Environmentally Sound Articles
In one of the most significant developments yet in the process of Elwha River Restoration, members of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe recently gathered at their people’s sacred creation site for the first time in nearly a century.
“Our Ancestors didn't write down our stories in books as we do today. We had witnessed the old ways as we had seen them from the etched rocks exposed at TsiWhitZen village site,” said Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe Chairwoman Frances Charles. “Standing on our spiritual sacred site, the emotions of our Ancestors were so overwhelming we sang songs of joy to actually see this place and feel the power of our Ancestors. Our sacred site is not a myth as some had been led to believe.”
Generations of tribal members handed down descriptions of a distinctive place along the Elwha River where the Creator bathed the people and blessed them. For millennia a place of reverence and vision, the tribe’s creation site was covered by the waters of one of the two reservoirs created after construction of the dams in 1910 and 1927.
Removal of the two dams on the Elwha River began in September 2011; the Elwha Dam is completely gone and Glines Canyon Dam is expected to be fully removed by early summer 2013.
The creation site was located in early July by members of the Olympic National Park cultural resources staff who frequently monitor both of the former Elwha reservoirs for emerging cultural resources. Park staff immediately contacted tribal members who visited the site and confirmed its authenticity.
“The tribe has lived along the Elwha River since time immemorial and it is an honor to be part of the rediscovery of this sacred site,” said Olympic National Park Acting Superintendent Todd Suess. “As this project moves forward, we are gratified to see both their culture and the river’s ecosystem renewed.”
Elsewhere on the Elwha, another significant cultural site was recently found in an area formerly covered by a reservoir. Material from this site was collected for further study and the site was re-buried. Radiocarbon analysis indicates that the spot was used by people as far back as approximately 8,000 years ago, establishing it as one of the oldest known archeological sites on the Olympic Peninsula.
“Finding these resources underscores the value of cultural resources, not only for their importance to the tribe’s culture, but also for the vast wealth of information they contain,” said Suess. “Because of the sensitivity of these sites, we will not be releasing more detailed location information.”
Cultural sites and artifacts are protected by laws including the National Historic Preservation Act, the Archeological Resources Protection Act, as well as National Park Service and Department of the Interior policy.
Disturbance of cultural sites and artifacts is strictly prohibited and is punishable by law.
Frances Charles, Chairwoman, Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and Barb Maynes, Public Info Officer, Olympic National Park
Spills Aren’t Slick
Every year, the Washington Department of Ecology handles 3,800 reports of oil spills and hazardous material releases across the state – including conducting 1,200 field responses.
Most of our reports involve oil spills at marinas or recreational boats. Ecology’s top priority is working to prevent oil spills in the first place.
All spills matter, regardless of size, because oil is toxic to the environment. The damage starts as soon as oil enters our waters. A single quart of motor oil can potentially contaminate 100,000 gallons of water. Oil products harm water quality and directly threaten our fish, birds, mammals and other wildlife – and damage critical habitat.
When the oil hits water, it spreads out very quickly and turns into a sheen. At this point, the oil is difficult to remove from the water. Using soaps or detergents on spilled oil or fuel is illegal and does not eliminate the spill. When fueling your boat, use an absorbent pad or fuel collar to catch drips.
By working together to keep our vessels well maintained so they don’t sink and keep oil from leaking while we fuel our vessels over water, we can all help protect the waters we so deeply cherish.
Many people don’t know they are required to report their spills, and they don’t know it’s as easy as dialing 800-OILS-911. While reporting spills is critical, we really need everyone to do all they can to prevent spills from polluting our waters.
Curt Hart, Communications Manager for the Washington Department of Ecology Spill Prevention, Preparedness, and Response Program, July 17
Controlled Blast At Glines Canyon Dam
The Glines Canyon Dam on the Elwha River is coming down. The fourth of five blasts scheduled for July occurred July 13. The Dam is being removed to restore the Elwha to a free flowing river which runs from the Olympic Peninsula into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The Elwha Dam was removed earlier this year.
Scientists had a hunch that ocean-going steelhead would eventually return to the Elwha River once the dams came down. The return happened sooner than they thought. Biologists tracking fish in a tributary of the Elwha last month spotted wild steelhead that likely made it on their own past the site where the Elwha Dam stood for nearly a century.
The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe fish hatchery manager Mike McHenry Says the siting confirms that these fish are quite capable of recolonizing the Elwha. The tribe is a partner with the National Park Service in an ambitious $325 million federal project to restore the Elwha River and its legendary fish runs.
By next summer, the glacier-fed Elwha River is expected to flow freely as it runs from the Olympic Mountains to the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
KMAS News Radio, July 18
Help Keep Invasive Species Out Of WA Waters
As state waters warm, aquatic plants and animals flourish - including aquatic invasive species. Boaters can help protect the waters they enjoy and avoid potential fines by following a few simple precautions, said Allen Pleus, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) aquatic invasive-species coordinator.
To protect Washington waters, all watercraft should be cleaned, drained and dried before launch and after leaving the water for a new destination. Transporting aquatic invasive species is illegal in Washington, with a potential fine of $500 plus decontamination costs for violations.
