Wednesday, February 3, 2010

February 2010 Waterline

Annual Report

Wow! I’m impressed by what we’ve accomplished this year and I hope that when you finish reading you will be too. Sometimes it can feel as though our efforts are just tiny drops in a vast bucket of need. I hope that it brings you great joy to see that you have been part of a larger network of people, each bringing their own talents and passions to the effort and that collectively we have accomplished a great deal.

The results this year blew me out of the water. I’m reprinting some of my annual report for you here:

In 2009, 11 new volunteers were trained. Of this group, 9 volunteers contributed 735 hours between May, 2009 and January 2010. 26 volunteers from previous classes contributed an additional 2,700 hours in 2009.

Chuckanut Bay Days

Volunteers shared information using displays, demonstrations and dialogue with residents about the local salt marsh, the proposed restoration of the marsh, shellfish and intertidal life of the bay, the water quality history of Chuckanut Creek, possible causes of fecal coliform pollution, and current marine water quality testing efforts, history of the area, and the value of wetlands.

Participants enjoyed the events a lot and gave then “very good” to “excellent” ratings. Many residents said they were inspired to try new stewardship practices because of what we shared with them.

Rain Garden Outreach

Volunteers promoted rain gardens to community and garden clubs on 8 separate occasions. Since its completion, volunteers have been utilizing the rain garden DVD co-created by volunteers in 2008 and completed by staff in 2009. Survey work completed in 2008 demonstrated that most people we interacted with knew little or nothing about rain gardens and after talking with trained volunteers the vast majority had positive perceptions of rain gardens and understood that rain gardens help to reduce water pollution. We expect that this year’s efforts have also enhanced people’s understanding and perception of rain gardens.

Our most receptive audience was the Birchwood Garden club. I recommend further outreach efforts focus heavily on gardeners.

Volunteers are continuing to schedule presentations and make connections with potential partner agencies and the media.

WSU Rain Garden Handbooks have been provided for free to interested parties throughout the year thanks to partnership with the Conservation District. Beginning mid-year the CD asked us to gather contact information in exchange for the Handbook. We are providing that information to the CD. They will advertise their annual plant sale, which will include rain garden plants, to that list.

These contacts may also be used for future efforts to discover what, if any, barriers prevent people from installing rain gardens. Future Extension efforts could then be directed to reducing those barriers.

“Naturalist” Events

Beach Watchers volunteers were requested to help provide hands-on, outdoor education for youth and adults at four events this year: the Forest Conservation Tour, the Point Whitehorn Grand Opening, the Gooseberry Point Beach Appreciation and Clean-Up, and the Northwest Indian College Indigenous Service Learning Day. Beach Watchers volunteers connected with over 800 residents during these events.

Volunteers taught students that healthy forests are integral to stream health and what common sources of non-point pollution threaten water quality, through interactive lessons and observations. Volunteers taught residents about the importance of wetlands at the Point Whitehorn Grand Opening through hands-on demonstrations, displays, and dialogue. Volunteers shared information about beach life and stewardship through hands-on field explorations at the Point Whitehorn event, the Gooseberry Point event, and the Northwest Indian College Indigenous Service Learning Day.

Volunteers reported that participants were very engaged and interested in the information they had to share. During the Point Whitehorn Tour, volunteers said they were talking to people constantly and that people were very interested in what they had to “show and tell.” Beach Naturalist volunteers report that people are always fascinated by the information they have to share about the nearshore environment.

Shore Stewards

An evaluation of the Shore Stewards program was conducted by Applied Research Northwest when the program was regionalized. The evaluation showed that participants improved their property management practices after joining the program. Beach Watchers volunteers continue to believe in the value of the Shore Stewards program and demonstrated their commitment by helping promote stewardship and the program via a newspaper article, a workshop, and an informal celebratory gathering.

Youth Education

Staff and volunteers are working to create a natural resource stewardship curriculum (and grant proposal) for 4-H youth designed to help kids understand what their natural resources are and why they matter, to help them value their natural resources enough to protect them, to help them strengthen their science and technology skills for their future. Staff and volunteers are working with Michael Wallace on this project.


Volunteers collected baseline data on our shorelines via the Beach Monitoring Protocol and through photography. The data is being input to a regional database. We now know about the physical and biological characteristics of these 5 beach sites.

Volunteers also provided assistance with an eelgrass reseeding research project. We are now closer to knowing if and how volunteers can restore eelgrass beds. Volunteers resurveyed the stretch of beach for creosote logs for the Department of Natural Resources (so that they could assess which removal methods would work best – they have elected to use a helicopter for removal in the sensitive marsh area at Cherry Point). The Department of Natural Resources can now remove this toxic material from the beach.

One volunteer has initiated a program to continue marine water quality sampling in the Chuckanut Bay area. This sampling was discontinued by the Department of Health before the source of the fecal coliform pollution has been discovered. This Beach Watcher will be utilizing the Post Point labs to process the samples with the help of an intern and possibly additional Beach Watchers. We will know more about the distribution of fecal coliform pollution in Chuckanut Bay due to his efforts, and hopefully we will be able to discover the source.

