. Still, the county has
begun to address the issue with a pilot project that could become a
model for other counties throughout Puget Sound. Please read my
“New strategies will address road runoff” (subscription) to see
how the county intends to move forward.
Ghost nets and crab pots
Earlier this year, the Legislature provided $3.5 million to
complete the removal of derelict fishing gear that keeps on killing
in waters less than 105 feet deep. The work is to be done before
the end of 2015.
Phil Anderson, director of the Washington Department of Fish and
Wildlife, was excited about the prospect. Here’s what he said in a
“Working in conjunction with our partners at Northwest Straits
and in the State Legislature, we have made enormous strides toward
eliminating the risks posed to fish and wildlife by derelict
fishing gear. This is difficult work, and it requires a real
commitment from everyone to get it done. We look forward to
celebrating the next milestone in 2015.”
The most amazing statistic I found on this topic involved the
number of animals trapped by ghost nets. According to one
predictive model, if all the nets had been left alone to keep
fishing, they could be killing 3.2 million animals each year.
Washington Department of Natural Resources hasn’t slowed down in
its effort to remove old creosote pilings and docks. The structures
can be toxic to marine life, obstruct navigation and snag fishing
gear. By 2015, the total bill for removing such debris is expected
to reach $13 million.
Nobody is sure how much it will cost to remove the last of the
creosote materials from state lands, but DNR officials have
inventoried the various sites and expect to come up with a final
priority list over the next six months. Some pilings on privately
owned land may be a higher priority for the ecosystem, and
officials are trying to decide how to address those sites. Of
course, nobody can tackle pilings on private lands without working
through the property owners.
Download a spreadsheet of the
work completed so far (PDF 53 kb), which involves a focus on 40
sites throughout Puget Sound. Altogether, the projects removed
about 11,000 pilings plus about 250,000 square feet of “overwater
structures,” such as docks.
The Navy is continuing its efforts to control commercial
over-water structures in Hood Canal. The idea is to buy subtidal
conservation easements from the Washington Department of Natural
Resources, which owns these deep-water areas.
The first easement was proposed for the Jefferson County side of
Hood Canal (map at right). The easement application is now working
its way through a formal review process. The proposal received a
lot of attention when it was announced in May, in part because of
the potential to derail the controversial pit-to-pier project. A
story I wrote for the
Kitsap Sun on May 15 describes the overall goals of the Navy’s
program and its potential effects.
After that initial announcement, I was surprised that the Navy
and DNR seemed reluctant to talk about the next phase, which turned
out to be a second easement along the Kitsap County shoreline from
the Hood Canal bridge to the county line near Holly. I described
that proposal in a story I wrote for the
Kitsap Sun yesterday (subscription).
Both proposed easements fall under the Department of Defense
Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative (REPI).
Liane Nakahara, spokeswoman for Navy Region Northwest, said the
need for the Kitsap easement, like the one in Jefferson County,
relates to protections of Navy operations, including testing and
training in legally defined ranges:
“The proposed restrictive easement over the bedlands would
protect these ranges from incompatible development that may limit
the Navy’s ability to use the approved ranges and continue
operations in the future. In addition to the protection of the
Navy’s military operating areas, the proposed easement will provide
new protections for sensitive marine ecosystems.”
I’m not sure where the Navy will go with its next easement
proposal. Work continues on upland properties in some areas. See
reporter Ed Friedrich’s story about a related agreement two years
ago, when the Navy began buying easements in the Dabob Bay area of
(Kitsap Sun, Oct. 8, 2011). Officials are saying almost nothing
about the next steps. But I have seen a map that purportedly shows
the “area of interest” regarding the Navy’s REPI efforts. The area
outlined includes all of Hood Canal and the regions around Indian
Island, Keyport and Bremerton.
For the Jefferson County easement, the DNR issued a
“determination of nonsignificance” during the environmental review.
An appraiser has been hired to estimate the value of the easement
and determine what the Navy should pay the state for lost
Thorndyke Resource, which proposed the pit-to-pier project, has
been pushing for increased environmental review, rather than the
limited review undertaken so far by the DNR. It appears that if the
proposal moves forward, the Navy and DNR are likely to face a
lawsuit from the company.
