Watching Our Water Ways

Environmental reporter Christopher Dunagan discusses the challenges of protecting Puget Sound and all things water-related.
Subscribe to RSS
Back to Watching Our Water Ways

Posts Tagged ‘Sinclair Inlet’

Much floating trash winds up in Silverdale

Saturday, December 1st, 2012

Silverdale’s waterfront is seeing the effects of recent storms in our area, as documented by Susan Digby, a geography instructor at Olympic College.

Recent storms have brought a lot of trash and marine debris to Silverdale’s waterfront. / Photo by Susan Digby

High stormwater flows have washed litter, debris and dead salmon into Sinclair and Dyes inlets, where currents and winds from the south carry the materials to Silverdale’s beaches, including Silverdale Waterfront Park and Old Mill Park.

“The north end of Dyes Inlet is like the end of a sock,” Susan told me. “When we get rain and wind, everything piles up there.”

Photos of all this debris — including parts of three docks — were taken by Susan on Sunday, just two weeks after her students cleaned up the beach entirely as part of an ongoing study that counts and categorizes marine debris that collects there.

A phenomenal amount of trash winds up on our beaches, including discarded food wrappers that people have carelessly discarded. Just about anything that floats can wash into a stream or storm drain to be carried into one of our local inlets. Some debris may be coming from the nearby streets and parking lots in Silverdale, but some could be coming all the way from Gorst, as suggested by drogue studies (PDF 1.6 mb) conducted by the Navy.

As Susan points out, the debris includes lots of Styrofoam, which can be ingested by birds and sea creatures, as well as baby diapers and syringes, which are a reminder that disease organisms are making their way into our local waters with uncertain effects on the fish and shellfish we eat.

I plan to cover Susan Digby’s student research project in more detail early next year, after 2012 data are compiled.

A piece of a dock washed up on Silverdale’s waterfront during a recent storm. Parts of two other docks also were found. / Photo by Susan Digby


Yes, we have octopuses in Sinclair Inlet

Friday, October 26th, 2012

A giant Pacific octopus with 4- to 5-foot tentacles washed up dead this week at Elandan Gardens in Gorst. Diane Robinson, who owns the gardens with her husband Dan, called to tell us about it, and I went by and took a few photos.

Marine biologist Jeff Adams of Washington Sea Grant, who writes a blog for the Kitsap Sun, says there are probably plenty of places for the creatures to live in Sinclair Inlet, including rocky shores and sunken boats. Jeff wrote about octopuses in his blog Sea Life in February of 2010.

Diane Robinson with an octopus that washed up dead at Elandan Gardens near Gorst
Photo by Christopher Dunagan

Some facts about the giant Pacific octopus, taken from the blog Wild Pacific Northwest by Ivan Phillipsen and the National Geographic website:

  • The record size of a giant Pacific octopus is about 30 feet (9.1 meters) from tip to tip with a weight of more than 600 pounds (272 kilograms).
  • They live to about 4 years old, and both males and females die soon after breeding. Females usually live long enough to take care of their eggs and watch them hatch.
  • They hunt at night. living mostly on shrimp, crab and fish. Their suckers can taste and capture their prey, which is brought to a sharp beak, the only hard part on its body.
  • They can change colors to blend in with their surroundings.
  • They are highly intelligent with a brain that encircles the throat and extends down to each tentacle. In laboratory tests, they have been been able to distinguish shapes and patterns, solve mazes and twist off jar lids.
  • During sleep, they demonstrate brainwave patterns that suggest dreaming.

One of my Amusing Monday pieces focused on a video of a battle between an octopus and a shark. I later learned that the video was taken at the Seattle Aquarium, and I told the story behind the video.

Amusing Monday: Battle of the Depths

Update on share-versus-octopus battle

If that’s not enough, check out the videos I posted during Octopus Week at the Seattle Aquarium:

Amusing Monday: You’ve got to love an octopus


Dreams of a Gorst-Bremerton trail are still alive

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

The final version of a concept plan to build a walking and bicycle trail along the shoreline from Gorst to Bremerton has been completed. The plan was distributed today.

A viewpoint could be developed along the Sinclair Inlet trail.
Graphic by National Park Service

Almost all Kitsap County residents and most visitors are familiar with this route, because it is practically the only way to get to Bremerton and points north without taking a ferry or private vessel.

More than 60 comments were received on the draft report. Suggestions were taken into consideration and included in the final version, but the basic concepts remain as proposed over a three-year period. Check out the report, called “Sinclair Inlet Development Concept Plan” (PDF 9.1 mb).

This is from a story I wrote for the Kitsap Sun on Nov. 1:

“Initial ideas in the trails plan — which also includes ideas to restore shorelines and control stormwater — rely on narrow corridors along both sides of the existing railroad tracks. At the two ends of the trail, where there is almost no land along the water, the walking path would cross the tracks and merge with the bike path.”