Art by Bob Ryerson,
aka Bob the Barrel Painter
But wait there's more
Public Education

Volunteers also initiated two public education events presenting information about marine plastics, and orca bioacoustics to the public. Participants were interested in both topics and asked many questions at both events. It is our hope that participants appreciate and value orcas more because of what they heard, and that the participants will adopt some of the plastic waste reduction strategies we suggested because of what they learned. Participant’s questions suggested that they thought the Great Pacific Garbage Patch was a bad thing and that people should stop generating plastic waste.

In addition to these projects outlined above and detailed in the pages that follow, volunteers have contributed to the following efforts in 2009:

drum-roll, please . . .

Beach Naturalists
Beach Clean-up gulf road
Birch Bay Watershed and Aquatic Resources Management Plan
Blaine Parks Board
Boulevard Park Eelgrass surveillance
Boulveard Park Anchor out project
Cherry Point Working Group
Clam surveys with the MRC
Futurewise Whatcom - Board Member
Habitat Survey – Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association
Invasive Species Monitoring
Journal Workshop for Student Activist Changing Society (workshop creator)
Lummi Island Ferry Landing Restoration
Marine Mammal Stranding Network- education director, fund raising, volunteer coordinator, web-master
Marine Resources Committee – members
Mercury study with the Department of Health
Mercury contamination in Bellingham Bay – helping RE-Sources understand the issue and the unknowns.
Natural Resources Marketplace – working to create for Whatcom County
Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Committee – education committee
One Square Inch of Silence – wrote application for non-profit status
People for Lake Whatcom
Public Advocacy at City & County Council meetings
Salmon Spawner Surveys
Shoreline Master Plan Updates testimony
Spartina Survey with People for Puget Sound
Squalicum Park Clean-Up review with RE-Sources
Water quality testing for the MRC
Water quality testing at Ten Mile Creek
Watershed Reconveyance

See what I mean? What an amazing list of contributions you have all made. And my laundry list here doesn't even begin to do justice to the depth and quality of work so many of you have contributed.

Go Team!

Watershed Master/Beach Watchers Survey

As you know, I also asked all of you to help me out by giving some more information about your experiences overall. Thank you, everyone, for taking the time out to provide this very valuable information to us! Thirty-one volunteers completed the survey.

Make sure you take a look at the “Wordle” at the top of this blog. The wordle captures all of your comments about the program. The larger the word, the more often it appeared in your comments. You'll notice that the words Great, Community, and People figure very prominently. You've summed it up! This is exactly how I feel about my experiences, too.

Here’s what else you said:

63% of you reported that you volunteered a lot more in your community since joining the Watershed Master / Beach Watchers and 17% reported volunteering a little more since joining.

61% of you reported volunteering a lot more for the environment since joining and 23% reported volunteering a little more since joining.

36% of you became a lot more involved in local decision making and community leadership
since joining and 23% became a little more involved in decision making and community leadership.

73% answered yes to the question “Do you feel more comfortable voicing your opinions or concerns at public meetings because of your Watershed Master / Beach Watchers experiences?”

71% reported making personal changes to your lifestyle because of their training or volunteer experiences.

You'll remember that I also asked you what you enjoyed doing the most.

66% of you enjoyed collecting data the most through activities such as beach monitoring, creosote surveys, water quality sampling, clam surveys, etc.

59% of you said your favorite was stewardship activities such as community leadership, beach clean-ups, plant sales, and oyster seeding.

45% of you liked teaching youth and/or adults about natural resource issues the most, and 35% of you liked promoting and organizing educational events best.

When you add those numbers you can see that some of you had at least two favorites!

Thank you everyone who helping me with my annual report and my online survey. It was great to talk with so many of you in person! Thank you for all that you've done for our community.

Monday, December 14, 2009

December 2009 Waterline

Beach Watchers Hiatus

It is my sad duty to announce that we will not run a Beach Watchers training program this spring. Whatcom County Extension has decided to consider reformatting the program so that even more fabulous volunteers (such as yourselves) might become involved in protecting our water resources and so that we might be able to operate with more stable funding.

It has been my great pleasure to work side-by-side with you these last 4 ½ years. I have learned a ton, I have met amazing people along the way, and I have had a lot of fun. Thank you Watershed Masters and Beach Watchers for everything. You really do make a difference and you have made my work worthwhile!

I will continue as your coordinator until the end of February. Since the future of the program and my personal employment beyond December had been unresolved until quite recently, I made very few plans or commitments for 2010. In our remaining time together I would be happy to help you with projects or activities you would like some assistance with. Have you been considering a project that could use some of my skills, some local resources, or perhaps the help of a small team of Beach Watchers? I could help you with that and now's the time to grab my support!

If you have ideas for something you would like to do, please let me know at your earliest convenience. I'll be with my family for most of the time between now and the new year but we can get the ball rolling with your ideas ASAP in 2010. Or, if you want to fulfill your outstanding volunteer commitment (or just want to stay involved) but don't have an idea for a project, just let me know what kinds of things you would like to do, and I can probably hook you up with great local opportunities to do important work.