Here are three recent documents related to the proposed
Jefferson County easement:
I already miss Ron Ross, who was the inspiration for numerous
stories I wrote through the years. Ron died two weeks ago, on May
Every few months, Ron would call me with a questioning tone to
his voice. He would talk about some city, county or state policy or
regulation and tell me how it was working, or not working, and how
it was affecting him or someone else.
“How does this make any sense?” he would ask.
Many times, Ron would have the nut of an issue, which would pan
out into a story. Sometimes these stories involved property rights,
but Ron was never the kind of property-rights advocate who believed
a person should be able to do anything he wants with his property.
He just wanted government rules to make sense and work for the
majority of people.
It drove him crazy when a well-intentioned regulation caused
more problems than it solved. Ron was, if anything, a common-sense
kind of guy.
If the salmon couldn’t get upstream, he didn’t wait for all the
permits he was supposed to get, not while the salmon were waiting.
He just got out with some volunteers and moved the fish upstream —
not to a place of his choosing, but to exactly the place where they
were supposed to go. How could anyone argue with that?
Sharing water resources over a wide region is an idea that goes
hand-in-hand with the Growth Management Act’s strategy of
concentrating population in urban areas while protecting rural
Of course, the first level of action is water conservation. But
the ability to take water from one aquifer with an adequate water
supply while protecting an overtaxed aquifer somewhere else makes a
lot of sense.
That’s the idea behind building new pipelines to connect
numerous water systems across a good portion of Kitsap County,
including Silverdale. I described the latest steps in this plan in
a story published in
Monday’s Kitsap Sun.
Thirty years ago — before the Growth Management Act was passed —
I recall talking to folks at the Kitsap Public Utility District,
who declared that they were not in the land-use business and had no
intention of getting involved in land-use battles. It was the job
of the Kitsap County commissioners to decide where to put the
growth, they said. The PUD staff and commissioners believed their
role was to provide water for the growing population, wherever it
goes. Check out this
Kitsap Sun story from Feb. 25, 2001.
The state’s Municipal
Water Law of 2003 clarified that the KPUD could deliver water
from one place to another throughout its service area — which is
all of Kitsap County. That allows water to be brought to developed
areas in North Kitsap, where annual rainfall is half of what we see
in the forested areas of Southwest Kitsap, where the Seabeck
aquifer is located. (See annual precipitation map on this
Many environmentalists have objected to certain portions of the
Municipal Water Law, especially sections that included developers
as municipal water suppliers — a move they say opens the door for
abuse by financial interests.
One of the big concerns in water management is that pumping too
much from an aquifer — especially a shallow aquifer — could disrupt
the subsurface flows and springs that maintain stream levels in the
summer and early fall. Adequate streamflows are needed for many
species, not the least of which are salmon.
With adequate monitoring, as needed for planning, experts can
track groundwater levels and streamflows to avoid such problems.
Pipelines allow aquifers to be “rested” when needed. And elected
PUD commissioners can be held accountable for their decisions
regarding the regional management of water.
Future water supplies and the right to use the water constitute
one of the most complicated issues in environmental law. A 2003
paper by the Washington Department of Ecology, called
“Mitigation Measures Used in Water Rights Permitting” outlines
some of the methods being used to protect natural systems and
competing water rights. Mitigation for use of the Seabeck aquifer,
which is an important water supply in Kitsap County, is described
briefly on pages 19 and 20.
The Pacific Fishery Management Council has taken a major step in
the protection of unregulated forage fish with a resolution calling
for increased studies and possible fishing restrictions. The
“It is the Council’s intent to recognize the importance of
forage fish to the marine ecosystem off our coast, and to provide
adequate protection for forage fish. We declare that our objective
is to prohibit the development of new directed fisheries on forage
species that are not currently managed by our Council, or the
States, until we have an adequate opportunity to assess the science
relating to the fishery and any potential impacts to our existing
fisheries and communities.”