Bryan Bowden of the National Park Service, who helped organize the effort and bring together various design elements, said the idea to separate the bike path from the walking path came out of a series of planning meetings involving many community members.

While the separation would make for the trip more enjoyable for users, it may be more feasible to put the paths together on the highway side of the tracks, Bowden told me. Still, he chose to leave the plan as it came out of the committee.

The next step will be to seek grants from the state and federal governments. Federal transportation grants include special set-asides for pedestrian and bicycle facilities. Other grant programs focus on trail development. Numerous state and federal grants could support the environmental-restoration aspects of the plan — especially for salmon streams such as Gorst Creek. See page 54 of the plan for a description of funding sources.

If the project can be accomplished, it would open a major route for cyclists that few people now have the courage to travel.

The basic design elements of a proposed Sinclair Inlet trail (click to enlarge)
Graphic by National Park Service


‘Water Courses’ will connect people to current issues

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

If you would like to learn about today’s leading water issues without being overwhelmed with technical details, you may be interested in a two-day seminar coordinated by WSU Kitsap County Extension and Washington Sea Grant.

The event, Oct. 14 and 15, is called “Water Courses: Connecting West Sound.” A number of impressive speakers are lined up for the two-day event. The first day is dedicated to research findings and restoration projects, with the second day focusing on the personal level, including how people can address today’s environmental problems.

While speaking of events, I should mention the latest in the Sustainable Cinema Series, sponsored by Kitsap County Commissioner Charlotte Garrido. The film is called “The Age of Stupid.” It’s a retrospective look at today’s response to climate change from the perspective of people living in 2055. The film will be shown at Port Orchard’s Dragonfly Cinema at 6:30 p.m., with a discussion to follow. For details, see the Kitsap County homepage.

As for “Water Courses,” Peg Tillery, who coordinates Kitsap County Beach Watchers, said the seminar grew out of a desire to help residents of the Kitsap Peninsula get in touch with the water issues of today. Educational programs have been ongoing in other parts of Puget Sound, but nothing as wide-ranging as “Water Courses” has ever been held for a general audience in Kitsap County.

A coordinating committee started putting the program together by asking their friends and neighbors what they would like to know about water, Puget Sound and environmental issues. As a result, the topics have a greater down-home flavor than you’ll find at most conferences.

“Our goal is to have it every single year around this time, when people are back in school and the monsoons have started,” Peg told me. “Anyone 12 years old and older may attend, and we’ve tried to keep the cost low.”

Topics the first day include ocean acidity, water quality studies in Poulsbo’s Liberty Bay, pollution modeling in Bremerton’s Sinclair Inlet, marine reserves in Puget Sound, energy and sustainability initiatives, and the effects of stormwater on salmon.

The second day offers participants choices, with six topical tracks to choose from: science; food from the sea; going green; animals and critters; water quality, safety and getting involved; and plants and landscaping. One can stay on a single track for the full day or choose your favorite topics from among 36 presentations.

Check out the schedule and sign up early on the Kitsap Extension website. The cost is not much more than the catered lunch that will be provided. It’s $30 for the first day, $25 for the second day or $45 for both days.

Keegan Kimbrough, 15, designed a poster for “Water Courses: Connecting West Sound,” shown above.


Sinclair-Dyes study: How to get ahead of pollution

Friday, May 6th, 2011

The soon-to-be-released cleanup plan for Sinclair and Dyes inlets could become a leading example of how to reduce all kinds of pollution in a waterway. Check out my story in Tuesday’s Kitsap Sun.

Based on conversations with many people involved in the project, I believe the keys to success are continual and ongoing monitoring of water quality, an unfailing commitment to identify pollution sources, and a spirit of cooperation with people who can help solve the problems.

Officials with the Kitsap County Health District and other local and state agencies will tell you that one can never walk away from a watershed with the belief that the pollution problem is solved. Still, at times, the rewards can be relatively quick, as one observes improvements in water quality after a pollution source is turned off.

Every month for the past 15 years, health district officials have gone out into the field and taken water samples from nearly every stream in Kitsap County — some 58 streams at last count. Often, these monthly tests provide assurance than cleanup plans are working. Occasionally, they offer an early warning that someone in the watershed is doing something to degrade water quality.

If you haven’t checked the health district’s Water Quality website, I would recommend reading through some of the reports under “Featured Water Quality Reports,” particularly the “2010 Water Quality Monitoring Report.”

Monthly water-quality testing over time tells a story about differences between wet years and dry years, about the effects of new development, and about successes that follow cleanup of problem farms, septic systems or yards containing dog feces.

