Hood Canal restoration being outlined in a new plan

Hood Canal Coordinating Council is developing an “Integrated Watershed Action Plan” to dovetail with related work being done by the Puget Sound Partnership.

An outline of the action plan, titled “A Vision for Hood Canal,” was discussed at today’s meeting of the coordinating council, which is made up of county commissioners and tribal officials in Kitsap, Mason and Jefferson counties.

Scott Brewer, director of the council, told me that actions to address low-oxygen problems in Hood Canal will be rolled into this watershed plan — but specific projects will move forward on their own time tables.

A new sewage-treatment plant in Belfair is expected to reduce nitrogen flowing into Lower Hood Canal. Nitrogen has been determined to be a key factor in creating low-oxygen conditions in this region of the canal, which gets very little flushing.

Other sewage-treatment plants are being considered in Hoodsport, Potlatch and the Skokomish Reservation, all in Mason County, along with a single system for Dosewallips State Park and possibly Brinnon in Jefferson County.

Immediate actions include:

  • Making sure people understand the basics of septic system maintenance,
  • Continued funding for a low-interest loan program for septic upgrades (See Shorebank),
  • Support for the Working Forest Initiative to maintain forestlands in the Hood Canal region,
  • A request for research into the effectiveness of nitrogen-removal septic systems,
  • And a request for research into the extent that alder trees can increase the flow of nitrogen into Hood Canal and whether to pursue changes in forest management.

The action plan contains a “watershed assessment,” which will describe a “desired future condition” for Hood Canal along with factors that need to be addressed to reach measurable goals. As the outlines states:

In a general sense, the hypothesis to be tested through the watershed assessment is whether ecosystem function throughout the Hood Canal watershed can be protected and restored, and water pollution reduced, while at the same time accommodating expected future population growth. More specifically, the desired future condition will describe healthy habitat and life histories of target populations and other habitat and socioeconomic conditions.

The plan’s description of desired future conditions will be used as a template against which to compare current conditions, for purposes of identifying limiting factors and strategies to correct them. The plan’s description of desired future conditions will be based on a reconstruction of historic conditions, taking into account changes that are irreversible.

For further details, check out materials provided for today’s meeting on the home page of the Hood Canal Coordinating Council.

9 thoughts on “Hood Canal restoration being outlined in a new plan

  1. Hmmm… no mention of this effort on the Puget Sound Partnership’s webpage. Remember how the PSP was formed BECAUSE we had a multitude of uncoordinated recovery fiefdoms operating – first and foremost – for their own succor. Looks like nothing has changed (other than we’ve added another agency to the taxpayer’s dole.

  2. BlueLight,

    Hood Canal Coordinating Council predates the Puget Sound Partnership by three decades and is considered a special case.

    In creating the partnership, the Legislature recognized that the coordinating council would continue in its role (RCW 90.71.230): “The leadership council shall have the power and duty to: … (h) Work collaboratively with the Hood Canal coordinating council established in chapter 90.88 RCW on Hood Canal-specific issues;”

  3. As one who thoroughly enjoys the beauty and bounty of Hood Canal, I am wondering if anything will ever be done to better manage and curb the utter desolation being caused by high pressure harvesting of geoduck?

  4. Responding to BlueLight’s comment…

    A key PSP role is to encourage, foster and support efforts by local comunnities and organizations that are doing excellent work like the HCCC. The HCCC does an excellent job coordinating the work of the various governments in the Hood Canal area and is a model for the rest of the Puget Sound region. The PSP is working closely with the HCCC to link up their work with the broader Puget Sound region effort.

    Just because you don’t see something on our website doesn’t mean nothing is happening.

  5. Paul,

    Can you provide a list of all the entities receiving federal, state or local tax money for Hood Canal restoration activities?

  6. Studies indicate that over 50% of the nitrogen is the result of excessive alder trees in second and third growth forests. Why is this not discussed to a greater extent and changes to forest management typically last on the list? Is the extent of Alders too great to address?

  7. Dan,

    Someone may need to correct me on this, but I recall that timing is everything when it comes to nitrogen inputs to Hood Canal.

    Even though alders were shown to be a major contributor of total nitrogen, most of what comes from the trees arrives in the fall. That is generally considered too late to play a major role in plankton production, which depends on sunlight.

    I don’t believe the alders are being ignored, and I don’t think the order of the list says much about the priorities.

  8. Chris’ reply to Dan is exactly right, except for the last clause of the last sentence. I’d add (according to the scientists):

    Almost all of the DO problem is in lower Hood Canal, entirely within Mason County.

    Almost all of the human contribution of N is coming from septics –even perfectly operating septics only take out the bugs (pathogens) and emit N in ground water to the canal.

    Now think North and South Shore and all the houses behind bulkheads on fill — with essentially little or no drain fields to speak of — an almost direct hit to the canal.

    In order to credibly fix DO and reach a number that the Feds will sign off on will require abandoning septics as they currently exist on LHC.

    And thus, DO is primarily a political problem for Mason County. All that’s required is that the County do what’s called a Local Area of More Intense Rural Development (LAMIRD) and sewer the shoreline. The county has resisted because this would severely restrict any further development of the shoreline. Here’s a link to minutes of their planning commission addressed by a CTED rep:


    “…(#2700) Tim Gates, Washington State Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development (CTED), spoke next. CTED supports the designation of the North Shore and Lynch Cove as a rural residential activity center. It would be very hypocritical not to since we suggested it to the county in the first place. We saw in the 2005 Comp Plan update a note saying build a sewage treatment plant in Belfair, including North Shore. I want to talk about LAMIRD’s and then talk about sewer extension. Designating a LAMIRD is a good planning idea regardless of what comprehensive wastewater management system you put in place. The state agencies I’ve been talking to are DOE, Health, Puget Sound Action Team, and none of them are saying you must build a sewer there. The concern from the state is that you have a certain kind of system. You have ongoing issues there with the fecal coliform and nitrogen problems. These issues could meet the criteria for extending sewer. I’ve heard conversations here about the skepticism if this is the right solution. The point is there should be a solution and I’m limiting my comments to whether or not it seems what you’ve packaged together is compliant with GMA. We work with the jurisdictions to make sure the actions they take will pass muster. We do think this is a good idea to designate this existing built area of North Shore as a LAMIRD. LAMIRD’s were added to the GMA so that counties could recognize existing rural areas that are densely developed. You probably heard about that early court case where the boards described rural lands as the left over meatloaf in the growth management refrigerator. That’s because we basically said UGA’s are where people belong and designated ag and forest lands and everything else as rural. There wasn’t anyway to describe lands that were different than other places, and that’s what the LAMIRD does. They’re not supposed to be mini UGA’s, however. You contain them by drawing that tight line around the existing built environment. State Parks has an interest in obtaining another area here to include in the Belfair State Park. There’s rationale for having slightly different boundaries but you need to keep it tightly defined. Besides that you’re supposed to address rural character issues…”

  9. Chris,

    In the event Paul doesn’t get back to us with the inventory of all government-funded restoration activities taking place in Hood Canal, can you – using the powers of the press – pressure the PSP for it? As you will recall, such an inventory was the partnership’s first order of business (the first step toward coordinating them is inventorying them, ne?). Seems it should be at hand.

    To reiterate: Can you provide a list of all the entities receiving federal, state or local tax money for Hood Canal restoration activities?

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