Squalicum Creek Research Shows Restoration Efforts Worth Pursuing
by Tina Stallings
Tina Stallings is a photographer and a student at Whatcom Community College.
Squalicum Creek is one of four major streams running through the city of Bellingham. It originates in the hills west of the Nooksack Basin, and approaches Bellingham from the northeast, running parallel to the Mount Baker Highway.
In Bellingham, it runs through Sunset Pond behind Sunset Square/K-mart area, goes beneath the interstate, and passes through Heron pond (otherwise known as Bug Lake) on the other side of the freeway. Then it follows Squalicum Way to Bellingham Bay, where it empties into Squalicum Harbor below Eldridge Avenue.
The stream is independent of mountain snowmelt, and drains the agricultural, rural, and urban sections of Bellingham and Whatcom County as it flows to the bay. Historically, this stream flowed through lowland forests, weaving its way through shadows created under the canopies of cedar, fir, big leaf maple, alder, and willow trees.
Fish Persisting Despite Hardships
The steady removal of vegetation from the area, for agriculture and development purposes, has currently resulted in the stream having higher water temperatures, increased peaks of rapid discharge, and lower oxygen concentrations. The two large bodies of water nearby, Sunset Pond and Bug Lake, were carved into the watercourse of Squalicum Creek during the construction of Interstate-5 in the 1950's. Unfortunately, the huge amounts of surrounding asphalt act as a channel for storm-water runoff, tainting this ecological system with fertilizers, heavy metals, hydrocarbons, and organic wastes.
In spite of the fish populations within this system being greatly depleted for numerous reasons, including human induced disturbance, Squalicum Creek is teeming with life. Salmon and sea-run trout populations endure the hardships.
Assessing the Fish Community in the Creek
Mark Downen, a graduate student at Huxley College of Environmental Studies, is working on a master's degree in environmental science and aquatic ecology. With support from the fisheries program at Bellingham Technical College, the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association, and the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, he has been assessing the fish community entering Squalicum Creek. Downen's primary concerns are the type of fish species in the creek, the relation of environmental factors to the salmon migration timing, the survival of juvenile salmon at early life stages, the population characteristics of the wild sea-run cutthroat trout, and the community structure of introduced warm-water fish species such as bass, perch, and catfish in the system.
Downen began designing this project in the summer of 1997 after his acceptance into graduate school. Prior to searching for the answers to his questions, he first needed to have financial support since "collecting field data on fish is extremely labor-intense and expensive work."
Building the Smolt Trap
Downen obtained the necessary permits to live trap fish of several species. The most important piece of equipment in this research project would be the smolt trap. Smolts are juvenile salmon and trout that are in the process of making the physiological transition from living in freshwater to living in a saltwater environment.
Building an in-stream structure that is not only capable of trapping and retaining fish, but also large enough to support an unknown quantity of species through various scenarios on a 24-hour daily basis, for an extended period of time, requires both manpower and sufficient materials. Several students from the fisheries program at the Bellingham Technical College volunteered their help with the installation of the smolt trap. The Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association assisting Downen in acquiring the pertinent materials was important to this project's success.
Installation of the Trap in the Creek
Downen's smolt trap, a modified version of a standard Department of Fish and Wildlife design, was installed in lower Squalicum Creek at Cornwall Park, Bellingham, in March of this year. A 'V' shaped corral, with the smaller end pointing downstream, was constructed with ten 6-by-3-foot screen panels set end-to-end and secured between the proportionately-placed 6-foot metal posts that were hammered into the silt and rock.
This structure funneled the fish to a headboard located at the vertex of the corral. Carefully planned wire cross-braces were attached across the trap, perpendicular to the direction of water flow, providing the necessary reinforcement so that the structure would span from shore to shore and effectively filter the fish from the flowing water. A white PVC pipe, 4 inches in diameter and attached to the center of the headboard, and again at the entrance of a catch box, provided the only passage for the fish to continue downstream. This tube, beginning underwater, extended approximately 45 feet from the corral, surfaced before going over a 2 foot waterfall, then incorporated a catch box into the total trap. A 4 foot by 2 foot by 3 foot deep box was made with half inch plywood, and galvanized screen siding, which provided air and water flow, to catch and hold the fish until the proper data was recorded. A locking, hinged lid secured access into the catch box. Fish were safely retained for counting, identification, aging, measurements, and assessment of food habits, then released.
Monitoring Fish is Hard Work
In conjunction with the smolt trap, Downen marked, with fin clips, 900 coho hatchery juveniles. He marked 450 of these with a left pelvic fin clip and 450 with a right pelvic fin clip. Downen released the fish into Bug Lake and Sunset Pond during March, thereby allowing the species to mix with the resident populations in the system. Their survival, migration timing, and growth were also monitored via the smolt trap.
A small trap upstream was also maintained to let pass any late spawning adult trout. Downen monitored the project for ninety days from March 20th, the spring equinox, until June 20th, the summer solstice. "Fish and many other organisms respond to this increase in daylight, and use this as a cue for various behaviors."
Each day he cleaned debris from the trap's screens, inspected for evidence of vandalism or damage. At dawn and then again at dusk, Downen measured the stream's discharge, the number of liters of water passed per second, pH level, oxygen concentration, water temperature, and amount of total dissolved solids in the water.
Learning the History of Each Fish
Downen would prepare in a large bucket a mixture of stream water with a tranquilizer called MS-22, then net the retained fish from the catch box, and quickly place the fish into this bucket to sedate them before handling. He carefully measured, weighed, and took scale samples from selected species. The scales were taken and placed on an adhesive fish scale card so the fish could be aged.
Fish scales form growth rings similar to the rings in a tree. Aside from being able to assess the age of fish, a life history of events such as saltwater entry, spawning, and freshwater feeding forays can also be encoded in the scales of older fish. Downen carefully flushed, with a water pump, the contents of the fish's stomach so the feeding habits could be recorded as well. After the fish were assessed, their progress was monitored in a large bucket of fresh stream water as they revived. The fish were then released downstream of the catch box.
Assessing Fish in Bug Lake
In addition to the smolt trap Downen also installed and began monitoring a Fyke net in Bug Lake in April to assess juvenile salmon habitat and the warm-water fish community there. A Fyke net is a system of hoops and socks of netting attached to a long lead net. Fish encounter the lead net which is weighted on the bottom and floated on the top. They swim along this barrier until they reach the opening of the sock and hoop system. The socks allow them to swim into the trap but prevent them from finding their way out again. The net holds the fish until they can be identified, measured, and released.
Climax During a Storm Event
During the course of the project three major storm events occurred. During each of these Downen maintained all-night vigils. The diversion of the storm's water from city streets and the swelling of the Squalicum system resulted in dramatic increases in water flow at the smolt trap. The volume of water the trap needs to pass increases cubically, while the surface area available for the passage of water only increases by square. Consequently the trap is subjected to intense pressure.
Additionally the higher, faster-running water carries in it debris. Large items such as twigs, branches, and occasional logs threaten to blow out the trap. The smaller foliage clogs the screen material, causing the water level to rise further, and increases the pressure put on the screen panels weakening the structure. Continuously scraping the debris off the screens was critical.
It was during the third discharge event, which began on May 25, that large numbers of smolts began moving through the trap. The rain continued to fall for two days. As Downen brushed the screen continuously amidst the roar of the creek water, wearing chest waders and a headlamp during the evening, he could feel the fish hitting his legs as he maintained the smolt trap. It was at this point that he needed to stop measuring every fish, and just count. The sampling of lengths, weights, and diets was done randomly. The migration tapered off dramatically after the first of June, and by June 8 the only creatures being found in the catch box were crayfish.
Answers to the Questions: Project Results
At this point in the project, after the peak of the migration, Downen had counted over 9 thousand fish. Although predominantly coho smolts of hatchery origin, this amount includes 1,250 cutthroat and 180 steelhead smolts from the wild reproducing populations in the system.
Smolt migrations are commonly associated with discharge events. The chart shows how the increase in smolts passing through the creek occurred when the water flow was more rapid.
What Causes the Smolt Number to Increase?
However, during the first half of the migration period there were two discharge events, but neither produced a significant number of fish. Downen and others had begun to wonder whether there would be an out-migration. It was discovered that during this period there were strong statistical relationships between the fish movement and the water's temperature.
The increasing water temperatures were associated with more fish being at the smolt trap, and decreases in the water temperature were associated with there being less fish at the trap. During the second half of the migration period the discharge data explained why nearly all fish were traveling with empty stomachs day and night (unlike the first half of the period of movement when the fish were traveling at night with food in their stomachs).
Dissolved solids and decreasing temperature in the water were associated with the discharge events, and were also statistically related to fish movement.
Habitat of Nearby Ponds compared to Squalicum Creek
Over 80 percent of the total migration of juvenile salmon and trout occurred in a single storm event. Downen had counted 48 percent of the marked fish at the smolt trap. This suggests the mortality rate is high at this life-stage in the ponds, but even higher in the earlier life-stages at Squalicum Creek.