Meanwhile, as I wrap up the grant from the EPA, I have been asked to gather some more information from you all. I have 10 questions that can be answered online or, if you prefer, we can talk on the phone. I know that surveys are not everyone's favorite thing to do, but this kind of information is incredibly helpful and you can certainly count the time you spend on it as “program support.”

Click here to take survey

Thanks again, and have a super Hanukkah, Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year!

See you next year!

Dungeness Crab Mercury Sampling Project - Can you Help?

Here's a great opportunity to help figure out the ramifications of mercury contamination in Bellingham Bay and our local waters. Clint Duncan from the Class of 2007 writes:

"As you know I became interested in the ramifications of Hg contamination the area around the GP plant during the Beach Watchers course. I have been some what critical of the monitoring approaches. Dave McBride of the DOH has offered to run Hg analyses on up to 30 samples of hair for free."

Do you crab? Do you eat locally caught Dungeness? Do you know someone who does?
It would be best to get hair samples from people who primarily consumed crab caught in Bellingham Bay, but consumers of any locally caught crab during our crab fishing seasons would be great.

The procedure for hair collection is rather simple. Ideally it would be good to have the hair washed the night before and use gloved (latex or nitrile) hands while cutting and handling the hair (but not essential). Typically we test the section of hair closest to the scalp on the back of the head just above the neck-hair line.

A hair sample size no larger than the thickness of a pencil and at least a half inch long (one inch or longer is better) is needed. Simply use a pair of scissors and cut the hair off against the skin. I'll be testing that section of hair that was closest to the scalp so it is important to tape the hair together in a bundle and then label it with a permanent marker. The tape should go on the hair one to two inches away from where you cut it. Scotch tape works fine. Once it is cut, taped, and labeled, place it in a plastic Ziploc bag (label can go on the bag or tape). One sample per bag. Also it would be of interest to know the age, weight, and sex of the person and a guesstimate of crab consumption quantities.

If you can give a hair sample, or if you can persuade a friend or neighbor to give a hair sample, this would be very helpful!!

You can drop the samples off to the Extension Office. Since I'll be out of the office with my kiddos for winter break, your best bet for getting questions answered would be to write to Clint Duncan directly:

Thanks for initiating this Clint!

Rain Garden Outreach - The Precipitators

Thanks to Richard Nevels for his great help presenting our Rain Garden DVD to the Birchwood Garden Club. It was a full house in the Whatcom Museum's Rotunda Room. And the gardeners were very, very receptive. We answered a lot of questions and distributed a lot of manuals. Richard was a natural in front of the group!

Thanks again to Bob Hendricks for the making the connection!

A Glimpse into Beach Monitoring

Remember when the sky was blue and we wore shorts and, sometimes, plastic bags on our feet?

Thanks Jeanne Bogert for sharing these photos of the Beach Monitoring Team at work!

SeaDoc Society's Free E-Course

Wondering what cutting edge science has to say about building healthy ecosystems for humans and wildlife?

Take the SeaDoc Society's free month-long e-course on designing healthy coastal ecosystems. You'll get an informative email every three days, each covering one of the ten ecological principles that provide a big picture view of how to create and safeguard a healthy ecosystem. You’ll also be able to use on-line forums to discuss how to most effectively teach these principles.

For more information or to sign up, visit

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Presentation to
the Corinthian Yacht Club

Sonia Hurt and I were invited to the Corinthian Yacht Club in November and we shared information about the Shore Stewards program, invasive tunicates and how to get involved in monitoring efforts, marine sewage, and non-toxic products.

I asked some questions about marine sewage and learned a lot. I learned that boaters are often reluctant to use the pump-out stations because they are inconveniently located. Several participants said that the best places for pump-outs are either by fueling stations or along their route to or from the marine. I also learned that very unpleasant experiences with portable pump-outs are not uncommon. Wow, that would turn you off! I was reminded of how important it is to most people that good choices are also convenient choices.

Sonia did a great job talking about the effects of a common surfactant in cleaning supplies and had wonderful give away samples of non-toxic boating products for the participants. It was the highlight of the presentation! The cleaning supplies were developed by West Marine in cooperation with the EPA’s Design for the Environment program, which has been instrumental in developing numerous non-toxic products. If you would like to see their list of non-toxic products you can visit the EPA’s website:

If you want to learn about non-toxic boating products, I recommend talking to Sonia at West Marine!

Mt. Baker Marathon Movie

David Lowrance is an award winning local film-maker who is currently working on a documentary about the 1911 race to Mt Baker - a sort of forerunner to the current Ski-to-Sea race. He’s become intrigued by the shrinking of glaciers which played a key role in the race route, and this has him more broadly intrigued by changes in the land between then and now. He’s interested in creating a documentary short that would tell a story about the land and to create a compendium of resources (a companion DVD or website) for people who want to learn more/and or take action to protect the landscape. Right now he’s looking for compelling stories and people/places/things to film.

