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The Clean Water program is responsible for monitoring and protecting our precious water resources. We use science, policy and education to reduce pollution and toxics in the Salish Sea and its uplands and address water quality and quantity issues in rural Whatcom communities. Read more.

Volunteers, scientists uncover good news during sea star surveys at Cherry Point

posted Feb 2, 2017, 11:50 AM by RE Sources for Sustainable Communities   [ updated Feb 20, 2017, 4:56 PM ]

By Eleanor Hines, Lead Scientist

Eleanor Hines is the lead scientist at RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, where she leads citizen science efforts and provides technical support to the Clean Water program.


Although winter full moons mean that the Salish Sea’s extreme low tides occur long after dark, volunteers and scientists spent two chilly nights in January conducting sea star surveys under the full moon at Neptune Beach and Point Whitehorn in Whatcom County.

The volunteers — accompanied by retired biologist Michael Kyte and Multi-Agency Rocky Intertidal Network (MARINe) data manager Melissa Miner — were conducting semi-annual surveys with the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve Citizen Stewardship Committee on the effects of wasting syndrome on local sea star populations.

Sea star wasting syndrome, documented in a never-before-seen magnitude over the past several years along the Pacific Coast, causes lesions that lead to tissue decay, loss of arms, and death. The disease was first noticed as early as the 1970s, but it wasn’t until 2013 and 2014 that scientists began observing large-scale outbreaks. 

Because the disease impacted sea stars from California to British Columbia, citizen science surveys have been instrumental in helping to collect data for scientists to analyze. Scientists analyze the data to help them better understand the causes of sea star wasting syndrome — including rising ocean temperature and densovirus — and study long-term trends.

Neptune Beach

On Tuesday, December 13th, 11 volunteers joined Michael Kyte for a sea star survey at Neptune Beach, north of Sandy Point at Lummi Nation. 

Biologist Michael Kyte has dedicated his retirement to continuing to lead citizen science efforts across Northern Puget Sound, conducting sea star surveys at several sites in addition to Cherry Point.

Citizen science surveys are conducted with specific scientific protocols to ensure the results can be compiled and utilized alongside other research. For this beach, a measuring tape is set out parallel to the tide once it hits -1.5 feet, and volunteers use instruments called “t-bars” to move along the measuring tape, searching for sea stars and documenting the count. Although it may be tempting, volunteers cannot move anything out of the way, other than loose seaweed, or turn over any rocks, meaning that only exposed sea stars are counted.

For nearly three hours, citizen scientists worked under the glow of bright headlamps, scanning the beach for sea stars of every size. When one is found, the species type, size, and health of the sea star is documented. Health is assessed based on presence or absence of tell-tale wasting syndrome signs, like lesions and missing arms.

In all, 159 sea stars (73 Pisaster ochraceus, 21 Evasterias troscheli, 63 Leptasterias hexactis, and 2 Henrecia leviuscula) were counted at Neptune Beach — the highest count at the site in the past three years of surveys. And of all these sea stars, none showed any sign of wasting syndrome. Only one sea star, which was found outside of the survey area, showed signs of the disease. See the trend graph for Neptune Beach

Point Whitehorn

On Wednesday, December 14th, 21 volunteers joined Michael Kyte and Melissa Miner for a sea star survey at Point Whitehorn Park, part of the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve near Blaine.

Melissa Miner is a marine ecologist based in Bellingham who works for the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she coordinates programs along the West Coast tracking sea star wasting syndrome. All the data collected during sea star surveys at Neptune Beach and Point Whitehorn goes into the Multi-Agency Rocky Intertidal Network (MARINe) database, a partnership of agencies, universities and private groups committed to documenting the health of the West Coast’s intertidal habitat and providing information to the public. 

Melissa Miner presented at the 2017 Cherry Point Forum on sea star wasting syndrome — watch the presentation and download the powerpoint at re-sources.org/cherrypointforum.

The measuring tape was again set out — this time encircling several large boulders — and volunteers spread out to count the sea stars, marking their spot with yellow chalk to avoid double counts. The extreme low tide allowed volunteers to count stars in every crevice, many of which may have been filled with water in the past.