Under pristine conditions, the ponds (ecologically analogous to beaver ponds) would provide vital and extensive habitat for rearing salmon juveniles. However, the high water temperatures, low oxygen levels, and predator fish species greatly reduce the quality of this habitat.
Downen knows that natural spawning by coho was low based on the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association stream-walk data, and that the Technical College planted about 65,000 coho fry last year. Coho typically migrate after one year in freshwater. Based on the numbers of coho aged, he assumed the number of two-year-old coho in the stream's population (those not of the new planted fry) figure to be small.
He determined the number of coho that successfully passed through the trap was 7,100. Downen assumes that the fish he planted at the beginning of the migration period mixed randomly with the resident coho, and that the mortality rate was low (due to a low water temperature, a high oxygen concentration, and minimal activity of predators at winter temperatures). Half the fish lost were to undetermined mortality. Because of this Downen believes that the number of smolts present at the beginning of migration was about 14,200.
This reasoning would suggest that about 51,000 of the fish planted in the prior year experienced the greatest mortality during the previous summer at the fry stage. "This implies that the risks associated with lethal water conditions and vulnerability at smaller life stages are high."
According to Downen, "There are numerous assumptions and uncertainties with this assessment, including the possibility that some of the marked fish simply took up residence in the ponds and that the resident coho did not originate from the ponds but from wetlands higher up in the watershed. However, this method does provide results consistent with what is known about the early life history of fish. Moreover, it estimates mortality at the fry stage conservatively".
Different Species of Fish
While the original intent of the study was to assess coho survival in Squalicum Creek, Downen discovered a viable sea-run cutthroat population. In addition to counting, measuring, and assessing the food habits of 1,250 smolts, mostly two or three years old, he also counted, measured, sexed, and assessed the food habits of 78 adult species. Scale sample results from these fish revealed the spawning events, freshwater re-entry for feeding, as well as the ages of those sampled.
How Warm-water Fish Affect Salmon
The warm-water fish populations in Sunset Pond and Bug Lake are well-known to the local sports fisherman, who are very knowledgeable of and concerned about their resource. Since these fish species which include bass, perch, catfish, and blue gill are introduced to the self-sustaining naturalized populations, there is a great deal of interest in reserving them for the sports fisherman, but there is also a concern that these fish may adversely affect the native salmon populations.
Bass, and perch in particular, can be efficient predators of smaller fish. Downen did not have the means to sample the populations of fish in these water bodies extensively. To adequately sample such populations would require a boat-mounted electro-shocker that cause the fish to swim toward submerged electrodes and disables them until they can be netted. Such equipment is expensive and often causes injuries to the fish.
Downen sampled these fish with a net system, and by hook and line. He also documented their dispersal into the stream via the smolt trap. Documenting their presence is the first step in identifying interactions between them and the native salmonids. When data is unattainable, issues of uncertainty require means of assessment based on probabilities. An important premise of ecological risk assessment is the overlap in time and space of stressors with ecological parameters we want to preserve.
Squalicum Creek as Rearing Habitat
By measuring the out-migration of salmon juvenile smolts Downen has demonstrated the Squalicum Creek system's ability to rear these fish. Spawning habitat that is highly degraded by sedimentation, storm water runoff, poor water quality, and human disturbance, along with strong pressure from the fishing industry results in few spawners being counted. But this system has been routinely seeded each spring with hatchery fry that must then rear for one year, in this system, before migrating out to the sea. This provides opportunity for the assessment of rearing habitat.
Fish Survival in Creek Brings Hope
Several sources of mortality exist for salmon at the juvenile life stage in Squalicum Creek. Throughout much of the system, the water's temperature and oxygen concentration reach lethal levels during the summer months. The predation pressure in Squalicum Creek, from both the native and introduced fish species, has been thought of as being 'too extreme' in regards to the system's production of fish. It was this idea, now misconception, that lead the way for restoration.
Several projects have been undertaken with the hopes that some fish populations were, or would be, surviving. It was not until the recent data from Downen's research that the numbers, or composition, of the salmon species that were successfully out-migrating was known.
The relative contributions of water quality, summer low flows, and predation to this mortality are still unknown. They are likely variable and interact extensively. However, the survival of fish in Squalicum Creek gives us hope that restoration efforts and riparian conservation are worth pursuing. With public awareness and education, and the volunteer efforts of groups such as the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association, we can preserve salmon populations in Squalicum Creek and other lowland streams in Whatcom County.
County Council Vote Will Not Stop Recycling Education in Public Schools
by RE Sources
On June 30, the Whatcom County Council tied in a vote over a $60,000 funding package for RE Sources recycling hotline and school recycling education. Councilmembers Barbara Brenner, Connie Hoag and Cathy Sutter voted for the program, while Bob Imhof, Tom Brown and Marlene Dawson voted against. Ward Nelson was not present, and was expected to break the tie vote at the next meeting.
However, on July 14, the council voted on the recycling hotline ($25,000) and the school programs ($36,000) as separate issues. The council kept the hotline with a 5-2 vote (Brown and Dawson voting against). However, the vote on the school recycling programs did not fare as well: the council killed it with a 4-3 vote. However, the voting was different than expected. Councilmember Kathy Sutter retracted her vote, and most surprisingly, councilman Ward Nelson voted to keep both programs.
Continuing Recycling Presentations
The RE Sources recycling board of directors announced their intention to go forward with recycling presentations in Whatcom County schools despite the lack of funding.
The board voted unanimously to "expend all of the organization's fifteen years of savings if necessary" to fund continuation of the award-winning recycling programs in area schools for the next two years. Dubrow said, "This organization didn't hesitate when we started curbside recycling in Bellingham in the mid-80's; we didn't hesitate when we started the RE Store in the early 90's, and we won't abandon educational efforts now just because our current county leaders lack vision and commitment."
The vote comes after four years of the council slowly eliminating most of the county's award-winning waste reduction and recycling programs, and nearly eliminating the entire Solid Waste Division. At the same time, county solid waste employees have recently stated that for the first time Whatcom County's recycling rate is starting to drop. "This is a sad comment on the wisdom of our present county leaders that they cannot see a relationship between excellent education programs and our actual recycling rate. It's even sadder that state money that was earmarked for Whatcom County programs may now go to support programs in other counties while Whatcom County's recycling rate declines.
County is Showing Lack of Leadership
Weimer, who is chairman of the Whatcom County Solid Waste Advisory Committee, said the county "is suffering from a real lack of leadership on recycling and garbage issues." "The county had nearly ten years of Solid Waste Management Plans to guide them in their decisions, yet they continually choose to ignore their own plans, and cut programs specifically called for in the plans."
RE Sources will soon be starting a fund drive to ask the community to join with them to set up a dedicated fund to provide recycling presentations in area schools. In recent years 300 to 400 classrooms have requested the in-class recycling presentations each year, and RE Sources wants to maintain this level. Persons interested in helping raise funds, or in making tax-deductible donations for the school programs, can contact RE Sources as 733-8307. A $35 donation will be matched by RE Sources to cover the cost of one school presentation.
Who's Polluting in Whatcom County? Find Out on the World Wide Web
by Bernadette Delisle
Bernadette Delisle is a student at Whatcom Community College where she studies environmental journalism.
The Chemical Scorecard is a new Internet Website that provides information on toxic releases. The Environmental Defense Fund has compiled raw data from the Environmental Protection Agency's Toxic Release Inventory. It is easy to read and offers such listings as:
- Who is polluting your community?
- Your State and County's national standing
- Environmental release reports for your county
- Environmental release reports on all companies in your area
After connecting at www.scorecard.org, all you need to do is type in your state, city, county or zip code and you will receive a listing of local companies in order of worst pollution-wise to the best. You can find out what chemicals are being released by what companies, how much of each chemical is being released, and how each chemical affects person's health. You can find out more than you ever wanted to know about environmental pollutants in your area, and then some.
State and County Ranking
For instance, the state of Texas has the highest amount of Toxic Release Inventory chemicals released to its environment. Hawaii has the least amount. Washington falls about halfway between the worst and best. Of the 51 states, Washington is ranked number twenty-seven as far as chemical pollution goes. The difference between pollution in each states is drastic. Companies in Texas release roughly 280 million pounds of chemicals compared to Washington's 2.5 million pounds, and Hawaii's 470,000 pounds.
The Chemical Scorecard ranks Whatcom County among the 20 percent most polluted counties in the United States. Information in the website indicated that this is largely due to Georgia Pacific, but there are several other companies in Whatcom County contributing to this figure: The Chemical Scorecard lists Intalco Aluminim in Ferndale, Arco at Cherry Point, and Tosco Northwest Company in Ferndale as all sharing responsibility for pollutants being released into the air and water.
However, the total releases from these companies added together come to just a little more than Georgia Pacific's total.
