Oyster rescue planned at Scenic Beach State Park

State shellfish biologists are organizing a volunteer work party to rescue oysters that apparently were washed up high on the beach at Scenic Beach State Park by a Navy ship.

The guided-missile cruiser USS Port Royal operates off the coast of Hawaii during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) in 2008.
U.S. Navy photo

The USS Port Royal, a 567-foot guided-missile cruiser, was operating in the Navy’s Dabob Bay testing range on Thursday, and the oysters were found high up on the private beaches across Hood Canal the next morning.

Camille Speck, a shellfish biologist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, inspected the waterfront at Scenic Beach State Park on Tuesday. She told me that she was surprised at how far some of the oysters had been moved:

“I have never seen a scour line that high on the beach. The oysters are alive, but I can tell they have been thrown around a little bit.”

Frankly, I have never heard of this kind of damage from any ship, and I don’t blame readers for being skeptical. But there seems to be no question that the oysters were washed up on the beach, that the Navy ship was in the vicinity about that time, and that a ship of this size is capable of producing a huge wake. It’s called circumstantial evidence, at least until I find someone who actually saw something happening.

Here are the stories I’ve written on the subject so far:

Ship’s Wake Prompts Oysters to Wash Up on Shore Near Seabeck (Aug. 13)

Residents Assessing Oyster Damage From Ship’s Wake (Aug. 16)

Volunteers Sought for Oyster Rescue Effort in Seabeck (Aug. 18)

Several years ago, residents living along Rich Passage between South Kitsap and Bainbridge Island complained that the wake of high-speed passenger-only ferries were washing away the gravel and undercutting their concrete and rock bulkheads. Washington State Ferries was ultimately forced to pull the ferries out of service. Local officials are still hoping they can find a ferry that can make it from Bremerton to Seattle in about half an hour without creating wake damage.

I’ve also heard complaints from shoreline property owners about wakes from huge freighters. Such comments have come up during discussions about revised shoreline regulations that could become part of Kitsap County’s Shorelines Master Program. Some folks who live on the east side of the Kitsap Peninsula say wakes from these massive cargo ships cause more damage to habitat than anything a shoreline owner might do.

If true, it may be time to address the wake issue, beginning with studies of actual damage caused when the ships come through. Do we need government intervention? I can’t say, but rules to control wakes could be problematic, because the movement of ships is mostly controlled by the federal government.

12 thoughts on “Oyster rescue planned at Scenic Beach State Park

  1. I think this whole thing is comical. The environment in these areas supports oysters. There was an event that damaged/killed some oysters. New ones will take their place. That’s how Nature works, people.

  2. Stone,

    You may be right, but I’ll bet you are not a waterfront property owner. If you had an unnatural event kill hundreds of your oysters, you might feel differently — especially if you planted the oysters yourself. Many places in Puget Sound have no natural set.

    As for Scenic Beach State Park, I’m told that most of the single oysters and small clusters tend to wash away. Larger clusters are planted there so visitors can enjoy picking a few oysters in the spring. If volunteers can save a few hundred of these oysters, we should thank them for their effort.

  3. Three articles (and counting) on a few washed up oysters. Meanwhile the Puget Sound Partnership continues to be exposed (in other media) as a corrupt PAC of the Democrat Party.

    psst, Chris… that old adage that “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” doesn’t (or shouldn’t) apply to “journalists”.


  4. Reminds me somewhat of the back and forth about LNG tankers on the Columbia River, and to what degree their wake would cause the stranding of salmon, particularly juvenile salmon…

    Bet the Navy is sweating on how to fit this one into any future Environmental Analyses…how could they justify this potential impact to be anything less than significant? How to describe the impact? And then(ouch) describe it to the public in a meeting?

    This state takes their shellfish pretty seriously. I am not seeing an easy path that would allow anyone to go around blowing them out of the water, Federal agency or not.

  5. Chris — “You may be right, but I’ll bet you are not a waterfront property owner. If you had an unnatural event kill hundreds of your oysters, you might feel differently — especially if you planted the oysters yourself. Many places in Puget Sound have no natural set.”

    Then, many places in Puget Sound are not natural habitat for oysters. The damaged oyster beds are unnatural and privately owned. If I owned waterfront property, should I be free to plant oysters in an unnatural area? I don’t know. Do these non-native life forms disrupt the natural environment? Of course they do. Do they damage it, I don’t know… do you?

  6. The USS Port Royal DID NOT cause this!!! There is no way the wakes from the ship would do this!! They were NOT even close enough to make this happen. They were out in the waters yes, but you need to look at other \people\ to blame. I have read a lot of the comments around on this matter, and someone even stated they saw the USS Port Royal going by and there is NO WAY that ship caused the problem!!! PLEASE get your facts straight before you go and blame the military! They are here to protect us and this is how you treat them?? Give me a break!!!

    *And yes my husband is ON THAT SHIP too!!!

  7. Melissa,

    Like I said, until we have an eye witness, all we have to go on is circumstantial evidence. Sean Hughes, a Navy spokesman at Bangor, said the Navy is conducting an investigation to determine if the Port Royal could have been involved. I’m not sure when that report will be released, but I will try to update this story later today.

  8. I just copied this from the article asking for help to get the oysters back into safer waters…

    Bhagwan 11:23 p.m. 8/19/2010

    In response to randbrem

    Seems like an awfully long time for the oysters to be in a stressful situation. Better late than never, I guess.
    Hopefully the private property owners have already moved theirs. I guess the navy never did come to their rescue, as I suggested when the first story came out.

    This is complete political B.S.by anti Navy activists. I watched this ship go in and out of Dabob bay. It didn’t come within 2 miles of Scenic beach. It was going very slow and hardly left a wake. Then it went north up the narrow mile wide channel of Hood canal. No one along there reported any wave problems. Do you really think a ship wake is going to move all the oysters 70ft up the beach when all the winter storms can’t do it. The truth is that this is the same week that all the sad old Ground Zero protesters come here every year to lay down in front of the Navy base gates and try everything to make the Navy look bad, Save the oysters from the Navy, do you see a connection here?

  9. No, Melissa. This was not from the article. This was from the comments section below the article. The comment was made by an unidentified person calling himself Bhagwan.

    If this person would come forward and talk to me, it would increase his credibility in my mind. People have told me that the ship was creating big waves in Dabob Bay; I’m just not sure if they could travel all the way to Seabeck.

  10. Anyhoo… now that the oysters have all been rescued (maybe they were trying to secure a spot prior to the dreaded sea-level rise, but anyway…) maybe you can report on the corruption within the Puget Sound Partnership.

  11. Maybe a pack of ninja repubs at night, scuttled all the oysters up the beach
    to blame on them darn dems.. and thus expose another conspiracy theory. Or perhaps a counter attack by parties unknown and connected to Norm Dicks and his kid? More ships? More pristine shorelines?

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