In all, 122 sea stars (55 Pisaster ochraceus, 53 Evasterias troscheli, and 4 Henrecia leviuscula) were counted at Point Whitehorn — the highest count at the site in the past three years of surveys. See the trend graph for Point Whitehorn

It is encouraging to see so many young sea stars at Neptune Beach and Point Whitehorn, after previous sea star surveys indicated that wasting syndrome had devastated many local sea star populations. While it is too early to tell if these results mean populations are recovering, local citizen science efforts will continue to play an important role in collecting data so that scientists can study long-term trends.

Get involved

Become a citizen scientist and learn how you can contribute to scientific research for Puget Sound health! Citizen science is one of the most important tools used for managing and protecting the intertidal shorelines and plant and animal species at Cherry Point and Fidalgo Bay Aquatic Reserves. 

Our free citizen science trainings will teach you how to identify, count and estimate plant and animal species in the intertidal zone, the area above water at low tide and under water at high tide. Once you've participated in a training, you can join our summer of intertidal surveys taking quantitative measures of plant and animal life and describe the slope and sediment on Whatcom and Skagit beaches.

Contact Eleanor Hines at eleanorh@re-sources.org or 360-733-8307 for more information about 2017 citizen science trainings in Whatcom and Skagit counties.

Quick links

Environmental groups respond to Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) final permit

posted Jan 31, 2017, 2:55 PM by Virginia Cleaveland   [ updated Feb 2, 2017, 12:06 PM by RE Sources for Sustainable Communities ]

Republished with permission from the Western Environmental Law Center. Read the full statement from environmental, public health, and social justice advocates.

In January, a coalition environmental, public health, social justice and public interest advocates and organizations representing tens of thousands of Washingtonians responded to the Washington State Department of Ecology’s issuance of a revised concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) general discharge permit, five years after the former permit expired. 

Faced with the opportunity to protect Washingtonians from pollution fro agriculture operations, Ecology failed to address the four major sources of pollution from CAFOs: land application, lagoons, compost areas and animal pens. Instead, Ecology issued a problematic, two-tiered permit scheme that fails to protect our most fundamental natural resource — clean water.

The waste produced by the CAFO industry is vast. The more than 260,000 adult dairy cows in Washington state produce over 26 million pounds of manure each day collectively. Too much of this manure enters Washington’s surface and groundwater, causing significant public health and pollution problems. 

The Sumas-Blaine Aquifer in north Whatcom County, home to numerous dairy farms, is the major drinking water source for up to 27,000 residents. This new permit ignores Ecology’s own determination that confirms nitrate loading due to over-application of manure from CAFOs “contributes significantly to groundwater nitrate contamination.”

After being held hostage by the political influence of the agriculture industry during a five-year renewal process, the agency’s new permitting scheme does little to address the four major sources of CAFO pollution. Instead of issuing one permit that prevents discharges of pollution to surface and groundwater in accordance with federal law, Ecology adopted the agriculture industry’s unsuccessful legislative attempt to require a state-only permit that authorizes groundwater discharges. This regulatory regime blocks transparency and prevents citizens from protecting their right to clean water.

Ecology disregarded the recommendations of its own scientific experts and did not require groundwater monitoring as part of the permit, even though that monitoring is routine for agriculture operations that are known to discharge to groundwater. Ecology has previously acknowledged that all CAFOs with manure lagoons discharge to groundwater and has characterized groundwater monitoring as “the best indicator of risk.” But after two decades of knowing about the widespread drinking water contamination, it is still not required in the permit.

Ecology caved to the agriculture industry’s desire to avoid numeric manure application limits, thereby allowing CAFOs to apply manure to the land in a manner that pollutes surface and groundwater. The land application of manure is known to be the largest source of drinking water contamination from CAFOs. Lagoons, compost areas and cow pens have also proven to be significant sources of pollution, yet Ecology fails to include measures in the permit that prevent pollution from these sources.

To protect Washington families, friends, and neighbors from being exposed to dangerous levels of nitrates, fecal coliform, and other pollutants in their drinking water, this coalition advocated for the following provisions in its final permit:
  • Mandatory groundwater monitoring
  • Science-based manure application requirements and restrictions
  • Science-based riparian buffers for salmon-bearing streams
  • Implementation of best technology for CAFO operations such as synthetically-lined manure lagoons and other known and reasonably available technologies to eliminate discharges to surface and groundwater
Despite claiming substantial stakeholder engagement and public feedback, Ecology did not include these provisions in its final permit.