“Many invasive species are easily seen, such as attached mussels and aquatic plants, but many others are not, such as juvenile mussels, plant spores, and fish and shellfish diseases”, said Pleus.
Specifically, boaters are asked to take the following steps before launching or moving their boat to another destination:
Clean:Remove any visible plants, dirt or animal life from boats, motors, trailers, boots and other personal gear and equipment.
Drain:Pull the plug to release lake or stream water at the source from fish wells, wakeboard ballast tanks and bait buckets (put bait in the garbage).
Dry:Rinse equipment in fresh potable water and dry, or allow to dry, before the next use.
Cleaning and draining watercraft immediately after leaving the water will prevent accidental spread of invasive species on the ride home and avoiding potential fines.
Boats aren’t the only equipment that need careful attention to prevent the spread of aquatic invaders - it is the responsibility of everyone who uses Washington waters.
For more information on aquatic invasive species, visit the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/ais/youcanhelp.html. To report an aquatic invasive species sighting, request a free inspection, or request information on aquatic invasive species contacts in other states, please call 1(888) 933-9247 toll-free.
KMAS News Radio, June 2012
Ground Breaking At Potlatch Waste Water Treatment Plant
The Skokomish Tribe had their official ground breaking ceremony for the Potlatch Waste Water Treatment Plant, Wednesday, June 13. The ceremony started with an opening blessing and then Charles 'Guy' Miller, Chairman for the Tribe, spoke on how the tribe is thrilled to play a role in keeping Hood Canal clean for generations to come. Gerry O'Keefe, the Executive Director of Puget Sound Partnership, talked about how they are primarily responsible for 3 issues: 1 - setting science based priorities to recover Puget Sound; 2 - supporting their partners: the Tribe, the County and State Parks’ so they have resources and the political support they need to get work like this done, and 3 - Evaluating results. It is their job to make sure the investments made on Puget Sound are working and cost effective.
Outgoing Washington State District 6 Representative Norm Dicks was on hand for the groundbreaking. Dicks spoke on the advanced membrane technology used for the project that will improve water quality on Hood Canal. This new sewer system, a "membrane bioreactor" wastewater treatment plant, and upland filtration system is for environmentally safe discharge of highly treated effluent into the ground. Dicks praised the Tribe for working hard on this issue and remaining steadfast on the membrane approach. He also stated the project is already a success because it was an effort that started locally.
Miller had the honor of digging the ceremonial first shovel of dirt. Full-fledged construction on the plant will begin June 15 and is expected to take 16 months. The Plant will serve Potlatch Park, the planned t3ba’das (Skokomish Tribe) housing development and businesses and residents along US101 from the Park to the Tacoma Power House.
The Tribe will serve as owner/operator of the Plant. Chehalis and Squaxin Tribes and others in western WA (Tulalip, Lummi, Swinomish) currently operate similar plants.
For more information on the project: http://potlatchwastewater.com/faq.html
C.G. KMAS News Radio, June 20
Inter-Local Agreement Signing
The Squaxin Island Tribe and Mason County formalized their new partnership on May 29, with a signing ceremony at the Squaxin Tribal Museum. The partnership was formed to protect one of the most productive shellfish growing areas in the world by employing a working relationship between the two governments to manage an enhanced Pollution Identification and Correction (PIC) program, as part of the state's recently announced Shellfish Initiative.
"This enhanced program will bring a new emphasis to making sure cleaned up areas stay clean," said John Konovsky, environmental program manager for the tribe. The tribe will monitor water quality after corrective actions are taken to make sure they're working and continue to work. Corrective actions may be implemented through voluntary compliance or, as necessary, enforcement against polluters who fail to cooperate.
The importance of the agreement is due to the economic impact to the County and the Squaxin Tribe, as the shorelines of Mason County are among the most productive shellfish growing areas in the world, not to mention the vital role shellfish play in the tribe's culture.
Both parties of this inter-local agreement recognize the value of working together to confront and correct “Pollution that prevents everyone from being able to harvest the shellfish that are so vital to both economies and the tribal culture.
Tribal Council Members: David Lopeman, Tribal Chair, Arnold Cooper, Tribal Vice-Chair, Pete Kruger Sr., Tribal Council Secretary, Ray Peters, Inter Governmental Affairs & Tribal Liaison, Council Member, Jim Peters. Mason County: Commissioner Steve Bloomfield, Commissioner Tim Sheldon, Commissioner Lynda Ring-Erickson. Mason County Health Department Director Vicki Kirkpatrick and Mason County Environmental Health Director Debbie Riley.
KMAS News Radio, June 6, 2012
Highway 101 Revisited: Investing in Downtowns for Increased Health and Prosperity on the Olympic Peninsula
We all have an idea in our minds of what a strong, vibrant downtown looks like. It’s a place where locals and visitors alike want to spend time, filled with attractive, thriving businesses; where buildings are attractive; and streets work for people, including pedestrians, cyclists, cars and freight. It is a place that celebrates its history, a place that feels like a real place. Making that vision a reality, however, can be a challenge.
With support from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), Forterra, Washington’s largest community building and conservation organization, is addressing this challenge. The Highway 101 Revisited workshops will bring a diverse group of stakeholders together from around the Olympic Peninsula to explore how to energize downtown areas, focusing on economic development, historic preservation and urban design.
