Tag Archives: Seabeck

Purchase of Big Beef Creek property preserves habitat, research projects

Nearly 300 acres along Big Beef Creek near Seabeck will be protected from development and could maintain its research facilities, thanks to a $3.5-million land purchase arranged by the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group.

Sky view of Big Beef Creek Research Station, showing the Big Beef estuary and Hood Canal at the top.
Photo: Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group

The property, owned by the University of Washington, contains the Big Beef Creek Research Station, known for its studies of salmon and steelhead. The UW purchased the land, including most of the estuary, in 1965. Various research projects have continued there, despite the university’s decision to sell the property.

Mendy Harlow, executive director of the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group, said she has been working with multiple funding agencies and nonprofit groups for two years to finalize the acquisition.

“Some funding sources only want to pay for estuary habitat,” she said. “Some don’t want to have any buildings on the site. Others have other priorities. But everybody had a great can-do attitude, and they all wanted to make this work.”

The future of the research station will depend on a feasibility study, which will assess who wants to use the facilities and how proposed operations can be accommodated along with plans to restore the ecosystem.

Land purchased from the University of Washington involves 13 parcels along Big Beef Creek, with Hood Canal at top.
Map: Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group

“We realize that we can’t have full restoration with buildings located in the flood plain,” Harlow said, “but people are already calling me to see if they can work with us. I feel the possibilities are very broad.”

The research station has multiple buildings, including some being used as office space. One building houses incubators designed to hatch salmon eggs. Nine large tanks are available for rearing fish of all sizes.

The facility also has an artificial spawning channel, used during the 1990s to observe salmon behavior. Freshwater ponds, once built for rearing chinook salmon, will undergo scrutiny for potential uses versus restoration back to a more natural condition, Harlow said.

The property is closed to the public, but planning efforts will consider public uses, including trails and recreational activities such as bird watching and fishing.

Big Beef Creek is also under consideration for an effort to restore a natural run of summer chum, a population that disappeared from Big Beef Creek in 1984. A decade later, the entire population of Hood Canal summer chum was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

In the late 1990s and into the 2000s, biologists attempted to restore the salmon run by using summer chum from the Quilcene River on the other side of Hood Canal. That experiment failed, despite successful restoration in other Hood Canal streams. Experts are still assessing the cause of the Big Beef Creek failure and may try again, perhaps with a different stock under different conditions — including better habitat, thanks to stream restoration in 2016 and 2017.

Although the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group now owns the Big Beef property, a fish trap operated by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will continue to be used by the agency to count salmon coming and going from Big Beef Creek. Those counts are used to predict salmon runs and set harvest levels in Hood Canal.

The property acquisition involved grants totaling $1.9 million from grant programs administered by the Recreation and Conservation Funding Board, the Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the Office of Estuary and Salmon Restoration. Another $980,000 came from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Fortera, a nonprofit organization, provided $152,000 for the initial purchase and used a loan guarantee from the Russell Family Foundation to buy two remaining parcels. Those properties will be transferred to HCSEG after about $400,000 is raised for the final purchase.

With the acquisition of the research station property, 90 percent of the land along Big Beef Creek below the Lake Symington dam is in public ownership or conservation status, Harlow said. The goal is to acquire more property to continue streamside restoration from the dam to Hood Canal while continuing to improve salmon habitat above the dam.

Without the purchase of the research station property, an important part of Hood Canal could have been lost to development, Harlow said.

“We have been involved with Big Beef Creek for a couple of decades now,” she said. “It is really wonderful to see things working out this way.”

Memories of Andy Rogers, the Seabeck ‘icon’

Hood Canal has lost one of the region’s original environmentalists.

Andy Rogers

Andy Rogers, who died two weeks ago at age 94, might be surprised that I would call him an environmentalist — and he probably wouldn’t like it.

But when it comes to nature, few people could match Andy’s love for Hood Canal. He worked as a trapper, logger and fisherman and often talked about the bounty once found in Hood Canal but now lost to the advance of our civilized society.

Andy would never deny someone the right to move to the Hood Canal region, to build a house, to enjoy the water and woods. But he understood better than most about what development has done to the natural world.

“Every time anybody moves here, it gets worse — and that includes me,” he once told me. “You can’t do anything about it. People have rights. It seems our rights are going to kill us in the country.”

If Andy were alive this week, he’d be one of the first I would call to ask about whether humpback whales — like the one observed on Friday — ever showed up in Hood Canal. (See yesterday’s Water Ways.) Other longtime residents I contacted could not remember seeing humpbacks anytime in the past.

I once asked Andy about resident killer whales — the ones that eat fish. The National Marine Fisheries Service was about to designate “critical habitat” for our endangered orcas, and the agency was not listing Hood Canal as a critical place for them to live.

Andy thought back and remembered watching killer whales when he was younger — and even hearing them breach before he could see them. “We called them ‘blackfish’ in those days,” he said.

I relied on Andy Rogers to put Hood Canal into historical perspective for me while writing a series of articles called “Hood Canal: Splendor at Risk,” a project that grew into a book by the same name.

Much of the Hood Canal region was logged before Andy was born, but he lived to see many second-growth harvests and some areas that grew into harvestable trees for a third time. As a child, Hood Canal was a wilder place.

“When I was 10 or 11 years old,” he said, “I saw a sign that said, ‘No trespassing.’ I went and asked my mother what that was, because I had never seen that before. People went where they wanted to go.”

Some wild animals have been displaced by logging, but the changes were not permanent. Rogers told me that humans remain in control and can decide whether to tolerate cougars, wolves and bears. In days gone by, he said, the answer was simply to kill them on sight.