The coalition includes Citizens for a Healthy Bay, Friends of the Earth, Sierra Club, the Center for Food Safety, Snake River Waterkeeper, OneAmerica, the Socially Responsible Agricultural Project, Aqua Permanenté, the Waterkeeper Alliance, the Center for Environmental Law & Policy, RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, Spokane Riverkeeper, Planned Parenthood, Puget Soundkeeper, Environment Washington, Safe Food and Fertilizer, and Wendy Harris.

Republished with permission from the Western Environmental Law Center. Read the full statement from environmental, public health, and social justice advocates.

More information

Report: Agricultural Pollution in Puget Sound: Inspiration to Change Washington’s Reliance on Voluntary Incentive Programs to Save Salmon

Puget Sound lagoon distance from nearest water body map: http://bit.ly/1MZnLzz
Whatcom and Skagit counties distance from nearest water body map: http://bit.ly/1SkvfzX
Whatcom and Skagit counties lagoon excavation depth map: http://bit.ly/1feWygS

HB 1611 and SB 5462: Oil transportation bill protects Salish Sea by holding industry accountable for oil spills

posted Jan 31, 2017, 11:03 AM by RE Sources for Sustainable Communities   [ updated Feb 2, 2017, 12:17 PM ]

The 2017 legislative session is in full swing and oil transportation is a hot issue. Despite the critical gains around public disclosure and preparedness measures, significant gaps remain that put our communities and waterways at risk of an oil spill or other disasters. 

In response, Representative Jessyn Farrell (D-Seattle) and Senator Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle) have introduced bills called the Oil Transportation Safety Act in the House and Senate (HB 1611 and SB 5462). Bill highlights include:
  • Ensuring the oil industry pays in the case of a spill or other disaster; 
  • Updating the funding for prevention, preparedness and response; 
  • Protecting Puget Sound from increased oil barges and other vessels from the Kinder Morgan Pipeline; 
  • Protecting against refineries turning into transshipment terminals; and 
  • Strengthening oversight of pipeline safety. 
The Oil Transportation Safety Act is a key step to holding the oil industry accountable and ensures that Washingtonians are put first. Given the Trump Administration’s support of the oil industry, it is now more important than ever to make sure Washington holds the line. We can do this! 

How you can help

  1. Contact your legislators. On Thursday, February 2nd, and Monday, February 6th, the Senate Energy, Environment & Telecommunications and House Environment committees, respectively, will host public hearings on SB 5462 and HB 1611. 

    Please contact your legislators TODAY and ask them to SUPPORT SB 5462 and HB 1611. Find your legislators, then view the talking points below.

Talking points for your call to your legislator

Dear [Senator/Representative],

Washington residents continue to be at risk of oil spills and other disasters. In the wake of the Mosier, Oregon, oil train derailment and explosion this past June, the threat of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline increasing tanker traffic in the Salish Sea SEVENFOLD, and the increasing use of pipelines for crude oil transport, we need to continue to improve our system. 

Please support the Oil Transportation Safety Act and protect Washington's communities and waterways. 

Key parts of the bill include:
    • Ensuring the oil industry pays in the case of a spill or other disaster; 
    • Updating the funding for prevention, preparedness and response; 
    • Protecting Puget Sound from increased oil barges and other vessels from the Kinder Morgan Pipeline; 
    • Protecting against refineries turning into transshipment terminals; and 
    • Strengthening oversight of pipeline safety. 
I urge you to support and move forward SB 5462 and HB 1611.

SB 5171: Bad bill threatens Cherry Point, tribal treaty rights

posted Jan 23, 2017, 10:11 AM by RE Sources for Sustainable Communities   [ updated Feb 20, 2017, 4:58 PM ]

We need your voice to help stop a bad bill. A very bad bill.

Senate Bill 5171 — sponsored by Sen. Doug Ericksen — would reverse the recent decision by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to uphold tribal treaty rights and protect Cherry Point, ultimately undermining DNR’s ability to manage our state’s aquatic lands.

It probably isn’t a surprise that the fossil fuel industry wants to undo our successes to protect our environment. It is a direct response to DNR’s leadership work on protecting our aquatic lands and putting the public good ahead of any one company. 

How bad is bad? In addition to reversing DNR's recent decision to incorporate a 45-acre cutout — originally intended for the Gateway Pacific coal terminal — into the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve, the bill stops DNR’s ability to designate, establish, and/or enlarge any aquatic reserve. The bill also reduces the amount of state money available for protecting clean land and critical habitat. That is unacceptable.