Two workshops are planned, June 6th in Port Angeles and June 14th in Aberdeen. The free workshops will focus on the barriers, opportunities and support needed to build economically vibrant downtowns that have strong connections to surrounding neighborhoods, support local business, create more housing choices, promote adaptive reuse, preserve historic structures and create a sense of place.
Participants at the Highway 101 Revisited workshop will explore how historic preservation and urban design can contribute to economic development, learn about programs, resources and easy-to-implement strategies for downtown improvement projects and connect with organizations and individuals pursuing downtown revitalization efforts in their communities
In addition to the two upcoming workshops, Forterra will partner with two communities, providing free technical assistance related economic development, historic preservation, urban design, during the summer and fall of 2012. The type of assistance offered will depend on the needs identified by the communities selected, but could include guidance on developing complete streets and active transportation plans, acquiring Certified Local Government status or engaging citizens in the planning process.
For more information about the workshops and to RSVP please go to http://www.forterra.org/events/highway_101_revisited_northfor the Port Angeles workshop on June 6th or http://www.forterra.org/events/highway_101_revisited_southfor the Aberdeen workshop on June 14th. Please contact Jeff Aken, email@example.com any questions.
Highway 101 Revisited: North Olympic Peninsula Workshop: Wednesday, June 6, 2012 from 9am – 1pm
Vern Burton Center, Port Angeles, WA
Highway 101 Revisited: South Olympic Peninsula Workshop: Thursday, June 14, 2012 from 9am – 1pm, Port of Grays Harbor Commission Chamber, Aberdeen, WA.
Jeff Aken, Program Manager, Forterra, June 6
Spring has sprung in Mason County! If you live near a wetland you may have noticed the bright yellow spears of skunk cabbage jutting through the mud and flecks of magenta salmonberry blossoms punctuating the green of the forest. After a long, harsh winter spring is a welcome site. However along with the longer days and the occasional sun, spring brings rain to Mason County. Whether you have two chickens in your backyard or a whole flock of sheep, spring rain translates quickly to spring mud and that can become a problem on your farm in the spring.
Here are six easy steps to controlling mud on your farm (adapted from Healthy Horses Clean Water by Alayne Renee Blickle):
Pick up manure every one to three days. Due to the high moisture content, manure in your fields actually adds to the mud problem. By picking up piles every few days you not only reduce the mud, but you can begin composting the manure you collect to augment your garden, pastures or even offer it up to the community through Mason Conservation District’s Manure Exchange Program! (See end of article for contact information)
Create a sacrifice area. If you have a smaller area that is high and dry, consider using this as a sacrifice area or confinement area during the wettest times of year. This area should be big enough for your animals to safely move around and exercise, and should be surrounded by healthy buffers to help treat contaminated rainwater that runs off.
Install gutters and downspouts. If you haven’t already, consider how rainwater reaches your farm in the first place. Often it is the result of leaking gutters or downspouts that outlet into your confinement area which can translate into hundreds of gallons of water per rain event! Instead think about how to divert this rain water to another area of your property, collect it with a rain barrel, or redirect it with a French drain or a water bar.
Use footing materials. Gravel or wood products serve as good materials to use in heavy use areas and will greatly decrease mud on your property. Before doing this be sure to lay down a layer of geotextile fabric first to prevent mud from coming through the footing materials.
Plant native trees and shrubs. Believe it or not, a mature Douglas fir tree can drink between 100 and 250 gallons of water a day! So not only can plants make your farm look beautiful, they also work to absorb and filter water. There are a few species of native plants that should be avoided as they can be poisonous to livestock (elderberry, snowberry and serviceberry are a few). Mason Conservation District can help you find the appropriate plants for your site.
Fence livestock out of surface water. This is a big one. If animals are given free range into streams, ponds or wetlands mud accumulates quickly. By fencing animals away from these areas you can not only reduce mud but also promote habitat for local wildlife and clean water for you and your neighbors!
Mason Conservation District can provide assistance with any of these ideas. For more information about manure structures, how to install gutters on your barn or selecting appropriate native plants for your property just give us a call at 427-9436 or visit our website at www.masoncd.org.
Stephanie Bishop - Education & Outreach Coordinator, Mason Conservation District, April 25
Storm Water Runoff
Polluted runoff from roads, roofs and other impervious surfaces goes less easily noticed than most pollution because it comes off the upland not from a pipe or “point source” but through ditches, down banks, or in a sheet flow across fields.
In addition to picking up pollutants from the land (such as oil and grease, heavy metals, bacteria and even manure from pets and livestock) the flow also comes at a cost to real estate through flooding, transport of soils, and scouring gravel from important salmon and trout streams.
As we remove forests or transform our land through development we lose the absorbing ‘sponge-like’ services of forest “duff” that forms from decades of bark, needles and limbs that form under old-growth forests.
We need to manage and prevent damage from polluted storm runoff. This becomes tangible if you see your own property being damaged from the downstream, or even down hill effects if property owners upstream or upslope from you who just channel their ditches and runoff to your property. We need to all realize we are connected to each other and the land, and our “mostly rural character” is changing to an urbanized one.