Be Wary When Viewing the Figures
One thing to keep in mind is that the figures listed on the website are only what are being reported. Figures potentially could be much higher.
Also, one must remember that just because a company has a low rate of releases, that does not make them safe. Some companies may be releasing a normal amount, but, for example, their stacks could be releasing directly into the neighborhood without proper use of scrubbers or other treatment.
If we compare the figures for 1988 and 1995 we can see improvements on some fronts. The 1988 stack air releases (chemcials released into our air through air stacks) are about 2 million pounds, compared to only 860,000 in 1995. The total chemical releases on land in 1988 were 7.5 million, compared to only 7000 in 1995. And the total environmental releases in 1988 were 10.7 million pounds, whereas in 1995 the total releases were under 2 million pounds.
However, this news is not necessarily as good as it appears. The decrease in air releases is due in part to using scrubbers, but it is also a case of redirecting pollutants. For example, water releases are higher because some air pollutants have most likely been transferred to water.
In the ranking of potential health risks, the top cancer risk in Whatcom County is chloroform. Chloroform is also stated as the number one cancer risk in air releases by Georgia Pacifc. However, since it is not proven that certain stacks are responsible for certain releases, regulation of releases is achieved only through general requirements.
However, this may change. The Northwest Air Pollution Authority in Mount Vernon is conducting an air quality project in downtown Bellingham. When this study is completed, it may provide the necessary proof that will enable the Department of Ecology and the EPA to make further demands to specific companies concerning their air stack releases.
The Scorecard lists mercury compounds as being the number one noncancer risk in Whatcom County. Mercury sediments are usually found in water. The Department of Ecology is currently working with many companies and agencies in this area on the Bellingham Bay Pilot Project. They are trying to find the best way to clean up this mercury sediment. Georgia Pacific no longer denies that they are the principal mercury polluter, and have been preparing funds for the cleanup when the time comes.
One important feature of the Chemical Scorecard is the Take Action Section, which allows you to send a free fax to the companies in your county. You can send an e-mail to the Environmental Protection Agency. You can network with environmental groups and learn how to prevent pollution.
Check out this website. It is a valuable and essential tool for our future.
Things to Keep in Mind
Before you begin navigating the website, and find yourself lost in a muddle of information, read through the following so you can gain an understanding of just what information is and is not available at the Chemical Scorecard.
The Chemical Scorecard's single source of data is the U.S. Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), which, it should be noted, is not a comprehensive reporting system and does not cover all major industries and sources of chemical release. TRI also does not include many other toxic chemicals. In short, data in the Scorecard most likely underestimated actual environmental release of toxic chemicals.
Definitions of Toxic Release Inventory Reporting Categories
The Scorecard offers data in the following categories:
- Stack Air Releases: releases in air through confined air streams such as stacks, ducts, pipes.
- Fugitive Air Releases: Air releases through non-confined systems such as leaks, evaporative losses from spills and releases through ventilation systems
- Total Air Releases: Sum of the confined and fugitive releases to air.
- Surface Water Releases: Water releases to streams, lakes, rivers, oceans. Includes runoff and industrial pipes but not sewers.
- Underground Injection: The release of fluids into a subsurface well for purpose of disposal.
- Land Releases: Release to land including landfills, land treatment and spills/leaks.
- Total Environmental releases: Sum of all listings above.
- Total Off-site Transfers: Chemical shipments off-site facilities for disposal, recycling, combustion or treatment.
Home and Lawn:
Tales From the North Side: Problems with Moss
by Philip Dickey
Philip Dickey is the household toxics coordinator for the Washington Toxics Coalition This article is reprinted with permission from the Summer 1998 issue of Alternatives, the quarterly newsletter of the Washington Toxics Coalition.
Contrary to rumor, moss does not grow on everything in Seattle that doesn't move. It is not the state flower (that should be mildew); it doesn't overtake cars stopped at long red lights (you must be thinking of blackberry), and we don't make pesto with it (yes, we do grow basil here). Still, we get a lot of questions about moss, particularly when it grows on roofs and in lawns. These problems are frequent in many areas of the country as well, so a column on the subject seemed worthwhile. So here we go...
What is Moss Anyway?
Moss consists of a mass of small plants called Bryophytes. Mosses grow on rocks, tree bark, and soil, and as you may have noticed, roofs, driveways, sidewalks, lawns, and decks. They are often yellowish, green, or greenish brown in color. They prefer shade and moisture, so they are right at home in maritime areas. Curiously, mosses don't actually have roots, but instead underground structures called rhizoids. A number of other similar-looking plants such as algaes and lichens also like the same conditions and so may be found along with mosses, possibly resulting in some confusion. Some kinds of mosses and moss-like plants are considered desirable garden plants, and people even grow moss gardens. However when they grow on structures, mosses are problematic because they can cause damage and decay to wood and other surfaces. Some folks don't like mosses in their lawn either, apparently because the color and texture don't match the grass and so are perceived as flaws. Moss is most likely to be found where conditions are shady and moist. This means on the north sides of buildings and roofs, on heavily shaded roofs and decks, and in poorly drained and shady lawns.
Moss on Roofs
Moss growing on your roof needs attention. Since it rarely dries out even in summer, moss keeps the roof surface wet and provides a breeding ground for decay organisms. It can damage shingles and cause water leaks and may require premature replacement of the roofing. Composition asphalt and cedar shake roofs are most prone to moss problems. They are also the most common roof surfaces.
Moss killer chemicals are widely available but may not be the best approach. Some are quite hazardous and most contain copper or zinc that can be water pollutants. In addition, if moss buildup is large, it will be necessary to remove most of it physically before resorting to chemical methods.
Moss control is best done during dry weather (why would you want to do it any other time?). Remove (or hire someone to remove) most of the moss. This can be done with a combination of shovel, stiff brush, or other implement. Be careful to avoid damaging the roofing, especially composition surfaces. Note that walking around on the roof even without carrying tools is pretty dangerous and is not generally advised for the faint of heart, the clumsy, or the slippery soled. Power washing is another possibility, but you must be careful not to blast water up under the shingles. It might be best to hire someone specifically trained in such work.
Choosing the Right Chemicals
Once the bulk of the moss has been removed, you can apply a chemical to what's left. Moss killers are pesticides. When purchasing any pesticide, be sure that it is labeled specifically for killing or removing moss from roofs.
There are basically three kinds of chemical products available commercially: copper, zinc, and soap. (Iron is also used in lawn moss control products.) Copper- and zinc-based products are likely to be corrosive (able to cause burns) to skin and eyes. Soap-based products (made by Ringer Corp. and bearing the Safer_ name) are somewhat milder and are biodegradable. There are three different types of Safer moss- and algae-killing soaps: one for lawns, one for roofs and decks, and one for sidewalks and pool decks.
All moss killers are toxic to fish, and rinse water should not be allowed to run off down the street into a storm drain or directly into any body of water. You should also assume that most of these chemicals are toxic to your landscape plants. An additional disadvantage of iron-based products is that they may stain sidewalks or driveways. On the other hand, that could be considered a helpful indicator of potential water pollution. Once the moss is dead, you can sweep it off the roof.
I've seen a number of do-it-yourself concoctions recommended for removing moss from roofs. One is a 1 to 4 dilution of household bleach. Another is Tide laundry granules sprinkled on the moss. A third is table salt. The Cedar Shake and Shingle Bureau recommends the following formula on their Web Page:
- 3 ounces trisodium phosphate (TSP)
- 1 ounce detergent (e.g. Tide)
- 1 quart 5 percent sodium hypochlorite (Clorox)
- 3 quarts of warm water
They suggest brushing it on with a soft brush, then sweeping off the moss after it is dead. Although these home remedies may be somewhat less hazardous than specially formulated moss control products, I don't know how well these methods work, and they are not EPA-registered for such uses. The cautions above about keeping chemicals out of storm drains also applies to homemade mixtures such as this one, which contains a number of compounds that don't belong in streams or lakes.
What about prevention? Zinc wire and flashing are available that can be mounted on the roof. Water that contacts the zinc picks up enough of the metal to protect several feet of roofing below the strips. These are reportedly quite effective and avoid the need to use or store hazardous chemicals. It's also a good idea to keep the roof swept clean of any plant debris such as leaves, needles, or small branches. These can provide the shade and moisture that are breeding grounds for moss. If local conditions are such that moss is an ongoing, serious problem, it might make sense to consider alternative roof surfaces. Although more expensive initially, metal roofs are less susceptible to moss and generally last longer than other kinds of roofs.