We can stop this! How you can help:

  1. Attend the public hearing. This Tuesday, January 24th, at 1:30 PM, the Senate Natural Resources Committee will host a public hearing on SB 5171. Tribal leaders from throughout the state are expected to attend and speak against the bill. Will you join us in Olympia to stand with Lummi Nation and show your support for tribal treaty rights? We're not asking you to testify — we just want you to be there and WEARING RED. (Carpool available from Whatcom County.) RSVP on Facebook for carpool info.

    Public hearing details: 1:30 PM, Natural Resources & Parks, Senate Full Committee, Senate Hearing Room 3, J.A. Cherberg Building, 304 15th Ave SW, Olympia, WA 98501. (map)

  2. Contact your legislator. Even if you can't travel to the hearing, your voice counts. Please contact your legislator TODAY and ask them to OPPOSE SB 5171. Find your legislator, then view the talking points below.
We need to raise our voices now more than ever. Please attend the hearing or contact your legislator and ask them to OPPOSE SB 5171.

Talking points for your call to your legislator:

  • Please oppose SB 5171. This is a bad bill that threatens DNR’s ability to protect our public aquatic lands.

  • We must protect Cherry Point and DNR’s ability to manage our public’s aquatic lands for the protection of generations to come.

Public hearing update

The Senate Natural Resources Committee hearing on SB 5171 was held in overflowing chambers with overwhelming opposition — the room was so packed security would not let anyone else in. More than 50 people attended in opposition, and ZERO in support. Members from the Colville, Lummi, Tulalip, Nisqually, Spokane, Cowlitz, and Makah tribes made moving and eloquent testimonies. The bill's sponsor did not attend the hearing.

Watch the hearing: http://www.tvw.org/watch/?eventID=2017011313

The bill — sponsored by Sen. Doug Ericksen — would reverse the recent decision by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to uphold tribal treaty rights and protect Cherry Point, ultimately undermining DNR’s ability to manage our state’s aquatic lands.

THANK YOU for taking action by making phone calls and attending the hearing, letting our legislators know the public stands with Lummi Nation and supports tribal treaty rights.

RE Sources for Sustainable Communities is part of the Environmental Priorities Coalition, a network of over 20 leading environmental groups in Washington state that influence policy at the state level. Our 2017 legislative priorities include: Water for people, farms, and fish; Oil transportation safety; and Reducing toxic pollution in all communities. Learn more at wecprotects.org/environmental-priorities-coalition.

Upcoming events and opportunities: January 2017

posted Jan 9, 2017, 4:48 PM by RE Sources for Sustainable Communities

Sea Star Wasting Syndrome Surveys

Wednesday, January 11th, 8:30 PM 
Neptune Beach, near Ferndale (map
Thursday, January 12th, 9:00 PM 
Point Whitehorn Marine Reserve, near Ferndale (map

Help local scientists collect data on sea star wasting syndrome during one of two nighttime citizen science surveys on Whatcom County beaches. RSVP. 

Lummi Water Quality Monitoring Presentation

Wednesday, January 11th 
6:30 to 8:00 PM 
Bellewood Acres, Lynden (map

Hear from a water resources specialist with Lummi Nation about their long-time program monitoring surface and ground water and the status of Portage Bay shellfish beds, during this special presentation at the Tenmile Clean Water Project meeting. Read more. 

Beach Cleanup at Semiahmoo Spit

Monday, January 16th 
11:00 AM to 2:00 PM 
Semiahmoo Park, near Blaine (map

Join RE Sources' AmeriCorps-Washington Service Corps member and WWU club Students for the Salish Sea for a beach cleanup along Semiahmoo Spit in honor of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. RSVP. 

"A Plastic Ocean" Film Screening

Wednesday, January 25 
7:30 PM 
Regal Cinemas Barkley Village, Bellingham (map

Join the Whatcom Marine Resources Commitee for this documentary about the impacts of plastic on our oceans and marine mammals. Please purchase tickets by January 17th to ensure the film will be shown. Buy tickets.

Clean Water priorities for the 2017 Washington State Legislature

posted Jan 5, 2017, 4:03 PM by RE Sources for Sustainable Communities   [ updated Jan 26, 2017, 1:31 PM ]

On January 9, the Washington State Legislature will convene for a four-month session of lawmaking and budgeting. It’s a big year with many priorities in front of our state officials, ranging from public education to addressing toxic cleanup sites like the Bellingham waterfront. 