Polluted runoff can harm water quality as demonstrated in North Bay, near Allyn. Even when we worked to clean up poorly sited or failing septic system and form a utility and built a wastewater treatment system, fecal coliform bacteria levels in the bay can remain high, too high for safely harvesting shellfish during rain events. Polluted runoff comes off the land that has been developed to near urban densities.
Healthy natural resources and our quality of life in Mason County depend on protection, prevention and forward thinking to retrofit solutions to past problems and promote growth that depends on smart land use and development that’s low in impact.
Looking back to our past we know healthy forests, the timber industry, our shellfish and fish resources are key to our local economy and to tourist attraction.
We have the wisdom to protect these resources for our communities and our healthy economy and the environment. Mason County’s future depends on our stewardship more than ever.
Duane Fagergren, Nutrients, Pathogens and Shellfish Program Manager Puget Sound Partnership, April 11
Capitol Land Trust
Executive Director of Capitol Land Trust, Eric Erler, was a guest recently on “Environmentally Sound” with NEWSRADIO’s Jeff Slakey to talk about his work as the Executive Director of Capitol Land Trust (CLT). Erler described the CLT mission as “furthering collaborative and strategic conservation of southwest Washington’s essential natural areas and working lands”. Here, in his own words, are some highlights from that interview.
“We have an approach that is collaborative, everything we do involves the full cooperation of everybody involved. A non-regulatory approach to habitat conservation, conservation of working lands, keeping the places that are essential for all of us and our quality of life, still here.”
“For any non profit organization there are the same challenges. We were an extremely small group, have built trust within the community as we work, and an awareness that our approach is unique so that we’re supported by an extremely diverse set of interests, ranging from business leaders and elective leaders to land owners to real estate professionals to environmental groups and conservation interests. A unique approach that brings everybody together under a big umbrella.
“With us, we spend our time finding that one area where everybody can come to the table and come to an agreement, when we focus on that and find solutions based on that, what that does is get people to start trusting each other and start working together and that leads to a lot of good in the community.
“One of the big changes over the last decade is we have become increasingly strategic, recognizing we are only one organization we can only accomplish so much with the resources we have and while those resources have been increasing, we’ve identified that we would best meet our mission by specifying the certain kinds of areas and lands that we want to focus our energies on.”
“Capitol Land Trust is celebrating our 25th anniversary in 2012. We are using our 25th anniversary as an opportunity to increase awareness of our work and the importance of a collaborative approach.“
“We have set a number of challenges for the coming year to raise awareness in the community and to help us stay on track of our goals. Our ’25 campaign’ challenges: Conserve 25 acres per day for the entire year; conserve 2.5 miles of additional shoreline; conserve an additional 250 acres of working farmlands and secure 25 million dollars in new conservation funding by 2013.”
“In 50 years: our challenge will be while the economy has slowed somewhat in the last few years, the reality is that 4 million people work and live around Puget Sound Basin right now and that population will only continue to increase and pressure is on all the natural resources that all of us depend on for our health, quality of life and jobs.”
KMAS News Radio, March 28, 2012
Skokomish River Ecosystem Restoration
Mason County Public Works, Mason County Conservation District, Skokomish Indian Tribe and the US Army Corps of Engineers met with several dozen Skokomish River landowners in Shelton to discuss the Skokomish River Ecosystem Restoration Plan. Nic Scott of KMAS News Radio, talked with Rich Geiger of the Conservation District who says as many as 200 homeowners in the Skokomish Valley are affected.
"The general investigation has found some important new information about why the Skokomish River floods and what the future holds for the River", said Rich Geiger.
Geiger also said that forty separate actions have been identified to make things better both for the environment and hopefully, help relieve flood damage. He said that local residences and the community at large will be asked one last time, for project ideas. After that they, (Mason County Public Works, Mason County Conservation District, Skokomish Indian Tribe and the US Army Corps of Engineers) will be working closely with individual landowners and other stakeholders like the County and Tribe to pick out which projects will be carried forward by the Corps and which projects the local community will want to take on.
When asked about some of the best remedies the group has come up with. Rich answered, “Well the best remedies - we are getting some things out of harm’s way. The Corps is looking at actually realigning Skokomish Valley road, in the vicinity of Ells Hill road and Bens Creek Bridge, to get it up and out of the flood plain, because that is one of the most frequently flooded stretches of the valley road and it is an important escape route. This would allow folks that are otherwise cut off by flood water to get through and get out”.
Other things include trying to get sediment moving in the river and trying to keep fish in the river instead of flushing out during flooding. The Corps has agreed that it is in the national interest to help correct this problem. The public can still get involved. The Mason County point of contact is Rich Geiger: 360-427-9436 ext. 18. The Tribe’s point of contact is Alex Gouley: 360-877-2110.
When asked if the average person’s opinion is really counted, Rich said, “The things that are going to happen, a large number of them are going to happen on private property. So these are private property owner decisions, folks are going to be making decisions about what their property is going to be like and how they’re going to protect their property and how they’re going to live on their property and the farmers, how they’re going to farm on their property. So a lot of what is going to happen is actually going to be individual actions on individual properties. Other than that, the community is … going to decide on which projects go forward.”