Moss on Driveways Sidewalks, Decks
Moss can also grow on other household surfaces such as driveways, decks, or sidewalks and in some cases cause safety problems due to loss of footing or traction. This usually happens in shaded areas, on the north side of the house or under a large tree. Often the slipperiness on roofs and driveways is actually caused by algaes in areas where moss has not yet taken hold. The solution is much as described above. Physical removal in these locations is usually easier than up on the roof, and you can be quite a bit more vigorous in your efforts since there is no roof surface to damage. Scrape away as much as possible. If this isn't enough, then use the least-toxic moss killer registered for this use to finish the job. Safer's ready-to-use Moss and Algae Killer for sidewalks would be a good choice. Be especially careful in driveways because runoff of chemicals to the storm sewer is very much a possibility, and you want to avoid that.
Moss in Lawns
Although many people get upset about it, moss isn't necessarily a problem in lawns. It's more of an aesthetic issue. If you have lots of moss in the lawn, it probably indicates that your lawn is more suitable for moss than for turf. This is valuable feedback that you shouldn't ignore, and you may not want to fight it. After all, who decided that moss isn't attractive? In some lawns, it's healthier than the grass. In Western Washington, mosses are the native species, after all. Growing natives in the yard is quite the "in" thing nowadays, but people don't think about moss as a native plant. I'd encourage you to leave the moss alone.
Lots of moss often means that your lawn is too wet and/or too shady for grass to thrive. It may also indicate high soil acidity, ground compaction, low soil fertility, or all of the above. If this is true, then removing the moss, even with chemicals, will only have a temporary effect. The moss will come back. Dumping moss killer on the lawn without addressing the causes will not be productive in the long run.
Compaction, acidity, and poor fertility are easily addressed (see below). Poor drainage and too much shade are more difficult. A better strategy in such cases may well be to remove the grass and plant something that likes these conditions. Quite a few groundcovers thrive in shady places. Mary Robson, WSU Cooperative Extension King County horticulture agent, recommends vinca (Vinca minor), andra (Pachysandra terminalis), or ajuga (Ajuga reptans) as three possibilities. There are many others. Consult your local extension agent for geographically appropriate choices. If you insist on turfgrass, then the way to go is to make the grass as healthy as possible so that it out-competes the moss. Thinning out the overhead canopy can help to bring in a little more light. Correct any drainage problems; turf won't grow where water accumulates. Test your soil pH and if necessary add lime to bring the pH up above 5.5. Fertilize the lawn as appropriate for your region, preferably with a slow-release fertilizer. Thatch and aerate regularly and mow frequently, leaving clippings on the lawn. Water deeply but infrequently. I know you've heard all this before, but it is really essential to pumping up a lawn to the point where it will crowd out weeds.
A mechanical approach to removing moss is simply to rake it out. You would want to do this anyway, even if you killed it first with chemicals.
What about chemicals to remove moss in lawns? These are usually salts of iron, and in a few cases zinc. Often these products are quite hazardous-many are corrosive. Notice the ratings (see the sidebar "Ratings of Moss Control Products..."), taken from my book "Grow Smart, Grow Safe."
The metallic salts are toxic to aquatic life and are highly soluble in water, so runoff is a concern. In light of recent disclosures that some lawn fertilizer products, especially those that supply trace metallic nutrients, contain high levels of lead, cadmium, or arsenic, I'd be rather suspicious of moss control products unless they were proven not to contain such toxic minerals as well.
One alternative worth mentioning is the soap-based moss control product that Safer makes. Notice that the concentrate is labeled as corrosive to eyes, putting it in the same acute hazard class as the other more toxic products, but I think it is preferable because it's a biodegradable soap, so it doesn't remain in the lawn permanently. I don't know how well this product works, but it is registered for the use.
The main problem with using chemicals is that they don't really solve the problem. You still have to address fact that conditions may not favor growing grass.
Endangered Species Act:
Community Members Respond to Proposed Listing of Chinook Salmon
Hugh Lewis, Washington TroutThis article is reprinted with permission of the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association. Many thanks to the the association for putting this together and allowing Whatcom Watch to reprint it.
On Feb. 26, the National Marine Fisheries Service formally announced its decision to propose listing of Pacific Chinook as a Threatened Species under the Endangered Species Act. The Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association asked various community members about the impact of this listing on Whatcom County.
What do you think the local impact will be from the proposed listing of Pacific Chinook under the Endangered Species Act? What will the listing mean in terms of local regulations and local activities? What impact will the listing have on Chinook salmon, overall environmental quality, and our community?
Time to Make a Decision
With the listing decisions in front of us there is one basic "business decision" that we must now make. Making this decision can deliver substantial self-control of our future and afford us the chance to leave a salmon legacy for our children. The state is asking the federal government to give us a chance to define our own solution--therein lies the opportunity.
As a state we are asking to retain local control of our future while meeting the challenge of managing the impacts of Endangered Species Act listings. The benefits are important because (1) self determination of our own future is important, (2) locally designed solutions are more effective, and (3) avoiding a "one-size-fits-all" approach is less expensive. To get these benefits, however, we must be willing to pay with performance and accountability. The costs include: setting aggressive restoration goals, credible planning to achieve these goals; rapid change and innovation in our fish and land management; and comprehensive monitoring and evaluation programs.
If we cannot or are not willing to pay the costs, if we do not have the funding or political commitment needed, we will, by default, be deciding we are willing to manage the consequences of unmitigated federal listings. So, for me, the challenge embodied in restoring salmon in Whatcom County is to actively make this core business decision instead of making a passive decision that means we are willing to let someone else determine our future. It is best that we maintain local control and greater management flexibility, but we must be willing to pay for this privilege by providing performance and accountability. The Governor and Legislature have now provided some of the tools and financing. We must accept that challenge.
-- Will Roehl, commissioner, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Bellingham resident.
Social, Economic Impacts Are Unmeasurable
Any activity undertaken relative to the Nooksack River and its tributaries must be reviewed and considered differently than in the past. Whether the activity pertains to adjacent agricultural, residential or recreational uses, a flood hazard management effort, or even attempts to improve fish habitat, it will require a higher level of debate and decision making.
The county, jointly with a variety of other entities, will seek to complete and begin to implement appropriate action plans. Significant effort will be placed on understanding the requirements of the ESA listing as well as identifying proactive projects and programs.
The Endangered Species Act listing requires that we must all work together to reverse the health trend of the species. This cooperative effort will result in an improvement to overall environmental quality of the river system. Social and economic impacts to our community as a result of responding are not understood nor are they likely measurable anytime in the near future. At the heart of this issue is that we do not know what financial resources will be available versus what will be required, both private and public, in order to appropriately respond.
-- Pete Kremen, Whatcom County Executive
Regulation Must Help, Not Hinder, the Chinook
I think that it is too early to tell what kind of impact the proposal for listing will have on our basin. Our hope is that future local regulation and activities will be restructured in such a way that they help rather than hinder recovery efforts for Chinook. From a tribal perspective the key to this issue is the level of protection that the Endangered Species Act will provide for these stocks. A level of protection that merely provides for perpetuation rather than harvestable numbers of fish for all of the citizens of this state is unacceptable. Small contributions to recovery efforts can be cumulative and just as effective as the negative impacts that caused the problem in the first place. The tribes in the Nooksack basin have not conducted a directed commercial fishery on spring Chinook in over 15 years. Our hope is that these and other efforts will serve as the basis for others in the basin to identify the relevant contribution that their agency or government may make to a comprehensive Chinook recovery plan for the Nooksack basin.
-- Bob Kelly, Jr., Nooksack Natural Resources director
Human Greed, Irresponsibility are to Blame
When Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association first contacted me to respond to the state of affairs of Chinook salmon, I thought, "Sure, another exercise in futility." In retrospect, however, I am grateful to know that there are good people who sincerely care about salmon.
And it is a terribly messed up state of affairs indeed. Human overpopulation, irresponsibility, and greed to sum it up. With those malignant tools we have caused such harm that many of us are becoming apathetic. Certainly the prices paid for our environmental destruction have been affecting Puget Sound gill-netters for quite some time. Trading away, in part, Fraser River sockeye so we could make acid rain in the great lakes region and test cruise missiles over Yukon airspace is history. Now using a legislative tool that was created out of national guilt, we are all wondering what will happen.
On the face of it, there are predictable effects of this listing. As gill-netters, we will not be catching kings with 7-1/4-inch mesh. Because of the potential for mixed catch, we will most likely be precluded from fishing certain openings that are targeting other species.
What price will others pay? I can list many responsible (irresponsible) parties who have had a hand in the decline of Chinook, but I am tired of arguing with ignorance and greed. One positive outcome will be media focus. Some good people exposed to news on Chinook may come forward to be responsible and help.
Fisherman have been dying a slow and wretched death. To some this is fitting--even a sought after goal. Undeniably we have lived by the sword--much as humanity has for thousands of years. This is what makes our lifestyle so real, and so hard to give up.