2017 legislative priorities

In collaboration with Washington Environmental Council's Environmental Priorities Coalition, the Clean Water program of RE Sources for Sustainable Communities is closely tracking legislative activity, and we will keep you informed about environmental issues that impact Whatcom County and the Salish Sea. Issues we are tracking include:

1. Reducing toxic pollution in our communities.

Washington must restore and stabilize funding for the Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA), the voter-approved law dedicated to cleaning up toxic waste sites, preventing harmful chemicals in manufacturing and products, controlling pollution to protect water quality, and supporting communities heavily impacted by toxic pollution threats. Funding for MTCA was gutted last year, due to the volatile nature of its funding source. This session, legislators must implement a more stable funding source to enact this important law for public health and safety.

2. Enough water for people, farms, and fish.

The Washington State Supreme Court recently ruled that counties must make sure there is enough available water before issuing permits for new developments in rural areas. After the ruling, requests were made for a “legislative fix” to the court’s ruling to allow business as usual, neglecting the problem and further depleting stream levels during critical times. Any proposed fix needs to protect instream flows and existing water rights.

3. Oil transportation safety.

Oil transportation continues to threaten the safety of our communities and the health of our environment. The urgency is now greater with the increased transport of crude oil to local refineries, the approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline that would increase tanker traffic through the Salish Sea, and the $4 million funding shortfall for existing protections. Washington state must prioritize legislation to protect our waterways, improve pipeline safety measures, and ensure funding for oil spill response. 

How you can get involved

As residents of Washington state, it is our civic duty to engage in the legislative process and hold our elected officials accountable on environmental issues. If we don’t speak up for the environment, who will? How you can get involved:
  • Sign up for Clean Water news. Get monthly emails with opportunities to engage in local water issues, plus occasional action alerts with information on how you can help push for clean water policies.

  • Attend our monthly activist meeting. Our activist meetings are focused on protecting the communities of the Salish Sea. Monthly meetings will include a legislative session update and ways to get involved.

  • Contact your legislator. Use this handy tool to enter your city or zip code and find your district and legislator. Then send them an email with comments on proposed legislation.

Upcoming events & opportunities: December 2016

posted Dec 5, 2016, 2:25 PM by RE Sources for Sustainable Communities

Salmon is Life: Lelu Island Benefit Dinner

Thursday, December 8th
6:00 PM to 10:00 PM
Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship, Bellingham (map)

WWU club Students for The Salish Sea is organizing a curated art auction and fundraiser to support the Lax Kw'alaams First Nation in British Columbia, which is resisting a liquefied natural gas facility on their traditional territory. Read more. 

Nooksack River Geographic Response Plan public comment period

Deadline: Monday, December 12th
Email comments to grps@ecy.wa.gov

The Department of Ecology has completed a draft plan outlining how responders would tackle an oil spill near the Nooksack River. The public can review the plan and submit comments through December 12th. Read more.

Sea star wasting syndrome surveys

Tuesday, December 13th, 8:30 PM
Point Whitehorn Marine Reserve, near Birch Bay (map)
Wednesday, December 14th, 9:00 PM
Neptune Beach, near Ferndale (map)

Help local scientists collect data on sea star wasting syndrome for a comprehensive West Coast database during one of two nighttime citizen science surveys on Whatcom County beaches. RSVP.

Shell-ebration at Drayton Harbor

Friday, December 16th
4:00 PM
Drayton Harbor Oyster Co., Blaine (map)

Join community partners in a celebration of 21 years of work that led to improved water quality in Drayton Harbor and the removal of restrictions on 810 acres of oyster beds. Read more.

New Years Day Beach Cleanup

Sunday, January 1st
10:00 AM to 1:30 PM
Locust Beach, near Bellingham (map)

Start your New Year's resolutions off right -- join the North Sound Baykeeper and Students for the Salish Sea for a beach cleanup at Locust Beach. All ages welcome -- please bring work gloves and a bucket. RSVP.

Cherry Point Forum 2016: Warming climates, ocean acidification, sea stars, citizen science, and forage fish

posted Dec 5, 2016, 2:04 PM by RE Sources for Sustainable Communities   [ updated Dec 5, 2016, 2:17 PM ]

Here's a short wrap-up about the presentations and speakers at the Cherry Point Forum 2016:

"Warming Climates in the Pacific Northwest: Are We Experiencing a Dress Rehearsal of the New Normal?" by Nick Bond 

(View the presentation and video)

Nick Bond is the climatologist for the state of Washington and a research scientist with the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean (JISAO) at the University of Washington.