He went on to say that no one is going to make a decision on what is going to happen, but rather the folks in the valley have to ‘agree’ on what is going to happen.
Nic Scott, March 28, 2011
Potlatch Waste Water Plant Ground Breaking
The Skokomish Tribe had their official ground breaking ceremony for the Potlatch Waste Water Treatment Plant grounds on Wednesday. There was an opening blessing and then Charles 'Guy' Miller, Chairman for the Tribe spoke on how the tribe is thrilled to play a role in keeping Hood Canal clean for generations to come. Gerry O'Keefe, the Executive Director of Puget Sound Partnership (PSP), talked about how the PSP is primarily responsible for 3 issues: #1 - setting science based priorities to recover Puget Sound; #2 – supporting their partners: the Tribe, the County and State Parks’ so they have resources and the political support they need to get work like this done, and #3 – Evaluating results, it is their job to make sure that the investments they make on Puget Sound are working and cost effective.
Outgoing Washington State District 6 Representative Norm Dicks was on hand for the groundbreaking. Mr. Dicks spoke on the advanced membrane technology used for the project that will improve water quality on Hood Canal. This new sewer system, a "membrane bioreactor" wastewater treatment plant, and upland filtration system is for environmentally safe discharge of highly treated effluent into the ground. Dicks praised the Tribe for working hard on this issue and remaining steadfast on the membrane approach. He also stated the project is already a success because it was an effort that started locally.
Miller had the honor of digging the ceremonial first shovel of dirt at the groundbreaking ceremony. Full-fledged Construction on the plant will begin June 15 and is expected to take 16 months. The plant will serve Potlatch Park, the planned t3ba’das (Skokomish Tribe) housing development and businesses and residents along US101 from the Park to the Tacoma Power House.
The Tribe will serve as owner/operator of the treatment plant. Chehalis and Squaxin Tribes and others in western WA (Tulalip, Lummi, Swinomish) currently operate similar plants ranging from 3,000 gpd to 4 million gpd (Tulalip).
For more information on the project: http://potlatchwastewater.com/faq.html
Skokomish Tribe/Mason County Wastewater and Reclamation Facilities Project
In 2006, The Skokomish Tribe entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Mason County and Mason PUD #1, forming the Tri-Party Consortium for the purpose of designing, permitting and constructing a series of three MBR wastewater treatment plants consistent with the July 2007 Skokomish Reservation Wastewater Facility Plan. PUD #1 withdrew from the project in 2011. Skokomish is the financial agent for the consortium.
The three treatment plants, Potlatch Bubble, Core Reservation and Hoodsport Rural Activity Center, will provide ecologically sound treatment of community wastewater.
Potlatch Bubble, the first plant to be constructed under this agreement, went to bid 3/1/2012. It will be located near the t3ba’das housing development adjacent to Potlatch State Park on the Skokomish Reservation and is designed to serve the t3ba’das development, Potlatch State Park facilities, and residential and commercial sites along US 101 including the Minerva Beach and Tillicum Beach developments and the Waterfront at Potlatch Resort.
Connection costs are being covered by EPA and DOE grants.
Wastewater from these homes and businesses will be collected and pumped through a new buried pipeline up to the Potlatch plant. Existing septic tanks and drainfields in this area will be properly abandoned. This action will halt any underground flow of untreated sewage pollutants into Hood Canal.
The Membrane Bioreactor (MBR) process is an emerging advanced wastewater treatment technology, a biological process that uses microfiltration, eliminating pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorus that can cause fish kills and algae growth, which leads to hypoxic (low dissolved oxygen) conditions. The uses membranes filter out suspended solids, including harmful microorganisms such as viruses and bacteria. The resulting effluent can be safely returned to groundwater or recycled.
The Potlatch Bubble construction is scheduled for completion in Spring 2013.
Project consultants include Gray & Osborne, Inc., Consulting Engineers and Brown & Caldwell.Funding for this project is being provided by grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Washington State Department of Ecology.
Lennea Magnus, Community Development Director, Skokomish Indian Tribe
Reality Check: Ecological Effects Of Geoduck Aquaculture Operations In Southern Puget Sound
Culturing of geoduck clams on intertidal flats of southern Puget Sound has become an important part of the regional economy. Geoducks are the largest of all the world’s burrowing clams, and are sought for domestic and Asian markets. Commercial harvest of geoducks began in the 1970s, with divers taking clams from wild populations at depths from 18 to 70 ft. In contrast, cultured clams are grown in sands of the intertidal zone. Cultured geoducks are a growing share of the harvest, now comprising more than 25% of landings. The total value of harvested geoducks exceeds $50 million per year.
Despite the economic significance of geoduck harvest, many are concerned about possible negative effects of growing clam production. Concerns include the possibility of ecological damage to Puget Sound ecosystems, displacement of traditional shellfish growing activities, perceived incursions on private property, and disruption of scenic views from shoreline residences. The concerns fuel political controversy and tensions between shellfishery interests and those focused on other values.