-- Monty McIntyre, commercial fisher
Threat of Endangered Listing Should Cause Local Cooperation
Having been involved in water issues in Whatcom County since I became manager of the Public Utility District in 1990, I find it regrettable that we historically have not done a good enough job locally to put ourselves in the position of avoiding a potential listing of salmon on the Nooksack system. One of the biggest problems I found in the last seven years of trying to work with local interests on issues related to water, particularly around water quantity and quality, is that of local difference of opinion. It is to the point where people are not very cooperative when it comes to trying to find solutions. My hope would be that the threat of an Endangered Species Act listing will provide a large enough outside threat that the local parties would quit bickering with each other and cooperate on the obvious things that need to be done to solve both the salmon problems and our local water issues.
Anyone who believes that the threat of an Endangered Species Act listing is not an issue, should talk to people who have had to deal with the federal government. My personal dealing with the federal government, although not under the Endangered Species Act, but under similar legislation has been anything but pleasant. One piece of property I owned was turned into a bird sanctuary and personally cost me $10,000. I did not get as much as a sympathy card from the federally appointed appraiser who set the value of the property at $10,000 less than I paid for it. If you like dealing with a heavy handed gorilla that has multiple attorneys on salary that have nothing better to do than spend their time costing you money in court, then just sit back and wait, because that is what you are in for. I would hope that we could all set our differences aside and recognize that it is now time to really get to work and solve some of the problems.
We need to get prepared to dig into our pockets for the several million dollars that it is going to cost to get behind a solution. Because, we are either going to do it willingly or spend an additional million dollars fighting in court only to end up doing it anyway. The federal government has no sympathy for our local quibbles about coming up with a million here and a million there. I am personally convinced that there are ample projects that we can all agree need to be done. We just need to get busy, get them started, and debate issues where there is disagreement simultaneously. My bottom line hope is that the proposed Endangered Species Act listing provides a catalyst to promote local cooperation and willingness to put money on the line.
-- Tom Anderson, manager, Whatcom County Public Utility Dictrict #1
Good! It's About Time
It is, of course, difficult to gauge the full impact of the listing of Chinook salmon under the federal Endangered Species Act. So much depends on how the enforcement of the law is handled by those with the power to enforce. Economic hardships, great or small, will undoubtedly be borne. Ultimately we will all pay in some fashion.
But my initial reaction is "Good! It's about time." The Endangered Species Act has been called our modern Noah's Ark. It has helped preserve some vestiges of biodiversity in this country and I, for one, do not wish to see it weakened.
For Whatcom County agriculture, even greater emphasis on healthy riparian zones and water purity will probably occur. Farmers have certainly been getting some "black eyes" lately for surface and groundwater contamination. But keep in mind that they are trying to feed an ever-increasing human population on an ever-shrinking land base. We cannot go back to the early days of vast wetlands and a [relatively] few natives taking fish. A move away from agriculture to a more urban/suburban land-use pattern would be even worse for the salmon. For a healthy watershed, give me well-managed farmland over pavement, lawns, and golf courses any day!
One thing is clear, whether or not we are able to save the Chinook with this belated listing, we must move from the "hunter-gatherer" mentality we've had on the high seas to greater emphasis on aquaculture in order to feed the human population. We moved to an agrarian system on land centuries ago. Now we need to stop deluding ourselves into thinking marine resources are infinite--they are not.
-- Karen Steensma, biology professor and wife of a Whatcom County dairy farmer
Farmers May Be Devastated on Issue of Water Quantity
Farmers will likely be affected by an endangered species listing in two major ways. Most obvious is the issue of riparian buffers. Backing away from streams and planting woody vegetation in critical areas are major shifts for many farmers. It will take a combination of education, incentives, and a gentle push to accomplish needed resource protection.
The second, and potentially devastating impact on farmers is the issue of water quantity. It is no secret that many farmers in Whatcom County are without adequate water rights. Water law has never been strictly enforced here. The thought of a federal judge ruling that the salmon demand more water in streams and that all unauthorized users must be shut off is rather unsettling. It would mark the end of commercial agriculture in Whatcom County within the decade. Such an action would change the entire community, and not for the better.
-- Henry Bierlink, Whatcom County Agriculture Preservation Committee
Crown Pacific Awaits National Marine Fisheries Service Decision
Crown Pacific owns and manages approximately 170,000 acres of timberlands in Whatcom and Skagit counties out of its Hamilton Tree Farm. Most of the tree farm is situated in headwater regions of the Skagit and Nooksack Rivers. The primary impact on salmonid species by Crown Pacific's management activities is water quality through the input of sediment into the streams. Forest practices regulations that have been imposed since 1972 are designed, among other things, to protect the water quality of streams flowing through timberlands. This is accomplished through the setting aside of land and timber along fish bearing and non-fish bearing streams, setting design standards for roads, and regulating activities in and around water.
Since the timber industry is currently protecting water quality, the effect of the listing of Puget Sound Chinook on Crown Pacific's business will depend greatly on what the National Marine Fisheries Service deems as a "take" under the Endangered Species Act. If the National Marine Fisheries Service determines that any activity affecting the water that enters a stream is a "taking," then Crown Pacific's business will be adversely impacted. Conversely, if the National Marine Fisheries Service determines that the protection for water quality as proposed under Crown Pacific's Habitat Conservation Plan is adequate, then the impact on Crown Pacific's business will be minimal.
The timber industry is one of the most highly regulated industries with regard to endangered species, and it is our hope that the listing of salmon will draw attention to some of the real impacts of other land uses, water uses, and fish harvest levels on wild salmon. If the National Marine Fisheries Service and local governments continue to refuse to make the tough political decisions and point only to the upper watersheds as the answer, then Crown Pacific can look forward to continuing to carry the burden of recovery for all uses, and the wild salmon populations will continue to decline.
-- Pat Smith, forest engineer, Crown Pacific
Forget about Black Helicopters, Save the Fish for Our Children
The decision by the National Marine Fisheries Service to propose Puget Sound Chinook stocks (for listing) should, in the short run, bring into sharper focus the myriad reasons leading to the declines of our salmon populations, along with the many societal myths that help sustain the factors leading to those declines.
This examination will show that in some fashion, nearly all of us are contributing to the decline.
The state's newly adopted Wild Salmonid Policy correctly recognizes that there are three principal causes for salmon declines: these are (1) habitat loss, (2) overharvest and (3) hatchery operations. People responsible for the habitat loss historically have not accepted responsibility for their role in salmon declines, and instead blame the fishermen who contribute to the overharvest problem. People responsible for the overharvest deny culpability and instead blame other members of the fishing community or those responsible for the habitat loss. Almost nobody blames the hatchery system, which in large measure has been responsible for both the overharvest and habitat loss by explicitly fostering a false societal myth that with hatcheries as a substitute for nature, a society can destroy its land and water base and harvest most any fish that returns to the land.
These attitudes need to change. The institutions in our society that are responsible for regulating the causes of decline clearly need to refocus their energies and expenditures. But will that happen? In the short run, I don't think so. The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, which has jurisdiction only over harvest and hatcheries, is facing a huge budget shortfall. The shortfall results from a fundamental flaw in the way our state has viewed natural resource management, i.e., that it should be paid for by the people who use the resources. That attitude works only in a period of abundance of the regulated resource, and will inevitably fail when resources are scarce.
Absent a significant influx of cash from the general treasury, the Department of Fish and Wildlife will lack the resources to implement the changes that will be necessary to protect our dwindling populations of wild fish. The Department of Fish and Wildlife spends something on the order of only 5 percent of its budget on wild fish, and the rest on hatchery-related activities. With fishermen insisting on continued funding of hatchery programs, it is unrealistic to expect that the state will be able to meaningfully follow through with the internal changes that are necessary to permit salmon recovery.
The department's director has been under fire, virtually from the moment of his arrival, from every institution in the state that is responsible for (1) habitat loss, (2) overharvest and (3) hatchery operations. If those institutions are successful in knocking him out of his job, we could reasonably surmise that someone whose interests are more closely aligned with those very institutions will be his successor. Who amongst us can imagine that this would be a beneficial development in the process of change that must occur if our wild salmon are to survive?
I want to be optimistic. I got involved in the movement to save wild fish because I realized that there weren't enough around for the people who are here right now, and I feared that there might be fewer, or even none at all for my son and people of his generation. We have wrecked our environment, depleting the natural capital that is necessary to sustain those future generations. We must all be willing to be more conservative, and to share the burdens and sacrifices that will be necessary to rebuild that capital.
We owe this to our children. We must be the ones who take the lead. Our political leaders are not meeting the challenge. Their collective response to the proposed listing has been something that could be distilled to the following statement: "We've got to figure out a way to keep the black helicopters of the awful federal government out of here, or we will end up being over regulated." Virtually no acknowledgment of our need for wild fish--no acknowledgment of our institutional failings--just another appeal to fear in order to keep the insiders in power. I don't see how this response will keep the National Marine Fisheries Service from making a final listing.