Nick Bond coined the term “the blob” to describe the warmest (2.5 degree Celsius above normal) temperature ever recorded in the ocean off the West Coast starting in 2013. His presentation addressed whether this and other environmental changes were isolated incidents or whether it was a harbinger of the new normal. 

During his informative, and at times humorous, presentation, he implicated "the blob" as a cause for the massive algal bloom that resulted in the closure of clam and crab fisheries and the unprecedented die-off the seabird Cassin’s auklets.

Some of the effects of climate change Dr. Bond discussed:
  • Effects on human health: Higher humidity, more heat waves 
  • Wetter winters and more frequent major floods 
  • Drier summers and more heat waves 
  • Diseases that might migrate to Washington (Chikungunya, Valley fever) 

"Large-scale Impacts of Sea Star Wasting Disease on Pisaster Ochraceus, Recent Recruitment, and Implications for Recovery" by Melissa Miner 

(View the presentation and video)

Melissa Miner works in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department at University of California, Santa Cruz, and is the data manager for the Multi-Agency Rocky Intertidal Network (MARINe). 

Melissa Miner gave an overview of ochre star population trends before, during and after the 2013-2014 wasting syndrome event along the West Coast. MARINe has long-term data sets at many California and Oregon sites beginning as early as 2000, with sites in Washington and Alaska added in 2008-2010. All show the 2013 crash in sea star numbers, with uneven and somewhat uncertain recovery. The longer-term data present more uncertainty: Some show populations decreasing before the 2013 El Nino warm water event that may have contributed to the disease, and several sites show similar losses (unexplained) around the year 2000 followed by recovery. 

Melissa Miner discusses the continuing uncertainty about the disease’s possible causes and contributing factors, and demonstrates how to access data and graphic interpretations on MARINe’s website. Results from citizen science population survey efforts initiated during the wasting disease event — including two sites within the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve — are being added to the website. The Q&A session includes some discussion about possible effects on other intertidal species.

"Intertidal Monitoring at Cherry Point: A Look into Citizen Science" by Eleanor Hines

(View the presentation and video)

Eleanor Hines is the lead scientist at RE Sources for Sustainable Communities. She provides staff support for the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve Citizen Stewardship Committee and leads intertidal monitoring and citizen science programs.

The intertidal monitoring program started in 2013 at Cherry Point and Fidalgo Bay Aquatic Reserves, adapted from a similar citizen science program in Island County. 

Eleanor Hines highlighted the importance of citizen science to fill data gaps and better inform management plans for the Aquatic Reserves. She also explains while the intertidal monitoring program has a lot of strengths, there have been a lot of lessons learned over the years to make it as strong as it is today. 

"Stuck in the Middle: The Ecology, Knowledge Gaps or Misunderstandings, and Issues Surrounding Forage Fish" by Evelyn Brown 

(View the presentation and video)

Dr. Evelyn Brown is a fisheries analyst with Lummi Nation's Natural Resources Department. 

Dr. Brown shared her extensive knowledge and expertise on forage fish, explaining the myths and pitfalls of some common misunderstandings in forage fish management. There is a lot of information packed into this presentation, but if you wanted to dive deeper into the world of forage fish, this is a great place to start. 

Dr. Brown shared some wonderful photos of her past research and you can see just how thick some of the forage fish egg spawn on the beach once was in areas. She mainly covered herring, but covered some of the lesser known forage fish too. Some of the main highlights include: 
  • The marine trophic structure is dynamic and is NOT always a triangle, as ecology text books often present 
  • Fluctuations between high and low populations are normal, and presents a challenge for managing these (and other) fisheries 
  • There are certain stages of the forage fish life cycle that if focused on and properly managed, can help support better fisheries, while other life stages when managed will have less impact on the overall populations 
  • These fish are hard to study, but interesting studies are underway 

"Ocean Acidification in Nearshore Habitats of Washington State" by Micah Horwith

(View the presentation and video)

Micah Horwith is a coastal scientist at the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, Aquatic Resources Division. He leads investigations of ocean acidification for the Aquatics Assessment and Monitoring Team.

Micah presented the latest information about increased acidification in the ocean. He brought the topic closer to home with a glimpse at how local plants and organisms are being affected or may be able to provide refuge as ocean acidification increases. 