In 2007 the State Legislature appropriated funds to initiate research resolving unknown ecological effects of geoduck aquaculture. Our research team was funded to evaluate two components of culture activity. PVC tubes and netting are placed in the intertidal zone to protect young clams from predators during the first 1-2 years of the culture cycle, then removed. At the end of the culture cycle, usually 5-7 years after planting, market-sized clams are harvested with water jets that facilitate clam removal. Our large-scale field studies are determining if the use of tubes and netting at the beginning of the culture cycle, and the use of water jets for harvest at the end, are causing ecological damage.
Our studies have focused on effects of culture activities on small invertebrate species, mainly crustaceans, small clams, and small worms, that are the most abundant and likely the most ecologically significant of the bottom-dwelling organisms in Puget Sound. These animals, known as “benthic infauna”, may number as many as 150,000 animals in one square meter of sediment surface. The infauna are generally inconspicuous, but they are crucially important as food for consumers such as juvenile salmon and shorebirds, and in regulating sediment chemistry and nutrient dynamics in intertidal ecosystems.
Our studies of effects of tubes and netting are still underway, scheduled for completion in 2013. However, our field work on effects of harvest activity is now finished. We have found that effects of the harvest on the community of infauna are temporary and minor, and do not extend beyond the boundaries of cultured plots.
Changes in infauna caused by harvest activity seem to be within normal ecosystem variation. Our results may surprise, as harvest activity often appears disruptive. We suggest that the natural accommodation of the infauna to wave action, currents, and sediment deposition or erosion during storms and floods equips the animals to withstand effects of geoduck harvest. Our results suggest that critics of geoduck aquaculture may be overstating the ecological damage caused by culture operations.
Pacific Northwest Christmas Greenery
Hi, I’m Patti Case from Green Diamond Resource Company. This time of year, our thoughts turn to “decking the halls” with greenery from our forests, a tradition that dates back centuries. I have Jim Freed here this morning to tell us about this tradition and its impact on the economy and the environment here in our community. Jim’s an expert on specialized forest products of all sorts. Jim, tell us a little about the origins of this tradition.
You’re right, the tradition does date back centuries and extends to many different cultures. Here in the Northwest, Native American people used western red cedar, white pine and other branches to bring fresh scents into their homes. Branches were used for bedding material, and to keep insects away from clothing and other items.
When settlers arrived here in the Pacific Northwest from Northern Europe, they used evergreens for many of the same household purposes.
What about holiday greens?
Those same settlers used greens of all types to ring in the Yuletide, decorating homes, churches, carriages and so on with garlands and wreaths.
But how did it become big business here in our community?
In the 1940s and 50s, most families could still walk out to the back 40 and pick their own greens, By the late 50s, though, many city dwellers were disconnected from the natural forest, creating a new demand for holiday greenery from places like, you guessed it, our forests here in Mason County.
Companies like Hiawatha Evergreens here in Shelton first sold Christmas greens in bulk, but by the late 1980s most large companies developed finished products for the marketplace, including wreaths, swags, garlands and centerpieces. They built large cold storage sites that could store the fresh greenery in controlled conditions to protect the quality of the cut materials until needed for finished products.
Demand for greenery increased with the shift from supplying bulk materials to supplying finished products. By the turn of the century, large companies were producing 100s of thousands of finished wreaths and swags, 10s of thousands of miles of garland and millions of pounds of packaged Christmas greenery for wholesale and retail markets around the world.
What tree species are used for these products?
Port Orford cedar, Western Juniper, Incense Cedar, Noble Fir, White Pine, western Red Cedar and Douglas fir are used to make holiday wreaths, garlands and more. Not all of these are native to Mason County, but are supplied from throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Where do these greens come from today?
Today, large and small forestland owners, from the US Forest Service and state to private landowners like Green Diamond and even small woodlot owners, harvest holiday greens. Some landowners use bough-cutting to enhance the characteristics of the wood they’re growing, or to improve forest health. The Batstone family here in the Shelton area grows 15 different types of evergreens and harvests them to make unique wreaths and other decorations.
I’m all set to harvest greens to deck my halls, Jim. What do I need to know?
For commercial harvest, a state permit is required in order to cut down on theft of greens. Forest landowners may issue these permits but they must be validated by the county sheriff’s office. Of course, responsible pickers harvest carefully so they will be able to sustain that harvest year after year.
If you’re picking greens from your own property, remember this simple rule: take less than a third of the greens on a single tree. Keep in mind that a plant’s growth is related to how much sun it can absorb, which is in turn related to its leaf surface. Needles are leaves, too, so that’s the key to sustainable harvest.
Take less than a third – that seems reasonable.
Thanks, Jim, and happy holidays to you and yours!
It’s something most citizens of the South Sound and across Washington State take for Granted. Pick up the phone. Dial 9-1-1, and they will be there. An accident while driving, a fire at your home or workplace, or even a fire raging through our millions of timber producing trees. They are the first responders on many of these calls. We call them “firefighters”. What most people do not know, is that a majority of these brave and faithful men and women are volunteers. They risk their safety, their health, and so often their lives to protect their friends and neighbors. Not because it is their job. They do it because it needs to be done.