Automobiles, Impervious Surfaces, and Stormwater Runoff: How Cars Affect the Lake Whatcom Watershed
by Amy Kenna
Amy Kenna is a student at Whatcom Community College
Recently, a concerned citizen wrote Whatcom Watch requesting an article on the environmental impact of automobiles on the Lake Whatcom watershed.
After a bit of research, I came across a Huxley environmental impact statement about the effect of stormwater runoff on Lake Whatcom watershed. The report had a section which seemed to best describe the impact automobiles and roads have on our watershed:
"Pollutants from the road are washed into Lake Whatcom by stormwater runoff. Impervious surfaces (mostly paved surfaces) increase the rate of runoff which in turn increases soil and road erosion."
Impervious Surfaces (Roads) Decrease Water Infiltration, Increase Runoff Automobile use brings with it increased roads and pavement, (also known as impervious surfaces). Impervious surfaces, in a nutshell, are any material which prevents the infiltration of water into the soil. The best example of this is roads, but impervious surfaces also include rooftops, sidewalks, patios, and even compacted soil.
Development and impervious surfaces are like Siamese twins, one never seems to exist without the other. When the percentage of land covered by impervious surfaces increases, then the amount of water absorbed by soil decreases. For example, in an area where the ground cover is natural, 40 percent of rainwater evaporates, 10 percent of it becomes runoff, 25 percent infiltrates the soil on a shallow level, and 25 percent of the water becomes deep infiltration.
In contrast, in an urban area with 75 to 100 percent impervious surfaces, 55 percent of the water becomes runoff, 30 percent evaporates, and only a miniscule 15 percent even infiltrates the soil at all (with only 5 percent becoming deep infiltration).
In other words, roads, pavement and other impervious surfaces seriously affect water cycles, allowing only a tiny percentage of water to actually be absorbed by soil at all, and causing most of the water to simply become runoff.
The alteration to the hydrologic cycle is only the beginning of the problem.
The Source of Our Water Woes: Nonpoint Source Pollution
The definition of nonpoint source pollution, as indicated by the Journal of American Planning Association, is this: "polluted runoff derived from contaminants washed off the surface of the land by stormwater and carried either directly or indirectly into waterways or groundwater." Controlling nonpoint sources is difficult since its source is not able to be specified. Also, the responsibility for controlling such pollution often shifts through varying levels of government and is complicated by regulatory and management considerations.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, nonpoint source pollution is the nation's leading threat to water quality, especially since point source pollution is increasingly being brought under control. Here is an excerpt from an EPA article entitled "Impervious Surface Coverage."
"The results of polluted runoff are evident in every corner of the United States. According to the EPA (1994), nonpoint source pollution is now the number one cause of water quality impairment in the United States, accounting for the pollution of about 40 percent of all waters surveyed across the nation. The effects of nonpoint source pollution on coastal waters and their living resources have been of particular concern. Urban runoff alone ranks as the second most common source of water pollution for lakes and estuaries nation-wide, and the third most common source for rivers."
Runoff in the Lake Whatcom Watershed
If you've ever been down to Sudden Valley or Alabama Street, you will notice runoff grills on the sides of street above which is painted a white picture of a fish and the words "Runs to Lake- Do not Pollute." As though all the people driving by in cars can read those little white signs.
The point is, automobiles bring roads, roads increase runoff (which is a form of nonpoint source pollution), and runoff is bad news, especially when it is emptying into our watershed. Here are just a few of the bad things which come from our roads, as cited by the Huxley impact assessment:
"Hazardous wastes in the Watershed, as a result of the road, most likely come from the transportation of fuels within the Watershed and the use of pesticides for roadside spraying. Another serious pollutant is sediment, which is generated during road construction." Also, cars leak oil, antifreeze and other nasty chemicals into stormwater drains.
"The degree of pollutant loading for roadways increases with increased traffic volumes, especially in heavy metals. Depending on the nature of local land uses, stormwater may contain varying levels of pollutant concentrations such as suspended solids, oils and grease, fecal coliform bacteria, heavy metals, phosphorous, nitrogen, bio-available oxygen demand, oxygen-consuming compounds, and toxic organics. Stormwater runoff then carries these pollutants into Lake Whatcom."
Stormwater Drains Shift Responsibility from Polluters
Stormwater drains on streets can serve as free garbage bins for people using polluting chemicals. The environmental assessment states, "The view of landowners is that the primary task in developing land is to move water to the road where it then becomes part of the managing body's problem. Effort should be made so that water and runoff be dealt with on-site (instead of on the road) and efforts made to retain the natural drainage."
According to the EPA, enhanced runoff brings other problems as well: erosion from construction sites, downstream areas and stream banks. Increased volume of water and sediment can alter streams by making them wider and straighter, therefore increasing the chance of floods.
Minimizing Pollution From Roads
What are our choices for protecting the lake from damage due to roads? The option to stop building roads seems is impossible. The Huxley report states, "If no action is taken in regards to the transportation network then traffic volumes for 2010 are forecasted to exceed the resulting capacity at some locations. Emergency and public service response time will continue to increase. Amounts of vehicle-generated pollutants entering the Lake would increase with greater traffic volume."
However, the construction of roads should, says the report, be handled with extreme care to ensure that the water quality is maintained at a safe level. The Lake Whatcom Watershed Management Plan emphasizes the importance of stormwater detention facilities to control both runoff and sediment. Also, clearing and cutting roadside vegetation should be used above spraying as a method of plant control.
Responsible Automobile Use
But perhaps the most important goal of all is to reduce automobile use. The Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan provides some alternatives in its safety for transportation section, including adopting a prioritized bicycle facilities improvement plan, and achieving the bicycle plan's service standards. Minimizing time delays at intersections is another way to reduce car use.
However, as we have proved that automobiles and roads are a serious threat to our watershed (and if we fall within the national average, then they are perhaps the number one threat), the simplest solution to minimizing road-related pollution to the watershed is to minimize car use altogether. This can be done through improvements in city bicycle plans, but also through carpooling and increased use of public transportation, as well as improvement and expansion of public transportation services in the county.
Take the Pledge
Perhaps the Whatcom Watershed Pledge says it best: "Automobiles are one of the biggest sources of water pollution in urban areas. An efficient car saves money, resources, and time while protecting the environment. Cars can leak oil, antifreeze and other fluids that can be washed into storm drains to into the nearest creek, harming plants, fish, wildlife and humans." So, let us all pledge to:
- Reduce the number of automobile trips I make in and out of the watershed by consolidating errands
- Wash my car at an approved commercial car wash. If I wash it at home, I will wash it on gravel or grass with phosphate-free soap.
- Maintain my car with regular tune-ups and check for fluid leaks.
- Dispose of used motor oil properly. I will put it in a plastic container with a screw-on top marked "used oil" and place it with other recyclables for curbside collection.
- Dispose of anti-freeze properly by taking it to the disposal of toxics facility or the Water District 10 office.
- Close the oil recycling loop by reusing re-refined oil in my car.
- Use public transportation, carpool, bike or walk whenever possible.
- Arnold, Chester L. and Gibbons, C. James. "Impervious Surface Coverage: The Emergence of a Key Environmental Indicator." Journal of American Planning Association. Volume 62, No. 2, Spring, 1996. American Planning Association, Chicago, Illinois.
- Huxley College of Environmental Studies. "Stormwater Runoff in Lake Whatcom: An Environmental Impact Assessment" Bellingham, Washington: W.W.U., 1995.
- Whatcom Watersheds Pledge by RE Sources. Page 17
Fish Wars in the Northwest:
Major Salmon Controversies of the Twentieth Century
by Debbie Kay Wilkinson
Debbie Kay Wilkinson is a student at Whatcom Community College.
Of the Pacific salmon, Timothy Egan, author of "The Good Rain," says, "The secret of life in the Northwest runs in packs of silver; as with most mysteries, it lies just below the surface, evident to anyone who thinks it important enough to look." What is it about these fish that brings about such fiery debates as the one that recently raged between the United States and Canada?
In the early 1960's, three men from the Puyallup Indian tribe began what was ever after called the fish wars. These four men fought for the rights of Native Americans to fish according to the terms set forth in treaties between the aboriginal peoples of the Pacific Northwest and the United States Government.
Today there is a moratorium on salmon fishing of all kinds along Washington and British Columbia coastlines, yet salmon fishers in Alaska refuse to decrease their harvests.
Earlier this year the Government of British Columbia called for talks to resume once more between Canada and the United States, in order to save that which used to run like liquid silver up and down the Columbia and Fraser Rivers as well as lesser rivers and streams, and currently is about to join the many species upon the threatened species list. They all fight for the Pacific salmon. But what is it about these salmon that make the fight worth fighting?
Puyallup Tribe and Hollywood Battle for Fish Rights
Since their arrival on the Pacific Coast, Native Americans have held the salmon in high esteem. It was to the salmon that many of the elders would pray for guidance when it came to food gathering for the tribe. The Coastal Salish tribes, who did not believe one could own the land, had a system of inherited fishing areas which were considered property (for lack of a better term) to an individual family. Repercussions for fighting at the site of another family's spot were swift and severe.