“While killer whales and salmon dominate the public spotlight,
researchers are focusing increasing attention near the bottom of
the food web and on the physical processes that support all life in
The story focuses on studies related to forage fish and
hydrogeological processes along the shorelines of the Kitsap
Peninsula, but it ties into everything we know about Puget
One project, led by U.S. Geological Survey researcher Theresa
“Marty” Liedtke, is studying the extent to which sand lance and
surf smelt depend on eelgrass beds. The project is part of the
agency’s investigation called “Coastal Habitats in Puget Sound
(CHIPS). Check out the CHIPS website for further
The other study, by geologist Wendy Gerstel of Qwg Applied
Geology, is part of a larger grant project dealing with shoreline
processes funded by the federal Environmental Protection
Wendy has been studying sources of sediment that feed the
beaches in Kitsap County. She is preparing to use what she has
found to make recommendations about potential shoreline-restoration
Her project and related issues will be discussed tomorrow at a
workshop called “Kitsap’s Shorelines and Restoration Opportunities:
A Landowner Workshop.”
Participants will learn about beach processes and shoreline
ecology and hear from researchers studying shoreline erosion and
sediment sources along Kitsap County shorelines. The workshop is
scheduled from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at President’s Hall at the Kitsap
County Fairgrounds, and everyone is invited.
Another development involving sand lance, surf smelt and other
“unmanaged” forage fish is a proposal for the Pacific Fishery
Management Council to initiate a process that could eventually lead
to fisheries regulations.
Protecting all forage fish seems to be a goal of many
environmental organizations, as one can see in the public comments
PFMC’s agenda (Item G.1) for Saturday’s meeting in San Mateo,
Steve Marx of the Pew Environment Group wrote a
12-page letter in support of managing for protection:
“To date the Council has received over 19,000 individual pieces
of correspondence from engaged members of the public, urging it to
take action to protect forage species for the sake of a healthy
ecosystem, sustainable fisheries and vibrant coastal
“Over 110 licensed commercial fishermen and women on the West
Coast have written to the Council, urging it to prevent new
fisheries from developing on forage species until adequate science
is available. Additionally, a diverse list of both commercial and
recreational fishing organizations have advocated for the
Council to implement needed forage protections, including a
reversal on the burden of proof for new forage fisheries.
“The regional fishery management council process encourages
public participation, and we hope that this strong show of public
support for protecting unmanaged
forage species is helpful as the Council continues its deliberation
on how best to proceed.”
Among locals, the Kitsap Peninsula has long been known as a
great place to go kayaking, but now the 300+ miles of shoreline are
quickly becoming a destination for out-of-area folks.
A new map of Kitsap’s shoreline features has been produced for
the paddle crowd by the Kitsap Peninsula Visitor and Convention
Bureau. The map is helpful for those trying to identify stopping
points along the shoreline — whether one wants to spend days on the
water or just a few hours.
Patricia Graf-Hoke, manager of the visitor bureau, said she
believes it is the first map of its kind in Washington state and
may be just the second or third in the nation.
Tourism on the Kitsap Peninsula is growing, she told the Kitsap
Regional Coordinating Council last week. As a whole, it is becoming
a major industry and one of the largest employers in Kitsap
Kitsap Sun story about the new map, John Kuntz, owner of
Olympic Outdoor Center, told reporter Rachel Pritchett that more
than half the people who paddle around the peninsula come from
“It’s definitely a part of tourism that Kitsap County hasn’t
really embraced in the past,” Kuntz was quoted as saying.
As one case involving Kitsap County’s shorelines waits on appeal
to the U.S. Supreme Court, a whole new issue has sprung out of a
state law written to resolve confusion created during the earlier
Until Kitsap County adopts a new shorelines plan next year,
conflicts between the Shorelines Management Act and the Growth
Management Act could go on. After that, expect a new round of
The latest issue arises out of a little-known provision of a
state law passed in 2010. The overall intent of the law was to
allow a local Critical Areas Ordinance to provide shoreline
protections until a new shorelines plan is drafted. For background,
Water Ways from Jan. 6 of this year.
There is an exception in the law, however, listed in Subsection
3(c) of RCW
36.70A.480, which allows for “redevelopment or modification” of
a structure as long as it is consistent with the local shoreline
master program and it is shown that “no net loss of ecological
function” would result.
Sure enough, a Kitsap County property owner who wants to tear
down a house and build a new one closer to the shore was able to
make use of that special provision.