Governor Christine Gregoire has recently proclaimed the second Monday through the following Sunday as “Volunteer Firefighter Recognition Week”. And new specialty license plates for volunteer firefighters have been approved. WSFFA Past-President and Special License Plate Project Administrator T.J. Nedrow. “We finally have a way to respectfully recognize the thousands of volunteers – past, present and future – for their dedicated, unselfish service.”
Something else most Washingtonians may not know is that each year approximately 95% of these volunteer Firefighters statewide are leaving the ranks. According to the legislative standard established by law (NFPA 1720) there is a deficit of 9000 responders to provide adequate coverage across all fire districts in order to be able to adequately respond in the mandated response times. In other words, Washington doesn’t have enough professional and volunteer personnel to respond as well as is needed to guarantee the safety of the state’s residents.
Patti Case and Jim Freedfor Environmentally Sound December 21, 2011
Most accounts attribute the origins of the Christmas tree to Germany, but it was actually in Riga, Latvia, the year 1510, when merchants decorated a tree in the town square with artificial roses, symbolizing the Virgin Mary, and danced around it. Then they set fire to it – not sure what that’s all about.
By the 1600s in Germany, small trees were brought indoors and decorated with apples as a Christmas tradition. The Christmas tree was introduced in America in the 1800s by German settlers. In the land of plenty, the tabletop tree grew to today’s floor-to-ceiling size.
In 1901, the first Christmas tree farm was begun in New Jersey. Coincidentally, that same year, President Theodore Roosevelt expressed concern about the practice of having Christmas trees because of the potential for destruction of natural forests. Roosevelt’s two sons disagreed and enlisted the help of conservationist Gifford Pinchot to convince their father that, done properly, harvesting Christmas trees was not harmful.
Here in Mason County, the earliest Christmas tree farmers and shippers date back to 1940. By 1955, local companies were shipping hundreds of thousands of trees all over the world, causing the Chamber of Commerce to proclaim Shelton “Christmas Town USA. “
Through the 70s, it was still popular to harvest a tree in the wild in our neck of the woods. The Forest Service, Simpson and others provided permits to harvest trees for personal use. In fact, the Forest Service still issues permits. I remember many expeditions to the upper Skokomish, battling wind, rain, snow, big brothers and a rear-wheel drive station wagon, settling on a tree, hauling it to the car and fastening it on, only to get home and discover that what looked great in the forest looked, well, a little less so when cut down to fit our living room. I’m sure I’m not the only one whose Christmas memories include deciding whether a foot off the top or a foot off the bottom would look less ridiculous, scraping half the ceiling paint off trying to wrestle the tree into place, and Dad drilling holes in the trunk to insert branches in the bald spots.
It’s far easier to take the guesswork out of Christmas tree buying. The typical Christmas tree farm of today consists of rows of well-tended, sheared and fertilized trees that are harvested according to size and species, with new trees being planted and tended for harvest several years later. Many growers have been tending Christmas trees on the same land base for generations. And get this: One acre of Christmas trees provides the daily oxygen requirement for 18 people. There are about 500,000 acres of Christmas trees in the United States which collectively provide oxygen for 9 million people daily. Young, fast-growing trees like Christmas trees release more oxygen than mature forest trees.
While Shelton and Mason County are no longer considered the Christmas Tree Capitol, we still have many local choices, from big growers such as Hunter Christmas Trees, Hunter Farms and the Brewer Tree Farm to a host of smaller backlot enterprises.
Many people are purchasing fake Christmas trees these days, and some brag that these synthetic trees are a more environmentally responsible choice. Consider this, though: it takes lots of energy to manufacture and assemble these trees, and shipping them from China to an area department store requires even more energy. By contrast, real Christmas trees are made from sunshine, water and soil nutrients. And according to Steve Long of the Nature Conservancy, "when you're done with the tree in your home, it can be turned into mulch, so the tree has a life that goes on." Recycling is an option throughout Mason County.
So: Which one’s the better environmental choice for us here in our community? We’ll let you decide.
Patti Case for Environmentally Sound December 14, 2011
WSU Extension is working with the Mason Co. Department of Utilities and Waste Management to create several new rain gardens at the new wastewater treatment plant in Belfair, and has a new program to teach local residents about rain gardens.
The rain gardens will help protect our local waterways and Hood Canal by taking in stormwater runoff, filtering it, and allowing it to percolate back into our groundwater instead of running off. By treating the quantity of stormwater and removing contaminants, rain gardens are part of the solution to the problem of polluted runoff, which is impacting Puget Sound and its fisheries. Access to healthy fisheries is a big part of our way of life.
Unlike stormwater ponds, rain gardens are beautiful landscape features that can be sized to fit in home landscapes. Rain gardens are planted with beautiful native and drought-tolerant plants.
WSU has a new program starting in Mason County called “Rain Garden Ambassadors” in which trained local residents can provide your group with a presentation about how to make a rain garden. The Rain Garden Ambassadors will also be available to help answer questions about rain gardens and to direct folks to additional resources when needed.
You are invited to learn about rain gardens and get hands-on experience working on a rain garden by joining in with other WSU volunteers during the week before the Christmas holidays, as well as the week after the New Year’s holiday, to plant the new rain gardens in Belfair. Many students are home on break and families are looking for community service activities: come out and learn more and help be a part of a water-quality solution in our county.