This documentary on the 1911 Bay to Baker race will likely have enduring appeal because there will always be history buffs and there will always (I hope) be Ski-to-Sea enthusiasts. I see a neat opportunity here to get information and stewardship messages out beyond the choir. Do any of you have any ideas for David?

You can also learn more about David’s work by following the links below.
"The Mountain Runners” An upcoming film now in production about the Mt. Baker Marathon Race of 1911:

Rain Garden Outreach – The Precipitators
Bob Hendricks has been making fantastic connections for our Rain Garden outreach project. We presented to the Lynden Museum Docents group last week and we have presentations to the Birchwood Garden Club and the 42nd District Democrats coming up with still more presentations in the works. Thanks Bob!

Eelgrass Anchor Out Zone
Keats Garman has been instrumental in researching the impacts of boaters on eelgrass beds in the South Bellingham area and promoting the idea of a voluntary anchor out zone. A volunteer with RE Sources surveyed the area and documented the anchoring locations of boaters in the Boulevard Park area and the DNR supplied maps of the area eelgrass beds. Jeanne Bogert has offered to create an artistic sign highlighting the value of eelgrass beds and encouraging boaters to voluntarily anchor outside of eelgrass areas.

Thank you Keats for getting Beach Watchers, RE Sources, the MRC and the City of Bellingham together on this great idea!

Lummi Island Watershed Enhancement Committee
Ferry Landing Shoreline Restoration

Wanda Cucinotta’s wonderful work on the Lummi Island Ferry Landing is wrapping up. Here is some of what she has to say about the project:

“Surprisingly, much of our community education success came from over 300 [emphasis mine] one on one personal contacts with Lummi Islanders and visitors during our highly visible shoreline enhancement work which included community volunteers planting native vegetation along the ferry landing . . .
  • We made 3 wooden hand painted signs: 1 Shoreline Restoration volunteer recruiting sign, 2 project informational signs. Displayed at the ferry landing.
  • Community volunteers who worked at the ferry landing took personal ownership of our restoration work and became good stewards of the public areas around the ferry landing. . .
  • We included Beach Elementary School Kids and the Island Girl Scouts where possible. . . We taught the Girls Scouts about the importance of water quality through videos, programs and hands on work.
  • We spent many hours marketing our project and educating our community about shoreline stewardship. We had educational booths at community events: farmer’s market, Reef-Net festival, Civic Club plant sale. And certified 32 more Island Shore Stewards through the Washington state University Beach Watcher Program . . .
  • We co-organized The Blue Thumb Workshop with the WSU Extension Shore Stewards Program. It was held at the Lummi Island Grange Hall on 9//27/08. We had over 42 attendants!”
Wanda has been a Lummi Island environmental champion and has nurtured her connections on the Island for years. She credits her Watershed Master/Beach Watchers experience with giving her greater legitimacy in the eyes of her neighbors on the Island. And she has clearly leveraged that legitimacy to tremendous effect!

To see some photos of the project, learn more about it, and give Wanda some kudos, please visit her Lummi Island Watershed Enhancement Blog at:

Spartina News

Spartina is found in Whatcom County again! People for Puget Sound conducted a Spartina survey again in this year and – Bingo! – they found the wicked weed. Attached to your email there's a map showing the results of their survey. It's the same as the map below but legible.

To refresh yourself on what to look for when you’re out on the beach, check out their Spartina fact sheets here:

Marine Mammal Stranding Network
Rose Lavoie has become immersed in the Marine Mammal Stranding Network with roles including Director of Volunteers and webmaster! In her spare time she keeps a blog. You can catch a glimpse of several Beach Watchers, including Rose, in this Wolf Hollow seal release video. Check it out.

Meanwhile, Bob Ryerson has taken on a new role as Director of Education.

Nice work, you two!

But Wait There's More!
As always there are just tons of great informational resources out there. These are mostly if not all from Heather Mackay:

Smart, Cheap Stormwater Fixes

Big Profit from Nature Protection
Read the full report here:

Conversation with James Workman, “The Heart of Dryness.”
I found this fascinating. Heather writes, “James Workman is a water management and water policy person, and much of the book is actually about collaborative community-based water conservation and management strategies amongst the Kalahari Bushmen in Botswana. This in itself is interesting, especially if you know the area at all. However, in the interview he also discusses how what he learned has relevance for water policy and water allocation at local level in the US, and you might find his comments interesting and relevant for us here in Whatcom County. The interview is on the KUOW program “The Conversation”, about 15 minutes into the program itself so you will need to fast forward through the podcast, which is at

A Safe Operating Space for Humanity
A way to look at sustainability from a global perspective. The graphic alone is worthwhile. Heather writes, “Figure 1 is popping up everywhere at the moment.”

Seagrasses to Salt Marshes Among Most Cost Effective Carbon Capture and Storage Systems on Planet.