In the late 1950's, claiming rights to the fish according to the treaty of 1854, which allowed "the taking of fish in the usual and accustomed places," three activists from the Puyallup tribe began fighting the loss of salmon in the Puyallup river. They also fought for equal fishing rights for Native Americans.
Bob Satiacum, Silas Cross, and Frank Wright Sr., along with others from the Puyallup tribe, began to fish outside the allotted state regulated fishing season. They were arrested and called poachers. They sneaked out at night to try to get salmon for their families, only to find the state game wardens there with handcuffs and television crews.
The fish wars grew so controversial that in 1964, actor Marlon Brando came to the Puyallup River and was arrested with Bob Satiacum while protesting the treatment of the aboriginal people of the area concerning their fishing rights.
The Nuts and Boldts of the Issue in the Courtroom
In the early 1970's the arena of the fish wars was moved from the waterfront to the courtroom. In 1974, Federal Circuit Court Judge George Boldt decreed that the Native Americans were entitled to fifty percent of the fish and management of the fisheries in Washington State according to the terms of the 1854 treaty.
The decision was appealed to the highest court, the Supreme Court of the United States of America, and was upheld therein. This controversial decision has been debated and retired time and again from the fishing docks to the courtroom. Last year, the Native Americans of Washington State went back to court claiming that these same treaties, and the order of Judge Boldt, also entitled them to one-half of the shellfish taken from the Washington shores.
Meanwhile, an opposing side has brought the court the death certificate and autopsy report of Judge Boldt which states that he was suffering from Alzheimer's disease at the time of his death and therefore this fact should make null and void his 1974 decision.
This appeal was not long lived, but is an example of the extent to which fishers will go to ensure that they get the lion's share of profit from this Pacific Northwest silver. The fish wars were not to be fought in such a public way again for twenty years.
Recent Controversy--Canadian Blockade at Prince Rupert
In July of 1997, members of the British Columbia fishing industry blockaded an Alaska State Ferry, the Malapina, at the docks in Prince Rupert, BC and refused to allow the ferry to continue on its appointed (and leased) route through Canadian waters for three days. The blockade was brought about by the fishers in support of fishing regulations controlling the number of Fraser River salmon that American fishers were allowed to catch.
Upon hearing about the blockade, one jubilant fishers, Don Nobles of Prince Rupert, is quoted as saying, "we're kicking American ass." Alaskan officials responded with the announcement that they would break the lease which for thirty-six years had run the Alaska State Marine Highway's ships through the BC port of Prince Rupert. The estimated cost to the town due to the loss of tourism (brought in by the Alaskan Ferries) alone was estimated quickly by the town of Prince Rupert at twelve million dollars, and the blockade was called to a halt immediately.
John Wood, whose Parry Place Bed and Breakfast stands two blocks from the ferry terminal, and who stands to be badly hurt financially if the ferries are taken from Prince Rupert, is quoted as saying, "I don't think you can bully the Americans into doing something."
Fish Talks in Deadlock
The fish wars continued between the United States and Canada (more specifically British Columbia) until the winter of 1998, when talks were declared to be in stalemate. British Columbian fishers claimed that American fishermen were harvesting far too many of the ocean-going Fraser River salmon. Americans were accused of not holding up their end of the 1985 Pacific Salmon Treaty, which stated "each party receives benefits equivalent to the production of salmon originating in its water."
Canada argued that Americans (mainly Alaskans) take as much as seventy million dollars a year worth of salmon originating in Canadian waters to which they are not entitled under that so-called equity provision. However, distressed by the fact that although there are currently moratoriums on salmon fishing in both Washington State and British Columbia--the Alaskan fleet is still taking the normal amount of salmon during the current season--the BC Minister of Fisheries and Oceans recently called for a reopening of talks between the Canadian and American Fisheries.
Final Debate: Fishing Industry vs. Conservation
As a mother of two children, it is hard for me to take a stand on the Alaskan fishing fleet and its over-fishing of the Pacific salmon. There is a side of me that desperately wanted to take my son salmon fishing off the coast of Washington State for the first time this year. Due to the hope of preserving the species, the Washington State Department of Fisheries has declared exceedingly limited openings to sports and commercial fishing off the coast of Washington and in its inland waters.
As a person with a conservationist attitude I support their decision; however, I can recall being a little girl sitting in my uncle's boat, bobbing gently on the water and getting so excited the first time I caught a salmon from the Pacific Ocean. I want my son to know that feeling as well. Yet I am torn on this issue due to the fact that my family, and now my son and I, through child support and the generous help of his father, have been and are being supported on Alaskan fishing dollars.
Many a debate has raged in my home about the over-fishing of the Pacific salmon and various other species of fish in Alaskan waters. Do we, as a family, stand on the side of the fishers who support their families with these fishing dollars? (This includes the father of my children, who is also the major financial source of the household.) Or do we stand on the side of the fish and the ecology of our planet, our home?
Importance of the Salmon Life Cycle
The ecological impact of these fish upon the area in which we live alone is staggering. In researching this paper, I found information concerning just what it is that a dead fish does for the ecosystem of the rivers and streams in which it may die.
I remember one day, when I was living in Ketchican, Alaska, my daughter and I walked up the stream near our house. As we got closer to Ward's Cove Lake, the smell became horrendous. By the time we reached the lake, one could walk across the dead salmon which lay where they had spawned, waiting to give nutrients back to the system from which they came.
Jeff Cederholm, a biologist for the Washington Department of Natural Resources, has spent a lot of time in the past few years studying the effects of these dead salmon on the headwaters of the streams and rivers where they spawn. The anadromous (a word which means running upward) salmon deposit the eggs, die, and fertilize, making a way for future generations of salmon to return to the same place and repeat the cycle.
The study showed that not only did the carcasses of the recently spawned salmon feed the hatchlings and fry, but they also added phosphorus and nitrogen to the water and soil. These chemical elements feed animals such as bear, fox, rabbit, skunk, and even white-tailed deer during the winter months, when food sources are scarce. The findings of this ongoing study may bring about strict regulations concerning fishing, both sports and commercial, for the Coho salmon (one of the many species of Pacific salmon) in Washington and Oregon.
Timothy Egan says, "The Pacific Northwest is just this: wherever the salmon can get to." Surely the world knows of the silver bounty which once turned our rivers to silver each fall, has graced the tables of many presidential feasts, and is still one of the most alluring sights in the world to many an eye. Yet the Pacific salmon is fast disappearing from the earth, and once gone, it shall not return.
From the time when the first peoples walked on this land up until today, the Pacific salmon has held a mythical, spiritual, functional and awe-inspiring place in the history of the Pacific Northwest. Perhaps for those reasons, as well as for the future generations who still wish to nearly fall overboard with excitement as they hook their first big fish, we should all call for more strict regulations on the fishing industry, and join in replenishing the supply of the silver glory, instead of idly watching it dwindle.
Bellingham's Water Consumption Is on the Decline
by Joy Monjure
Joy Monjure is employed by the City of Bellingham in the public works department.
Finally, here's some good news! As indicated by the following graphs, the City of Bellingham (including both citizens and industries) has significantly reduced its water consumption over the past decade.
The reason? Credit must go to the City of Bellingham's water conservation program, which aims at encouraging water conservation through three different methods: Public education, technical and administrative programs, and finally, policy.
Water Conservation Program
The City of Bellingham's Water Conservation Program reflects the cooperation and responsiveness of its residents to local and regional water supply concerns. The city's program has focused on public education and found this emphasis effective in encouraging residents to use water more efficiently.
The city is an active participant in several regional organizations including the Puget Sound and the Whatcom Watersheds Information Network. Recent water consumption data, which shows that Bellingham is consuming far less water than it did a few years ago, is evidence that the city's program is worth maintaining and being improved upon.
Over the past 6 1/2 years, the City of Bellingham has developed and implemented an extensive and highly successful public education program focusing on the city's water supply. The program targets schools, civic groups, drinking water customers, watershed residents and other community interests, with the goal of increasing public awareness of water resources, water quality, and water conservation issues. The public education program has expanded greatly over the past five years, and the city is dedicated to maintaining this level of activity and support.
Activities for Children
The city sponsors an annual Lake Whatcom Watershed Poster contest for 4th/5th grade students. In 1997, each 5th grade class selected a word from a collection of local statutes and policy goals related to the conservation of the Lake Whatcom Watershed. The students worked together to create a visual representation of the word. These were then collaged together to form the finished poster product. Prizes were awarded to the best visual representations. Over 1000 students have participated in the contests. Winning posters are displayed on the TCI Cable TV, and at various city locations, including City Hall.
Also, the city contracted with Small Change Original Theatre to present live theater programs to K through 6th graders in city and county schools since 1991. All the theatre programs have had water conservation themes. Over 20,000 students have attended these programs.
