Tag Archives: Bainbridge Island

Interactive maps make the land more meaningful

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.

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.”

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.

Who has a better solution for Eagle Harbor cleanup?

Officials with the Washington Department of Ecology plan to step back from the Wyckoff-Eagle Harbor Superfund Site on Bainbridge Island, pull community members together and begin looking for a new way to clean up the underground mess.

The ground near the entrance to Eagle Harbor became saturated with toxic creosote from the Wyckoff wood-treatment plant, which operated there for 80 years. After working on the problem more than 20 years and spending close to $100 million, the Environmental Protection Agency has announced a final solution.

The idea approved by the agency is to pump the waste out of the ground at a rate that will keep pollution from reaching Eagle Harbor, while leaving hundreds of thousands of gallons of waste buried for 100 years or more.

EPA has asked Ecology to sign off on the cleanup plan and take over operation of the pumping system. Check out the Kitsap Sun story by reporter Tristan Baurick.

Tim Nord, Ecology’s toxics cleanup manager, told me there are two reasons the state is unwilling to take over at this time. One is the uncertainty of leaving such a huge amount of waste in the ground. The second is that running the pumping system could cost between $700,000 and $1.5 million each year with no end in sight.

In his story, Tristan pointed out that the EPA may have lost $3 million by not getting a final agreement with the state, but that seems like peanuts compared to the ongoing costs that nobody wants to pay.

Nord has informed the EPA that the state cannot agree to the longterm remedy that agency staff proposed.

In the meantime, Nord will take an unprecedented step outside normal regulatory procedures by creating a panel of experts who might just come up with a new idea. It will be a wide-open discussion that will include the city of Bainbridge Island, the Suquamish Tribe and the Association of Bainbridge Communities — none of whom like the idea of leaving all that waste in the ground — as well as other interested people, he said.

“I am trying to look at this problem differently,” Nord told me. “Is there a way to get as much of that material out of the ground as possible?”

It isn’t so much about how long it will take to reach some numerical cleanup standard, Nord said. It is about the community, including people who would like to create a safe park on that site to be used for generations.

If the best minds in the business can come up with a plan for mass removal, then it will be laid out for a full discussion.

“The people need to be able to follow it, trust in it and believe in it,” Nord said.

Nord was not ready to talk about the step to follow, which will involve money. But if his group finds a viable solution, I would bet that state and federal elected officials could work together to get it done.

Given the ecological value of Eagle Harbor, I can understand why so many people feel uncomfortable with the idea of running pumps forever to hold back pollution from seeping into the bay.

Bainbridge cleans up sewer mess; Victoria steps up

UPDATE, June 5, 2009:
A Victoria Times-Colonist editorial raises several key questions about the sewer plans and says the government should not rush into the project.


The Bainbridge Island sewage spill, estimated at 140,000 gallons, was blamed on a break in a 32-year-old pipe buried in the beach and subject to saltwater corrosion.

<i>Before final repairs, a temporary band slowed the flow of sewage</i><br><small Kitsap Sun photo by Tristan Baurick</small>
Before final repairs, a temporary band slowed the flow of sewage
Kitsap Sun photo by Tristan Baurick

While Bainbridge Island cleaned up its sewage today, the city of Victoria — which has been dumping raw sewage into the Strait of Juan de Fuca for decades — took steps to clean up its mess as well. Regional officials took action on a plan to build a series of four sewage-treatment plants at a cost of $1.2 billion. Progress, yes, but work is still years away. More about that in a moment.

Damage to the environment in and around Bainbridge Island’s Eagle Harbor is expected to be temporary, according to Larry Altose, spokesman for the Washington Department of Ecology, who was quoted in a Kitsap Sun story by Tristan Baurick.

“As awful as a sewer release sounds, the impact of this size of spill is short-term,” Altose said, noting that sunlight and other organisms will quickly kill or eat most of the sewage contaminants within days.

Ecology could fine the city up to $10,000 a day for the spill. The city’s response and track record with maintenance can be considered.

“We can fine, but that’s not the point,” Altose said. “The point is to have lessons learned and have the proper steps for prevention.”

One lesson that everyone has been learning over the past few years is that sewer lines buried in the beach are trouble. We all know why they were installed there in the first place — because it is cheaper to build in the beach than to clear a route through trees and across ravines in the uplands.

Sewer lines in the beach are a problem that many cities must face, and they should be inspecting buried pipes on a regular schedule. We’ll see what Ecology’s investigation turns up with respect to Bainbridge Island’s maintenance.

Meanwhile, Bremerton and Poulsbo also face issues with worn-out pipes, and we don’t yet know what the solution will be. Bremerton, if you recall, has proposed a boardwalk that can support a vacuum truck to maintain the pipe after it is replaced in the beach (Water Ways, Sept. 22, 2008). That design is under scrutiny by the Army Corps of Engineers and other state and federal agencies.

As for Victoria, city officials maintained for years that they should be allowed to discharge raw sewage into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, because the swift waters dilute the pollution. Three years ago, the Minister of Environment for British Columbia said that was no longer acceptable and that treatment systems would be required for the municipalities of Colwood, Esquimalt, Langford, Oak Bay, Saanich, Victoria and View Royal, all under the Capital Regional District.
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We all need to learn more about water budgets

It’s a fact that Bainbridge Island has a limited water supply — limited ultimately by the amount of rain that falls and by how much of this rainfall drains into the ground.

Reporter Tristan Baurick wrote an interesting story for today’s Kitsap Sun about a decline in water levels in some public and private wells on the island. The story was based on a new report, commissioned by the city and researched by Aspect Consulting.