Friday, October 23, 2009

October 2009

Chuckanut Bay Day Part 2

Our second Chuckanut Bay Day event on September 19 was a lot of fun again. Thank you Lisa Balton, Chris Brown, Shelley Halle, and Marie Hitchman for making this a great day. We had torrential rain that morning but the day cleared and was gorgeous. A small group of very interested locals come to our event, and judging by their feedback, they enjoyed it very much.

One of the things we asked people about was their stewardship behaviors. Most people reported numerous good stewardship practices. The top four were:

  • avoid using pesticides and fertilizers,
  • keep litter off the beach,
  • avoid feeding wildlife, and
  • include trees and shrubs in their landscaping.
The water quality of Chuckanut Creek is pretty good. However, the Department of Health has discontinued their marine water sampling for now because the marine water quality was not clean enough to warrant further testing.

The causes of the fecal coliform pollution in the area remain something of a mystery. According to the Whatcom County Marine Resources Committee the most likely causes are:

  • failing septic tanks,
  • congregating wildlife, and/or
  • pet waste.

Beach Monitoring

This year’s beach monitoring has wrapped up and Jane Lewinski has once again offered to enter the data into our data base. Thank you Jane! The beach monitoring team was so wonderfully independent again this year that I don’t even have good photos of their work to share with you. I have special thanks to Margo Ferdon for coordinating the effort! This great team also included: Jeanne Bogert, Chris Brown, John and Margo Ferdon, Marie Hitchman, Gene Hoerauf, Corrine Hughes, Rose Lavoie, Jane Lewinski, Richard Nevels and Kristine Penrod. If you have photos of beach monitoring days I would surely love to include those. And if I’ve forgotten to thank you – please don’t be shy!

Rain Garden Outreach

Our rain garden team has been making some great connections and strengthening our outreach messages with great testimonials and a fresh display with the help of Vincent Alvarez, in our office. Thanks Bob Hendricks and Richard Nevels for your great work on this.
Do you belong to a garden club, homeowners association, or civic group? Would you like to help us spread the good news about rain gardens? We would love to talk to your group. Call me to find out more!

Stormwater Management: One Backyard at a Time

For those of you who missed this great program, you can view it from your home computer online by following the link below. The first hour was the most relevant to our area and the panel discussion at the end was interesting.

Built Green Expo

Our Extension office hosted an entire track of presentations called “Sustainable Lifesytles” at this year’s Built Green Expo. We had Sustainable Landscaping, Rain Gardens and Rain Barrels, Low Carbon Cooking, Community Wind Power, Greener Cleaners and more. While the Expo was not nearly as well attended this year as it has been in years past we made some great connections.

Thanks to Bob Hendricks, Gene Hoerauf, and Richard Nevels for your great help teaching people about rain gardens, thanks to Mark Collins for helping out with the well-water screening for nitrates, and special thanks to Dac Jamison for giving the rain garden presentation.

4-H Natural Resources Curriculum

Our youth education team is diving into this wonderful and substantial project and coming up with great ideas. There are so many interesting facets to this project – what are the central concepts we want kids to know? How do we create a curriculum and is fun, field-trip oriented and hands-on? How do we encourage kids to ask lots of good questions?

The possibilities are endless and the team is making good progress towards crafting something that is manageable, meaningful, and most of all, fun for kids! Thanks to Steve Bailey, Edradine Hovde, Jim Kreiji, and Jennifer May for your hard work!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Excellent Ocean Acidification Documentary (20 minutes)

There's more to explore online at the NRDC website:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

August/September 2009

Beach Watchers Hours

Chris Brown from the Skagit County Beach Watchers has been doing a lot of great work with us up here in Whatcom County and apparently has been burning the candle at both ends. He recently confided to me that he’s the first member of his class to reach the 100 hours mark. Wow! A big round of applause for Chris everyone!

I was inspired to check out our online hours database so that I could report on this class and I’m happy to say that Shelley Halle and Rose Lavoie are tied for the lead in hours for this class with about 35 hours logged apeice. Nicely done ladies!

However, for the year no one is coming close to Heather Mackay from the class of 2007 who has contributed 121 hours thus far. Way to go Heather!!

Second place for all classes is another tie with Gene Hoerauf and Jane Lewinski neck in neck at about 59 hours.

Thanks everyone for all you do (and for logging your hours)!

This is a great time to log your hours if you haven’t done so already. Let me know if you need help, or if you have actually reached 100 hours for the year but you were keeping it a secret. As always, using the database to log your hours is the most helpful to the program but I will happily accept information from you in the form of emails, letters, and back-of-the-envelope notes (really!), if that’s what works for you. The hours help me to tell the story about our great Whatcom County Beach Watchers.

Creosote Resurvey

Big thanks to Joe Ssebbanakitta, Jane Lewinski, Claudia Olejniczak, Sue Brown, Margo and John Ferdon, Chris Brown, Marie Hitchman, Gene Hoerauf, and Jeanne Bogert for helping to resurvey the reach at Cherry Point in preparation for the upcoming removal effort.

Joe shows how successful our beach clean-up efforts were on that day, too. The most interesting thing we found (I think) was the whale skin which was still on the beach from the recent stranding on Cherry Point.