The city and the Bellingham School District created a special 4th grade class which included a water treatment plant tour and a full-day to include a field trip to Whatcom Falls park to learn more about the Lake Whatcom watershed. This class continued in 1997 with 5th grade students as the target grade level.
A list/directory of speakers and resource people who may be contacted to provide information on presentations for schools and other community organizations has been compiled and distributed. The city Public Works Department makes approximately 15 presentations each year to various community groups, including tours of the water treatment plant.
A watershed resources directory was prepared in 1991. The city has printed and distributed this directory to teachers in city and county schools, This directory is also available to other interested groups and organizations. This directory was reprinted for distribution in 1993.
An education packet was prepared by the Public Works Department and distributed to elementary school classes in 1997. This education packet included a materials catalog and an information request form listing brochures, workbooks and other resources. The materials catalog has also been made available on the internet in 1997.
The city has developed and mailed to citizens five informational brochures on the Lake Whatcom Watershed, its resources and problems.
In the fall of 1990, the city constructed a walk-in Lake Whatcom Watershed diorama, including video minters explaining the many uses of the watershed and promoting its protection as a source of water for the city. The display has been set up at City Hall, the Whatcom County Children's Museum, Lake Whatcom Day Celebration, Northwest Washington fair, the city's water filtration plant and various schools. The display has been very informative for both adults and children. This diorama was retired in 1996 after being replaced by the new interactive computer display.
The city constructed and installed lakeside displays (1991) at various locations around Lake Whatcom to promote protection of Lake Whatcom's resources.
Pubic Forums and Workshops
The city has sponsored various public forums over the past few years, including, "Lake Whatcom Watershed: Information and Issues," "Merging Streams of Education" and a "Sustainability Forum" where issues of how to sustain a quality-of-life by encouraging community involvement in all areas, from conservation to development.
Also sponsored were workshops focusing on gardening and the use of native plants that require less pesticide, herbicide, fertilizer, and watering.
Several all-day teachers workshops were sponsored by the city and both the WSU Cooperative Extension and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. These workshops included "Environmental Education Across the Curriculum: A Water Quality Focus," and "Water: Our Vital Resource." Approximately 25 teachers attended each of these workshops each year.
The workshop projects focused on water availability, water properties, water cycle and watersheds. The goal of the workshop was to enhance teacher appreciation of hands-on and inquiry methods of teaching water topics.
Educating the Community
The city Public Works Department has co-sponsored a local radio program, "Water Whys." This half-hour program was produced weekly with topics on water resources within Whatcom County. Fifty-two programs were produced in 1995.
City personnel also participated in the Whatcom Watersheds Information Network (WWIN) in the preparation of a quarterly "Water Whys" newsletter, a monthly Q&A column in the local newspaper, and a monthly activities calendar. The Whatcom Watersheds Information Network group is currently developing a media plan for future outreach activities.
The city will be participating in a "Watershed Pledge" program to be implemented over a two-year period (1997/1998). This program is targeted to watershed residents and focuses on education on various environmental issues, such as the watershed and water quality. A part of this program will include water conservation issues and will include a water conservation workshop.
Technical Approaches: Water Conservation Kits
In summer, 1992, the city conducted an employee survey of various water conservation devices for toilets, faucets and showers. The devices were tested and evaluated at employee's homes.
In the spring of 1993, the city distributed about 600 free water conservation devices and information to selected neighborhoods as a pilot test. Water use and customer satisfaction was monitored the remainder of the year showing a conservation savings of about 10 percent. Single family, multi-family and small businesses were targeted. Information gained from this pilot test demonstrated consumer needs and preferences and cost-benefit data needed to develop a city-wide program.
In 1994-95, the city distributed water conservation kits city-wide. Over 2100 kits were distributed in the summer of 1994, and another 1400 kits in 1995. The conservation kit contents were determined from the pilot test results. The city coordinated with community groups to assemble and distribute these kits.
The city has a regular and systematic program which finds and repairs leaks. All distribution system valves are exercised yearly, and valves found to be leaking are repaired. Meter readers report leaking meters to the maintenance crew for repair. The city has a meter maintenance crew, meter testing facilities and meter testing programs to check, verify and repair the city's meters.
The city purchased more sensitive leak detection equipment in 1993. An estimated 100,000 gallons per day were saved in the first two years of this program. When customer leaks are found the customer is notified and advised to make repairs.
In order to evaluate the effectiveness of the city's water conservation kit and leak detection programs the fall and winter water consumption trends for 1991 through 1997 were analyzed.
Significant reductions (about 10 percent) have occurred based on this analysis in spite of population increases during this period. These reductions can be attributed to the city's various programs.
Water Conservation Survey Results
A water conservation survey was distributed along with water conservation kit order forms in 1994 and 1995. Customer attitudes and practices were solicited. Over 2300 surveys were returned. The results of the survey show that city residents are very aware of water conservation issues and have adopted many habits and practices that will ultimately benefit the whole community. Survey results are summarized below:
- 97 percent indicated that conservation is important for all water users.
- 96 percent were willing to take voluntary steps to conserve water.
- 93 percent indicated that it was not difficult to adopt conservation habits.
- 75 percent have changed indoor and outdoor practices in the last three years.
- 73 percent have become more aware of conservation issues in the last three years.
- 34 percent water their lawns less than once per week.
- 32 percent water their lawns 1-2 times per week.
- 26 percent don't water their lawns at all
Utility Billing System
The city implemented a new utility billing system in 1993 that will provide more consumption information for our metered customers. The city currently tracks and maintains a database for water consumption for all customer classes. This information is available upon request and will be used as part of the city's expanded Customer Assistance Program and to track the water consumption of each of the city's different customer categories, which are listed below:
- Institutional General
- Residential Metered
- City Facilities
- Residential Flat
- Industrial General
- Public Schools
- Multi-unit Residential
- Fire Line
- County Facilities
- Commercial General
- Irrigation/Garden Tap
- Commercial Lodging
- Water Districts
Water Conservation Through Policy: Metering
The city has meter reading technology which has alarms for abnormally high readings. Currently the city meters 100 percent of its water supply prior to distribution and meters approximately 90 percent of the water served to city customers. The 10 percent not metered is comprised of single family residential customers within city limits.
All commercial, industrial and multi-family customers are required to be metered, and all single-family customers outside the city are required to be metered. All new construction single-family residences are required to install a meter box and meter resetter for future meter installation.
The city also has recently investigated and researched new technology in meter reading (telemetry and radio systems) and will consider these for future applications. In 1994, 220 electronic read meters were installed along one meter reading route. These meters will be evaluated over time for future application city-wide.
Also, the city withdraws its water supply from one intake structure in Lake Whatcom. This supply is separated into two branches. One supply branch is metered to the domestic water treatment plant, and the second branch is metered to the Georgia-Pacific industrial plant.
Lawn Watering Schedule
The city implemented a voluntary ODD/EVEN lawn watering restriction in July, 1992. Results show that the ODD/EVEN plan was highly successful in reducing peak flow demands as well as average daily consumption.
Waste Not, Want Not
The city has a water wasting ordinance which prohibits the wasting of water for any reason. Violation of this ordinance is considered a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not more that $500 each and every day the violation continues.
The city has been utilizing secondary effluent to irrigate the landscape at the Post Point wastewater treatment plant since its construction in 1993. Secondary effluent is also used for process water applications. Reuse is approximately 1.6 million gallons per day during the summer irrigation months. Process water modifications undertaken in 1996 reduced potable water demand by about 50 percent at the wastewater treatment plant.
The city will continue to evaluate other water conservation measures such as mandatory water restrictions, and metering of single family residences. Implementation of such measures will depend on need and cost effectiveness. u
Neighborhood Stewards Teach Residents to Care For Whatcom Waters
by Robyn du Pré
With the recent increase in community concern about water quality, many local residents are looking for concrete ways they can work for clean water. To help citizens learn how they can become effective advocates for water quality in their neighborhoods, RE Sources developed Neighborhood Stewards, a neighborhood based watershed education program. Now into its third year, the Neighborhood Stewards program helps local residents learn about human impacts on water quality and how we can work with our friends and neighbors to lighten these impacts. RE Sources is currently seeking interested individuals, families, or groups that would like to take part in stewardship activities for Austin, East and West Cemetery, Fever, Hannah, Lincoln, Silver Beach, and Whatcom Creeks, as well as neighborhoods surrounding Lake Whatcom. RE Sources will offer training for new stewards on Saturday, September 19.
At the training, volunteer stewards will learn about watershed ecosystems and dynamics and how local activities such as land clearing or garden chemical use affect water quality. Participants will create their own neighborhood education projects and teach neighbors how to care for their watershed. RE Sources believes this will create a network of involved community members committed to the long-term health of their watershed. Individuals interested in becoming stewards or participating in neighborhood stewardship activities may contact Robyn du Pré at 733-8307.