I don’t believe the findings come as much of a shock to water experts who watch these issues, but it may be a call to action for everyone else.

The entire Kitsap Peninsula, like Bainbridge Island, is almost entirely reliant on rainfall. We don’t have a mountain here with a pile of snow to feed our streams. While Bremerton operates a dam on the Union River, the dam’s supply is essentially a set annual amount.

For much of our Puget Sound region, the story is only slightly less urgent, while some island communities are facing severe shortages.  Rainfall is the key, and most of the region is growing more dependent on groundwater as the years go by.

For me, the Bainbridge report reminds us that we all need to pay closer attention to our local groundwater supplies, and we need our local governments to help us understand our local problems.

Specifically, we need to:

  • Develop an ongoing water budget for each of our aquifers (measuring rainfall against usage) to help us respond to changes over time,
  • Continue to improve on our efficient use of water, so that we can do more with our limited water supplies,
  • Protect our aquifer recharge areas, which means greater use of low-impact development across the entire Kitsap Peninsula and many other areas of Puget Sound,
  • Move the water from wells in outlying areas to the population centers where that can be done without affecting streamflows needed for fish,
  • Keep everyone informed about the water budgets, conservation efforts and quality of fish habitat,
  • And issue a call for stepped-up conservation efforts in low-rainfall years to maintain underground water supplies.

Road ends raise issues of public access to the shore

For more than a decade, the city of Bainbridge Island has aggressively proclaimed the public’s right to use “road ends,” which are public rights of way that run down to the beach.

Many city and county governments have been shy about promoting public use of such narrows strips of land where adjoining residents often maintain expensive homes. Some people worry about vandalism and excessive tramping of sensitive habitats. But couldn’t these quiet little access points also help people appreciate nature?

Many road ends across the island and throughout Puget Sound seem to be the result of haphazard platting rather than carefully designed access. Still, the Legislature has recognized the importance of maintaining what little public access remains for average Washington residents. See RCW 35.79.035.

Public access to shorelines is a growing issue in Washington state, where most tidal areas were sold off in the early 1900s to promote commerce related to the shellfish industry. Bainbridge Island decided years ago that road ends offer a public-access opportunity worth millions of dollars.

“This is an island, but we have little access to the water to enjoy the peace, the birds and a quiet walk,” Marci Burkel, a member of the city’s Road Ends Committee, said in a Kitsap Sun story by reporter Tristan Baurick.

The island has been publishing maps of its road ends for years, but many of these sites are overgrown and difficult to use for shoreline access. Now, the Road End Committee is recruiting volunteers to monitor conditions at the road ends. More ambitious folks are encouraged to maintain the access points.

For additional information, check the Web page for the city’s Road Ends Committee, which includes annual reports for 2004 (PDF 660 kb), 2005 (PDF 496 kb) and 2006 (PDF 588kb). The island’s Shoreline Access Guidebook contains maps of the access points and general rules and guidelines to avoid potential problems.

I’m aware of several prime locations in Kitsap County that could provide access routes for people to reach to the water. Should other cities and counties in the Puget Sound region follow Bainbridge Island’s lead, first by publishing the locations of these road ends and then recruiting volunteers to clear these areas for public use?

Swimming around Bainbridge is a beautifully simple idea

Swimming around Bainbridge Island, a little piece at a time, is a beautifully simple idea loaded with potential for suspense, excitement and exploration.

Mark Powell // Kitsap Sun photo

Island resident Mark Powell wanted to find a way to know his island better when was struck by the inspiration to swim around it, observing the variety of sea life, shoreline structures and underwater formations along the way.

As Tristan Baurick writes for the Kitsap Sun, Powell considered waiting for the right weather or the right time of year to begin, but then he realized any delay could kill the inspiration. So he took to the water on a windy Columbus Day, Oct. 13, slipping into the cold water at Fort Ward State Park. (View his blog, which includes an entry for each leg of his journey.)

Meanwhile, I’ve been following the blogs of two 16-year-old boys, each sailing separately by themselves around the world. There’s Zac Sunderland of Thousand Oaks, Calif., aboard a 36-foot Islander, who left Los Angeles June 14 (See Zac’s Web site and blog).

The other 16-year-old is Mike Perham of St. Albans (England), who left Brighton on the South Coast of England on Nov. 16 in a 50-foot custom racing yacht. (See Mike’s web site and blog).

Both boys hope to be the youngest to sail around the world solo. It is a pretty remarkable feat to contemplate — what with risky seas, boat mishaps and dangerous people lurking in various corners of the world.

So I’ll keep following the adventures of these two boys who have their separate dreams of sailing. Their blogs contain details of their travels, which aren’t much while they’re at sea, but the photos are nice.

Still, my admiration goes to Bainbridge Island’s Mark Powell, whose trip is filled with adventure of a different kind. From Mark’s blog, I am hearing things about things somewhat familiar to me and personally more interesting.

As Powell writes in the introduction to his blog:

I’ve got an itch. I’m indoors too much, and lacking adventure. So, thrashing around a bit on what to do, it came to me.

I’ll swim around Bainbridge Island, my home island.

It’s all here, 53 miles of shoreline with at least a small dose of almost everything you’ll find in the modern ocean world.

We have a Superfund site and pristine shoreline, armored banks with fancy houses, and forests that reach the water. Some good fishing, and some sadness over what’s missing.

Thanks to Mike Sato for catching a name error in the initial post