The Department of Natural Resources is planning to do the removal at Cherry Point during the week of October 5. They have a WCC crew scheduled for Monday through Thursday of that week.

If Beach Watchers are interested in helping, Lisa Kaufman with the Deparment of Natural Resources would love the help. Monday and Tuesday you could assist the WCC crew with finding and gathering the debris, and Wednesday (and possibly) you could assist with choking the materials and continuing to collect smaller debris and trash for placement onto the boat. Full disclosure: I’m not exactly sure what “choking the materials” means but I’ve asked Lisa for some clarification which I’ll be happy to pass on to you if you are interested. If you know feel free to share your insights with us! ;-)

Kayayking Eelgrass Project

Thanks go to Corrine Hughes (and her friend), Kristine Penrod, and Lisa Balton for helping Chris Fairbanks out with his neat eelgrass restoration research project. They had lovely weather to be on the bay and together with other community volunteers, successfully collected a lot of eelgrass seeds.

Rain Garden DVD

Our rain garden DVD was finished this summer and we celebrated in style with a release party at Pastazza. You can view the finished product right here:

The Conservation District has supplied us with 2 big boxes full of Rain Garden manuals that we can provide to interested members of the public. This spring they will be selling rain garden planting kits in addition to their usual selection of great plants.

Our next step is to bring it around to community groups. Do you belong to a community group that might be interested in learning more about rain gardens? Would you like to help spread the word by answering rain garden questions, coordinating presentations, or in other ways? You are welcome to get involved!

Chuckanut Bay Days part 1

Thanks to Corrine Hughes, Shelley Halle, Lisa Balton, Chris Brown, and Marie Hitchman for helping to make our first Chuckanut Bay event a great success. The evaluations I received were very positive and everyone seemed quite interested and appreciative of your efforts. Thanks also to Doug Stark and the great Beach Naturalists team who helped make this such a fun event.

Did you miss it? Never fear, we’re doing it all again this Saturday so come on down and join us between 9 and noon at the end of Fairhaven Avenue at Chuckanut Bay.

Built Green Creative Team

I’ve heard from a few of you about getting involved in the Built Green Conference. So far our ideas for presentations include:

rain gardens,
rain barrels,
a wholistic approach to Low-Impact Landscaping
low carbon cooking,
adapting to global warming,
septic maintenance,
creative reuse station for kids,
hands-on how-to replace your faucet or put in a programmable thermostat.

Do you have more ideas for this? Would you like to be involved in making this a super-cool event? Let me know and you’ll be part of the built green creative team!
The BIA’s Built Green program has offered WSU Extension a full track for the conference – this means we have an opportunity to present educational material from 10 am to 5 pm. The conference date is October 17 and we would be sharing the planning for this with the Master Composters, the Carbon Masters, and Sue Blake our Water Resources Educator.

Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force
San Francisco Public Listening Session
September 17, 2009
2:30 – 6:00 PM

Provide Comments
These meetings are taking place in Anchorage, San Francisco, and Providence. If you're plans don't take you to Alaska, California, or Rhode Island this week, you are invited to:

submit comments on the Council For Environmental Quality website,

View the live webcast at:

Or listen to the meeting on the conference call (not interactive, listen only):
(888) 769-8760 (up to 100 lines)
Participant Pass code: 67311

Great Stuff from Heather Mackay

Heather, Watershed Master/Beach Watcher from the class of 2007 is a treasure trove of information which, happily, she shares with us. Here are some of her most recent contributions

Attached you’ll find what she describes as a useful, fairly non-technical overview of climate change adaptation issues for coastal systems.

Water management is like a bubble market

Below you can listen to Margaret Catley-Carlson, Patron Global Water Partnership (GWP), Sweden on the 'breakthrough idea' of the Global Agenda Council on Water Security at the Summit on the Global Agenda held in Dubai 7-9 November 2008.

Finally for those of you who have yet to be introduced to Holub’s classic analysis:
10 Water Laws of the West
By Hugh Holub (1998)

Introduction: It does not take a law degree to understand water law and policy in the western United States. Ten basic legal and historical principles govern the rights to and uses of water in the West. By understanding these ten Water Laws of the West anyone can then understand the current issues of water and its relationship to the future of the West.

I. The Law of Gravity: The First Water Law of the West is the Law of Gravity. Water runs down hill. The initial uses of water in the West involved the use of gravity to tap rivers and divert their flows into canals for delivery to farms and mines. This is also known as Newton's Law.

II. The Law of Los Angeles: The Second Water Law of the West is the original law of Los Angeles. This L.A. Law states that "water runs uphill to money". The development of energy technologies to lift water against the pull of gravity is the basis for modern Western civilization. Los Angeles pioneered the effort to defy gravity with money in the early 1900's with its Owens Valley Aqueduct. Southern California is now served with a network of pipelines and canals such as the Metropolitan Water District's Colorado River Aqueduct. Phoenix, San Francisco and Denver also utilize massive pumping and diversion systems to transport water from great distances in defiance of gravity to serve their growing urban populations.