“Man’s the only one of the species who can control how many there are going to be,” he said.

Andy recalled when salmon were plentiful and arrived on a regular schedule.

“I knew the salmon would start up the creek about the 20th of August,” he told me. “Pert’ near all these stream were full of salmon by Labor Day.”

I think the loss of the salmon saddened him. He once suggested that all fishing be stopped for four years — something that seemed out of character for Andy, a fisherman. But the result, he said, would be an abundance of salmon. People would be able to see the possibilities and learn how to manage salmon for the larger numbers that were possible.

Andy lamented the loss of steelhead. He told me that he remembers when they were thick in all Kitsap County streams. At the time, I wasn’t sure I believed that, because steelhead are so scarce today. You generally go to coastal rivers to find them. But later, after steehead were listed as a threatened species, state biologists told me there was no apparent reason for steelhead not to survive here — except for the fact that there are no fish left to breed.

Rogers said it was poaching that wiped them out. He remembers a man who ran a black market for the prized fish, and this “outlaw” foolishly netted the streams until all the steelhead were gone.

Andy supported reasonable efforts to protect wildlife habitat, “but you cannot shut the door and keep people out,” he insisted.

I concluded my profile of Andy with a comment he made: “Id sure like to stick around and see what this place is like in 50 years.”

If that were only possible, I’m sure many people — including Andy’s coffee and card friends at Seabeck Store — wouldn’t mind listening to his stories a little longer.

At Andy’s request, no services are planned. A military honor ceremony was held today with his family in attendance. Andy Rogers was an Army veteran of World War II.

Survivors include his children, Albert Rogers, Jo Ann Belis, Barbara Smith and Charles Rogers, along with many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Jo Ann told me that she wanted to offer a special thanks to members of the Seabeck Community who had supported Andy through the years. His family placed an obituary in the Kitsap Sun on Jan. 25.

Andy Rogers offered many memories of Hood Canal through the years. This photo, taken in 1991 on Stavis Bay near his home, appeared in the book Hood Canal Splendor at Risk.

Speaking to the Navy about Hood Canal oyster deaths

I guess we can finally put to rest the question of how thousands of oysters got washed up high on the beaches of Hood Canal on Aug. 11, causing many to die in the summer sun.

Darrell Hogue of Seabeck wades into Hood Canal at Scenic Beach State Park to rescue oysters lodged high on the beach, where an estimated 178,000 were stranded.
Kitsap Sun photo by Larry Steagall

Without explicitly blaming the USS Port Royal for the problem, Navy officials said they would take steps to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. Check out my story from Wednesday’s Kitsap Sun.

A lot of Hood Canal residents believed the Port Royal was to blame, because they saw this massive 567-foot guided-missile cruiser operating at high speeds off their shores. They naturally connected the ship to the big waves hitting their beaches at the same time. I tended to believe the local people, but I wasn’t sure how anyone could actually prove that the Navy was to blame.

Perhaps the best evidence came in a video I first revealed to you in Watching Our Water Ways on Aug. 27, thanks to the taping by Gary Jackson in Dabob Bay.

After this, I tried to get some simple questions answered by the Navy, but I was frustrated by the fact that three different Navy groups were playing a role. Each one kept referring me to another, and it appeared that nobody really wanted to talk about it.

For example, the ship itself belonged to the Third Fleet, so my questions were directed to a spokesman in San Diego. Because damage claims were involved, I was directed to a spokesman for the Admiralty and Maritime Law Division of the Judge Advocate General. And because the Dabob testing range on Hood Canal is operated by the Naval Undersea Warfare Center – Keyport, I was directed to a spokesman for Navy Region Northwest.

After getting the runaround again and again, I asked in late September if they could talk to each other and tell me where I should address my questions. They did that and told me that I would have my questions answered by Third Fleet, where the ship is based. I went so far as to put my questions in writing so there would be no confusion. Two weeks later, my questions still were not answered, so I sent out another e-mail.

This is where I need to give credit to Sean Hughes and the other public affairs officers for Navy Region Northwest. They have always been helpful to me, and I think that leaving these questions unresolved were beginning to trouble them as well. Sean told me that he was able to take over the questions from Third Fleet and quickly get answers from local folks running the Dabob range.

I’m guessing that the issue of financial liability for loss of the oysters was creating a reluctance by Navy officials to discuss the situation. I can understand that. At the same time, I’m glad that Sean Hughes and other officials at Navy Region Northwest appreciate the need to be responsive to the local community where they operate.

Hood Canal residents still troubled by oyster washup

Evidence continues to point toward the USS Port Royal as the cause of massive numbers of oysters washing up on beaches near Seabeck as well as along Dabob Bay on the opposite side of Hood Canal.

A Navy investigator visited affected residents on Misery Point yesterday, though it remains unclear when a report may be issued. According to folks along the beach, the investigator was able to smell the stench of rotting oysters still drifting about in that area.

I’m afraid there was some initial confusion about the timing, because some people discovered the washed-up oysters on Friday, Aug. 13, and I believe they assumed the event had occurred on Thursday, Aug. 12. Witnesses on both sides of Hood Canal have now confirmed that the Port Royal was speeding up and down Dabob Bay on Wednesday, Aug. 11.

One witness who documented the event is Gary Jackson, who owns property on Dabob Bay. In a letter to Gov. Chris Gregoire, he said his small unoccupied boat and two others were swamped by the wake. (Click here to download his letter (PDF 36 kb), and check out the video above.)
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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.