To volunteer, learn more, or schedule a presentation with a Rain Garden Ambassador, please contact
Erica Guttman, WSU Extension Native Plant Salvage Project, November 22, 2011
The wet and wild season is upon us, and once again our thoughts might be turning to rain and how it can impact us. Maybe you have standing water in your crawl space, or you live on a steep slope that is slowly sliding. Perhaps your drainfield is saturated at times. And maybe it has rained hard enough that you can’t harvest your shellfish.
Following are some quick tips on how to deal with another wet season. We’ll cover some flooding and erosion tips, and finish up with some simple ways we can all help keep our waters clean.
Flooding and erosion
The simplest way to help reduce flooding and erosion problems is to preserve the natural soils and native vegetation. That may seem simple enough; native plants and soils act like a big sponge and reduce the amount of runoff. The more we clear and convert to other types of land cover, the more water runs off the land.
What to do if there is bare soil? Three things can really affect how much erosion can take place: steepness or slope, soil type, and land cover. Depending on these three factors, erosion control can take many forms. Some examples include straw bales, silt fences or rock “dams” used to slow water and erosion. Or perhaps you have seen seeding, mulch or straw used to cover bare ground.
The source of flooding problems can sometimes be difficult to identify. The first step is to take a good look at how water enters and leaves the property. Sometimes the water problem is not on the surface or easily seen. Maybe there is a high water table that is creating problems. Where are your downspouts directed? Is water flowing to your drainfield? Take note of how frequently the problem occurs. Is it a regular event, or something that happens only under certain conditions?
Some very quick fixes are to collect your downspout water and direct it away from your home. Check your foundation drains (or install one) if a high water table is flooding your crawlspace. Think about removing some hard surfaces and replanting with amended soils and native plants to absorb more water. Build a rain garden! For bigger projects, begin to identify solutions and start planning for a summer project.
Mason County is so fortunate have miles of fabulous fresh and marine shorelines. We can swim, harvest fish and shellfish, and enjoy good drinking water because we protect our waters. Did you know that every time it rains, a little bit of pollution is carried by stormwater into our aquifers, lakes, streams, wetlands and marine waters? Stormwater does NOT travel from the ditch or catch basin to a treatment plant. Keeping our waters clean is a job that all of us need to think about, and we can all easily do our part. Here are some simple ways you can help:
- maintain cars and boats, and make sure they are not leaking
- maintain your septic system
- reduce or eliminate the use of lawn fertilizers
- pick up your dog waste, and make sure large animal waste is properly managed
- don’t pour anything into a ditch or storm drain
- build a rain garden, plant a tree, or replace lawn with native plants
Loretta Swanson, Stormwater Program Coordinator/Program Manager, November, 22, 2011
Field Trip To Lake Kokanee
EARLIER THIS month I had the privilege of touring the Lower Cushman Dam Project. The tour was put together by Randy Stearns, Community Relations Officer for Tacoma Public Utilities.
My guide was Matt Wilson, Chief Engineer of the Lower Cushman Dam Project. The project is fascinating. It’s actually two projects: the construction of a new Powerhouse, that will generate enough energy to provide power to some 1700 homes in the Tacoma Public Utilities service area; and the construction of a Fish Passageway System.
This is a new innovative way to restore the fish runs of the Skokomish River, without having to destroy existing Dams. Recently two dams have been destroyed, the Elwha, and the Dam on the White Salmon River. You can find more information about these projects on the Tacoma Power webpage: http://www.mytpu.org/tacomapower/power-system/hydro-power/cushman-hydro-project/Default.htm.
North Fork Skokomish powerhouse
This project includes a new powerhouse at the base of Cushman No. 2 Dam to utilize the water released into the North Fork Skokomish River. The powerhouse is a two-story concrete structure and includes a new penstock that taps into an existing 78-inch penstock between the butterfly guard valve and the butterfly discharge valve. The powerhouse will contain two Francis turbine/generator units, each with approximately 1.8 MW capacity.
These units are projected to produce approximately 23,500 MWh in annual generation - enough energy to power approximately 1,700 average homes in Tacoma Power’s service territory. The electricity from the new powerhouse will be transmitted to the existing overhead transmission line, connecting the Cushman No. 1 and No. 2 powerhouses using underground cables.
North Fork Skokomish Fish Passage System
Integral to this project is an innovative fish passage system. A portion of the water discharged from the turbines is routed from the new powerhouse up through a screened floor of the concrete fish trap. Fish are attracted into the trap through a slotted inlet (fish entrance). Once in the trap, fish will be moved into a transport hopper and lifted to the top of the dam on a tram, where a new fish handling system will be used to separate, count and mark (as necessary) the fish. The fish will then be transported to their final destination, upstream of the two Cushman dams.
As juvenile fish begin their outmigration, they will be captured in Lake Cushman, transported to the top of Cushman No. 2 Dam in a transport hopper, and then gently lowered on the tram to the bottom of the dam where they will be released into the North Fork of the Skokomish River for their journey to the Pacific Ocean.
Dale Hubbard, Nov 22, 2011