Even non-scientists will find this information very accessible and the insight into research protocol quite interesting and educational.

Upcoming events & opportunities: November 2016

posted Nov 3, 2016, 11:01 AM by RE Sources for Sustainable Communities   [ updated Nov 3, 2016, 11:02 AM ]

Speaker Series: Chinook Salmon

Wednesday, November 16th
3:30 PM - 5:00 PM
Garden Room, Civic Center Annex
322 N Commercial Street, Bellingham (map)

Eric Beamer with the Skagit River System Cooperative will present on the juvenile Chinook salmon population's structure and dynamics on the Nooksack River estuary and Bellingham Bay shoreline. Read more.

Public Meeting: GP West Interim Action Work Plan

Thursday, November 17th
6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Technology Development Center
1000 F Street, Bellingham (map)

Learn more about the Department of Ecology's proposed cleanup work to remove and dispose of mercury-contaminated soil from a portion of the GP West site on the Bellingham waterfront. Read more. 

Citizen science trainings

November 19th and 20th
10:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Camp Horizon Conference Bldg
7489 Gemini Street, Blaine (map)

Join the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team (COASST) for citizen science trainings on beached birds (Saturday) and marine debris (Sunday). Trainings are free and take place indoors. Read more.

Volunteers flag poop pollution in Squalicum Watershed

posted Oct 6, 2016, 11:18 AM by RE Sources for Sustainable Communities   [ updated Oct 13, 2016, 1:03 PM ]

By RE Sources for Sustainable Communities

Did you know Whatcom County dogs generate 30,000 pounds of poop every day? That’s the same weight as THREE African elephants!

One dog’s poop carries enough fecal coliform bacteria to pose a health risk to humans and pets. When it rains, the bacteria runs off into drains and ditches and travels for miles to nearby creeks, lakes, and beaches. Fecal coliform indicates the likely presence of other disease-causing organisms, including roundworms, E. coli, and more.

This fall, the Clean Water program at RE Sources for Sustainable Communities wrapped up the Squalicum Clean Water Project, a campaign educating citizens about how they can help prevent fecal coliform pollution in the Squalicum Watershed by picking up and properly disposing of dog poop. In all, we hosted 10 Poop Patrol events that flagged more than 700 piles of dog poop.

Nearly 200 people in Bellingham and Whatcom County signed the Poop Pledge, promising to always pick up, bag, and throw away their dog’s poop, whether in parks, on trails, or at home. By taking the pledge, each participant did their own small part to help keep our beaches and parks safe to play in — from their own backyards.

In July and August, we hosted 10 Poop Patrol events at four parks in the Squalicum Watershed: Cornwall Park, Little Squalicum Park, Squalicum Dog Park, and Broadway Park. We flagged more than 700 PILES of dog poop during these Poop Patrol events. We used the flags to illustrate the widespread problem of poor poop pickup practices, and as a conversation starter to educate dog owners who may not realize the harmful impact of their dog’s poop on the environment.

Poop Patrols highlighted a staggering problem: Squalicum Dog Park was filled with over 100 piles of dog poop that had not been picked up, and Little Squalicum Park was filled with 150 piles of poop — just in one day!

These huge amounts of dog poop left in our parks are contaminating our waters. It reinforces the need for community projects like the Squalicum Clean Water Project: We all need to educate each other about the threat of fecal coliform bacteria and the proper ways to dispose of dog poop. 

"Our hope is that as more dog owners in our community follow proper dog poop pickup practices, the Department of Ecology will be able to lift the permanent water quality advisory at Squalicum Beach due to elevated bacteria levels in the water. There are many homes with dogs in the Squalicum Watershed, and every pet owner can help be part of the solution to keep our children and our pets healthy, and our waterways clean," said Eleanor Hines, lead scientist at RE Sources for Sustainable Communities and project manager for the Squalicum Clean Water Project.

Just remember: Veterinarians, garbage collectors, and health professionals all agree: The trash is the safest way to dispose of your dog’s poop. 

Thanks to our 26 dedicated volunteers — including neighborhood residents and volunteers from LDS Young Single Adults, Tails-a-Wagging, and Whatcom Pet Care Network — for participating in the Squalicum Clean Water Project.

Learn more about the Squalicum Clean Water Project at re-sources.org/pooppledge or contact Eleanor Hines at eleanorh@re-sources.org.

View Poop Patrol photos on Facebook: facebook.com/northsoundbaykeeper

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