III. The Law of Supply Creating Demand: The Third Water Law of the West, also invented by Los Angeles, is that "if you don't have the water, you won't need it." This is sometimes stated as "he who brings the water brings the people". Both are attributed to William Mulholland, a pioneer director of the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP). Los Angeles and other Western cities operate on the premise that in order to assure growth of their cities, water supplies for the future must be developed well in advance of that growth. This is in contrast to the general approach in Western cities of developing freeways and other public infrastructure long after the growth has actually happened.

IV. The Law of I Got It First: The Fourth Water Law of the West, embodied in the West's surface water laws, is the doctrine of "prior appropriation" translated into "first in time is first in right". First in time for most water uses in the West were farms and mines. Instead of "first in time is first in right", we have seen the evolution of "we've got more votes than you in the state legislature" to decide who gets water.

V. The Law of Beneficial Use: The Fifth Water law of the West is that to have a right to water it must be "beneficially" or "reasonably" used on that appurtenant land. This is only understood in the context that water left flowing in a river maintaining the survival of fish in that river and vegetation growing along side that river was not originally defined as a "beneficial" use in Western water law, whereas drowning gophers or growing rice in deserts were deemed "beneficial" uses. In recent years, environmentalists have succeeded in gaining recognition of "instream" beneficial uses of water and a new category of water rights is beginning to emerge to preserve flows in rivers. However this process is emerging only after most rivers and streams in the West have been dammed and dried up by diversions of the flows to the previously established beneficial uses. To fully appreciate why this happened, it must be remembered that the fish in these streams only recently were able to obtain the services of water lawyers via various environmental and conservation organizations.

VI. The Law of Worthless Land: The Sixth Water Law of the West is that without a water right or access to water, land is worthless. There is not enough water available to use all available land for all the potential beneficial uses. Thus lands with water rights or access to water have value for use, whereas land without water rights is known as the desert, with zero value except when being subjected to state and local property taxation. It is also a historic fact that farmers, ranchers and miners figured all this out about a hundred years before the average city council or environmental group, thus most Western water laws are heavily weighted in favor of using water for farming, ranching and mining. This law is also known as the "appurtenancy" rule meaning the rights to the use of water are tied to specific parcels of land, which are usually owned by farmers, ranchers or miners.

VII. The Law of Expropriation: The Seventh Water Law of the West focuses on how water (and other natural resources) are obtained for Western civilization. This Law depends on finding some fairly impoverished and unsophisticated water right holder (usually Indians, farmers, or rural communities) on the other side of the mountain a city can steal water rights from. Los Angeles pioneered this approach by buying up the Owens Valley on the east slope of the Sierra Nevada for water rights nearly 90 years ago. What we are now experiencing is not so much a water shortage, but a shortage of people on the other sides of the mountains who are willing to let their water resources be stolen from them by cities.

VIII. The Law of the Price is Right: The Eighth Water Law of the West is that there is no water shortage if the price is right. It is widely believed in city halls that the farmers will sell their water rights if the price is high enough so the farmers can go raise martinis in La Jolla instead of cotton in the Salt River Valley of Arizona, or the Imperial Valley in California. Thus when someone asks "is there enough water for Los Angeles or Phoenix to grow?" the answer is probably yes--if you don't care about how much the water will cost.

IX. The Law of Water Monopoly: The Ninth Water Law of the West is that water management in an arid environment almost always results in the creation of a water monopoly. Thus (along with the discovery of fire and religion) the first steps towards civilization included the construction of irrigation ditches and the immediate creation of some sort of bureaucracy to run the system. Not surprisingly where irrigation water monopoly civilizations rose, they lasted for thousands of years. The Westlands Irrigation District in the Central Valley of California and the Salt River Project in Arizona are merely the modern counterparts of one of humankind's most ancient of institutions--the water monopoly. Many western urban areas figured out the value of water monopoly and created enormously powerful regional agencies such as the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Central Arizona Water Conservation District in Arizona, to do essentially the same thing--building vast networks of canals to bring water to their constituents.

X. The Law of Vanishing Civilizations: The Tenth (or Last) Water Law of the West should be called the Hohokam Law of Water and Gravity. Under this law, if there is no rain, there is no water to flow down hill. What went up--the buildings and the civilization--may crumble to dust if Mother Nature decides to hold a long drought. Lying beneath the streets of Phoenix are the ruins of the ancient Hohokam Indian metropolis that vanished prior to 1400 AD. Phoenix is the second city to be built on the same site in reliance on the erratic flows of the Salt River. Californians prayed for rain for the last six years (apparently successfully) because they didn't have enough water to flush their toilets. Many Southern Californians had been heard to ask "what do you mean this used to be a desert?"