Kitsap County Hearing Examiner Kimberly Allen, who approved the
redevelopment, said her ruling “rests on a complex and very
fact-specific set of interactions” between three different laws.
For details, check out my story published in
today’s Kitsap Sun or read the
hearing examiner’s decision (PDF 1.3 mb) for yourself.
The case on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, Kitsap Alliance of
Property Owners v. Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings
Board, raises questions about whether large, uniform buffers
violate the “takings clause” of the Fifth Amendment. KAPO contends
that Kitsap County requires property owners to dedicate “large
tracts of private land to public use as environmental conservation
buffers” without a clear showing that such buffers protect the
The case has yet to be accepted by the Supreme Court, but one
can get a good understanding of the arguments by reading the
for writ of certiorari (PDF 152 kb), posted on the website of
the Pacific Legal Foundation, which is representing KAPO.
Meanwhile, the task force working to update Kitsap’s shorelines
plan has reconvened, taking up buffers and other controversial
issues, after a hiatus through most of the summer and fall. For the
latest on those deliberations, see stories I wrote for the Kitsap
Sun Nov. 7 and 13:
I guess we’re lucky in Kitsap County to have local health
authorities who not only gather water-quality data but also know
what to do with the information. I’m told that’s not the case for
many counties in Washington state or across the nation.
The reason I bring this up is because of a story I wrote for
today’s Kitsap Sun. Some of the water-quality report cards
being issued by environmental groups are nothing more than a
rewrite of raw data from water-quality samples collected by local
officials. This could be valuable information in places where no
other information is offered. But water-quality specialists at the
Kitsap County Health District stand ready to interpret the data
and take more samples, if necessary, so we know when we really
One bad sample does not mean we should run away from the water,
but it does serve to raise some questions. Asking questions is the
role I play when I see these reports. Fortunately, we have experts
in Kitsap County who know our streams and beaches and who are
willing and able to answer my questions.
It would be interesting to know how many counties in the state
conduct routine monitoring of streams, lakes and marine waters; how
many do follow-up tests when they find a problem; how many assess
the findings to measure trends; and how many use the data to begin
corrective actions. If anyone knows of information compiled on
monitoring programs for all counties or cities, please let me know.
If not, maybe this would be a project someone could take on.
Kitsap County’s monitoring program is funded by a stormwater fee
collected with our property taxes. The residential fee is $70 per
year. Commercial businesses may pay more, depending on their
Many cities and counties collect stormwater fees, but few use
the money for monitoring. Even fewer compile long-term trends with
a comprehensive ongoing monitoring program. Such programs deserve
In addition to paying for water-quality testing, Kitsap County’s
stormwater fee is used to investigate sources of pollution;
retrofit older communities with stormwater systems; clean out storm
drains on county property; inspect all storm drains except for
state highways; teach people about clean water; coordinate
volunteers in programs including Beach Watchers and Stream
Stewards; provide signs and supplies for the Mutt Mit dog-waste
cleanup program; fund grants for a backyard rain garden program;
and plan for and monitor results of stream-restoration and
I’m not saying that programs such as Heal the Bay and Testing the
Waters (by Natural Resources Defense Council) don’t have value.
In some cases, this is all that communities have, and they provide
a good reason to ask questions about water quality.
But, as Keith Grellner of the Kitsap County Health District told
me, these reports may be like crying wolf for some individuals. If
people keep hearing warnings when the problems are minimal or
nonexistent, will they pay attention in the face of serious
It won’t be long before local governments will be called on to
do their part to restore Puget Sound.
That’s one conclusion I drew yesterday from a conversation
between representatives of the Puget Sound Partnership and the
Kitsap County commissioners.
Martha Kongsgaard, chairwoman of the PSP’s Leadership Council,
and PSP Executive Director Gerry O’Keefe have been visiting local
governments throughout Puget Sound to learn what they are doing now
and to gauge their capacity and willingness to do more to improve
the natural environment.
It has long been recognized that the effort to protect and
restore Puget Sound requires the support of the people who live
here. And local officials tend to be much closer to those living in
their community. As a result, they can often bridge the gap between
decision-makers at the top levels and the people who need to make
changes in their daily lives.