I think it would be a big step forward if every significant stream in the state were monitored monthly for at least bacterial pollution. The results would help all levels of government set priorities for dealing with stormwater and other pollution sources.

Sinclair and Dyes inlets animation of hypothetical treatment system failure in East Bremerton (Click to launch; shift-reload to restart)
Project Envvest

Another factor worth mentioning in regard to the Sinclair-Dyes cleanup is the Navy’s funding for Project Envvest, a cooperative effort between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington Department of Ecology and the Navy. The resulting computer model helped describe the flow of pollution under various rainfall scenarios. It can even predict the movement of pollution resulting from various kinds of spills.

The animation (right) shows what would happen if the ultraviolet infection system were to fail in the East Bremerton treatment plant, which handles stormwater mixed with sewage during periods of heavy rainfall. Tidal flows make a big difference. This simulated spill is 7,000 gallons per minute for a total of 10 million gallons. See CSO Simulation Scenarios to view other animations from the model.

Other websites related to the Sinclair-Dyes project:

Project Envvest Status, Progress, Reports, and Deliverables (Navy)

Sinclair/Dyes Inlets Water Quality Improvement Project (Ecology)


Earth Day is defined by the human spirit

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

To me, Earth Day has always meant two things: education and action. Of course, I would never object to the entertainment that accompanies many Earth Day events, because learning and good deeds ought to involve fun and laughter.

For years, my wife Sue and I drove over to Sequim on the Saturday after Earth Day to help clean up Dungeness Spit, which happens to be the place she and I went on our first date many years ago. We stopped going for health reasons but hope to get started again.

Tracyton resident Don Larson has organized the Sinclair Inlet Cleanup twice each year for the past 21 years. Now Don and his fellow organizer John Denis are a couple of guys who truly understand the Earth Day spirit and what it means to give back to your community.

Don told me this week that he was impressed with the crew that showed up at Saturday’s cleanup. He was particularly inspired by Jim Anderson, a 66-year-old Bremerton resident who regularly picks up trash along the Bremerton boardwalk as he moves along in an electric wheelchair, accompanied by his guide dog Raffle.

“He’s a phenomenal guy,” Larson said. “He has these hand-grabber picker-ups. He and his wife Jackie clean up periodically all year long as he moves around the waterfront.

“With Jim and Jackie, the human spirit really comes out. You hear about all the bad stuff in the world, then you meet a person like that who gets out and helps the community. It just makes you feel good.”

(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:
(more…)


Gazebo, being restored, holds many memories

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

It was a misty morning in November 1997 when I watched 19 killer whales head out of Dyes Inlet, stopping briefly in Sinclair Inlet and then racing for the open waters of Puget Sound.

The Bachmann Park gazebo is under restoration / Kitsap Sun photo by Larry Steagall

I drove over to Bachmann Park near Manette and found a dry spot on the bench of the gazebo. As I looked out toward the water, two young researchers, Kelley Balcomb-Bartok and Jodi Smith, sped by in their boat, escorting the whales out of the inlet. Kelley and Jodi had been observing these animals for 30 days, and both felt relieved that the whales were moving on.
(more…)


A trail from Gorst to Bremerton would offer many benefits

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

I’m glad to hear that there is room for a 10-foot trail between the shoreline and the railroad tracks for most of the way between Gorst and Bremerton. (Check out my story in today’s Kitsap Sun.)

Anyone driving into Bremerton from the south on Highway 3 knows this route. Look beyond the railroad tracks along the shoreline and think of the possibilities. I’ve always wondered if a trail could be developed there.

Consider the benefits for hikers and bikers, including the folks who would like to bike to work. While I would never ride a bike on Navy Yard Highway as it is today, a separate trail away from the traffic is another story.

I guess in one place — maybe less than a quarter mile — the trail would need to come between the highway and the railroad tracks, but it could be separated with a fence or some kind of barrier.

There is no money for the trail, and engineering designs are still needed, but the group that came together last weekend put together some good ideas for the trail, shoreline restoration, stormwater management and public education. The next step is completion of a concept plan followed by a public meeting.

I don’t know if anybody remembers, but a shoreline trail around the Sinclair Inlet estuary (behind the buildings in Gorst) has already been designed and is ready to be built. (Read the story from Aug. 19, 2004.) State funds were available to build the trail as part of an estuary restoration, but money ran out during the restoration project, so the trail never got built.

Maybe it’s time to dust off these trail plans and get this project going — with volunteers if necessary. I don’t believe there are any permitting obstacles to be overcome. It just needs to be built.

The Gorst trail, including boardwalks through wet areas, could link up with the future trail that will take you all the way into Bremerton.


Available on Kindle

Subscribe2

Follow WaterWatching on Twitter

Food for thought

"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

Archives

Categories