Conclusion: The principles that govern Western water law and policy have a long and somewhat distinguished history. It should also be noted that similar arid environment ditch-dependent civilizations ultimately collapsed under extreme environmental stresses, internal political conflict, and invasion by barbarian hordes. This is worth contemplating after a six year drought with various water interests fighting over who will get water in times of future shortages while the streets of Santa Monica or Scottsdale are filled with RVs with New Jersey license plates.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

July 2009

Rain Gardens Continue to Intrigue

On Thursday, July 9 the Master Gardener Foundation toured several exciting rain garden and rain garden variations in the Lake Whatcom watershed. The gardens were all beautiful and the Master Gardeners were intrigued.

Jean Waight began the tour by relating the history of the Palmgren project. For those of you unfamiliar with the project, the Palmgren family decided to replace a deteriorating bulkhead on Lake Whatcom with a beautiful soft-shore protection approach that provides nearshore habitat, and to drain their soggy lawn by incorporating a large rain garden which slows and filters stormwater from their home. The rain garden area has filled to overflowing with lush growth. Area frogs also enjoy it! It was a delight to see that the soft-shore approach had also held up well over time.

Sue Brown, Kay McMurran, and Dawn LaTurco described the demonstration rain garden project that they undertook last year at Kay’s home. The garden is getting gorgeous and Kay reported she’s never seen the rain garden overflow. This is truly amazing when you consider the torrential rains and flooding we experienced this January.

The tour finished up at Sue Taylor’s property with a look at some of her innovative methods of dealing with stormwater and her careful stewardship of Lake Whatcom. It’s a destination not to be missed for any garden/native plant enthusiast. Thanks everyone for continuing to be a resource to our community!

Updates on Chuckanut Bay Days

This training was a great success. Shelley Halle, Corrine Hughes, Marie Hitchman, Chris Brown, and Lisa Balton were joined by Doug Stark and the Beach Naturalists on a surprisingly chilly morning last Thursday. We learned a ton about Chuckanut (Mud) Bay, the marsh and the creek. I discovered, among many other interesting things, that the area was called Mud Bay even before the railroad trestle went in, that unmarked (i.e. wild) Chinook salmon have been found in the bay, that the marsh is the highest quality salt marsh in Bellingham, and that fish don’t like to swim through culverts if they don’t have to.

Our Chuckanut Bay Team is gaining this information for the purpose of sharing it with the Chuckanut Bay neighbors. We hope to support the appreciation neighbors already have for their special place and inspire even greater stewardship.

If you would like to lend a hand and take a nice walk through a pretty neighborhood sometime during the week of August 10, we would love help with hanging door hangers announcing the upcoming educational events at the bay, let me know! If you would like to join us, mark your calendars for August 29, and September 19.

Chris Brown points out the zonation apparent on the sandstone

Beach Watchers Evaluation

As you know, Sue Blake is directing an extensive evaluation of the Beach Watchers program. Thank you everyone who has been participating in that process. You know you can always log the time you spend on surveys or providing feedback as part of your hours. Just call if "Program Support." As part of that she's asked me to get some feedback from all of you on the newsletter. Is it useful to you? Do you enjoy reading it? Do you wish it provided something more or different? It would be wonderful if you you drop me a quick email on your impressions of the newsletter. Or you could send it directly to Sue if you wish at

Rose and the Seal

Rose Lavoie keeps a neat blog that I’ve included her before. Her most recent post is her story about helping a stranded seal pup with the Marine Mammal Stranding Network. You can follow Rose’s experiences here:

The Marine Mammal Stranding Network can always use some more helping hands. One job that would require minimum training but would be a real help is providing crowd control in the event of a major stranding. Staying approximately 50 yards from any marine mammal is the law and it makes good sense for human and animal safety. Having helpers explain that to curious onlookers would help MMSN responders work with the animal. If you’d like to help out, just contact Bob Ryerson at 758-4124 or flowol8 AT

Essence of Bellingham

Wendy Harris is a fantastic photographer and her talents were recognized this year in the Essence of Bellingham photo competition. Her tidepool photo, Anemone and Rain, won "Best of Subject (Plant Wildlife) Amateur" and her photo of a purple shore crab received an honorable mention.

Anemone and Rain by Wendy Harris

Recycling Questions

Have you ever wondered where you can take styrofoam peanuts, ink cartridges, or other unusual items for reuse or recycling? I stumbled on this great resource with the Washington State Department of Ecology while I was researching an article for the Shore Stewards program on pharmaceuticals in the environment. To access the website just point your browser to, or The search engine is a little counter-intuitive but you can really be specific in your search. You can look for a “drop-off” service, “pick-up,” “mobile collection,” or a “you-ship.” Then you specify whether you are seeking a residential or commercial service, your county, and the type of material you are looking to recycle in the last drop down menus (phew). If you get stuck you can call the Department of Ecology for help at, (you guessed it) 1-800-recycle!

Local News and Local Government

I appreciate the updates on local goings on I receive via email from Watershed Master / Beach Watcher Kathy Berg and also from the Baykeeper. To get on their mailing lists just send an email request to: and/or

Rain, Rain, Store Away, Use Again Another Day

Here’s a great article on the current somewhat difficult to understand rules around rainwater harvest and some innovative ways that cities are working to encourage rainwater harvest.