North Sound Waterkeeper

Alongside over 300 Waterkeeper groups worldwide, RE Sources’ North Sound Waterkeeper advocates for the Salish Sea and waters that flow into it.

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Our North Sound Waterkeeper, Eleanor Hines, is just one person — but RE Sources’ team of experts make the work of Waterkeeping possible. This team is charged with protecting and restoring marine and nearshore habitats of central Salish Sea, collaborating with other local groups and volunteers, and advising government agencies.

Meet your North Sound Waterkeeper, Kirsten McDade!
A person leaning over a graduated cylinder full of water with an stormwater outfall in the background

Kirsten McDade
North Sound Waterkeeper

Kirsten collaborates with community members and stakeholders to ensure that our local waterways are treated with dignity, respect, and according to the law. Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, she earned a BA in Biology from Colorado College, MS in Forest Ecology and Wildlife Biology from Oregon State University, and a teaching credential from Western Washington University. She believes using best-available science in conjunction with coalition-building are the ingredients needed to ensure our water is protected for generations to come. In her spare time, she can be spotted walking or running the trails with her dog Wren, cheering for her son on the soccer field, or mountain biking or snowboarding with family.

What does a Waterkeeper do?

As part of the Waterkeeper Alliance, upholding the integrity of the U.S. Clean Water Act is central to the work of our North Sound Waterkeeper team. To keep the central Salish Sea and the inland waters that feed it fishable, swimmable, and drinkable, the North Sound Waterkeeper:

  • Trains community scientist volunteers to gather data and monitor the Salish Sea’s health — data that government agencies are often too underfunded to collect,
  • Hosts community trash cleanups, on-the-water pollution patrols, and tours of toxic cleanup sites like those on the Bellingham and Blaine waterfronts,
  • Serves as a voice for science in local media, and provides technical expertise to agencies;
  • Advocates for water-wise, science-based policies,
  • Monitors the quality of water in rivers, creeks, and the Salish Sea: by conducting regular pollution patrols, keeping an eye on permits issued to limit allowable pollution, and monitors the Pollution Hotline at (360) 220-0556,
  • Alerts the community to public participation opportunities to protect clean water and show up to hearings to continue to fight for fishable, swimmable, drinkable water for everyone,
  • And much more.

The North Sound Waterkeeper housed within RE Sources is the 25th member of the Waterkeeper Alliance, an international nonprofit that strengthens and grows a global network of grassroots leaders protecting everyone’s right to clean water. The Waterkeeper Alliance is made up of over 300 organizations and affiliates protecting rivers, lakes, and coastal waterways on 6 continents, with a goal of swimmable, drinkable, fishable water everywhere. Learn more.

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Be a part of changing the world


Learn more about opportunities to get involved through the Events page and the Citizen Science page. You can also follow the North Sound Waterkeeper on Facebook and sign up for updates.


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Help us steward the Salish Sea with a donation today!

Support the North Sound Waterkeeper

RE Sources’ local Waterkeeper and team take a multifaceted approach to restoring and protecting Whatcom and Skagit County’s treasured waterways.

One way you can help stop pollution right now

Download the Water Reporter app! Here’s some easy instructions. If you don’t notice something strange going down a storm drain, or the beginnings of a harmful algae bloom, who else will? This guidebook will help you get started on how to notice pollution and notify someone. When in doubt, take a photo and make a Water Reporter post or call/text our Pollution Hotline! (360) 220-0556

We work to stop pollution at its source by reducing pollution flowing from construction, and industrial sites. We also work to stop rainwater from transporting polluted runoff (which is also called stormwater) from roads, lawns, buildings, and farms into our streams, rivers, and bays.

Stormwater is the greatest pollution threat to Puget Sound. Because it is dispersed and pervasive, stormwater pollution is particularly difficult to curtail. Learn more about stormwater pollution.

RE Sources’ local Waterkeeper team engages a range of community members — volunteers, activists, and students — in learning about the permitting process for businesses with the potential to pollute. These businesses are required to have state pollution permits designed to protect human health and wildlife, as well as comply with federal clean water laws.

Learn more about pollution permits and opportunities to provide public comment through the Watchdogging Permits page.

RE Sources’ local Waterkeeper team is actively engaged in the development of policies and regulations affecting land use and stormwater issues. These include commenting on the development of pollution permits and engaging in technical working groups that address county-level policies, including shoreline management and critical areas ordinances focusing on livestock waste and development practices.

RE Sources’ local Waterkeeper team educates the community through beach naturalist events, citizen science training, citizen stakeholder groups, and sharing information through online platforms.

Learn more about opportunities to get involved through the Events page, Citizen Science page, or the News page. You can also follow our local Waterkeeper efforts on Facebook and sign up for updates.

If education, dialogue, and policy enforcement fail to protect our water resources, RE Sources sometimes turns to legal action — especially in the case of large, industrial pollution with little accountability. The federal Clean Water Act provides a safety net for individuals and organizations to bring suit against an entity that is compromising public waters. When we win or settle a Clean Water Act case, RE Sources does not receive funds from that case. All the fines pay for restoration projects agreed upon by the litigants. Read more about what happens to Clean Water Act settlement funds.


RE Sources’ North Sound Baykeeper, a member of the international Waterkeeper Alliance, has been a driving force for change — preventing projects that pollute local waters and endanger communities, cleaning up beaches, training volunteer citizen scientists, conducting on-the-water pollution patrols, and monitoring the health of the Salish Sea.

When the first North Sound Baykeeper, Robyn du Pré, launched her kayak in 1999 to patrol pollution hotspots, Washington State was rated #1 in the nation for discharging cancer-causing chemicals into our waterways — largely from the pulp mill that was dispensing toxic substances like mercury into the Salish Sea from Bellingham’s waterfront.

Two years after the North Sound Baykeeper program began, the GP pulp mill was closed down and an extensive effort was launched to hold agencies to a thorough cleanup process — an effort that was led by the Baykeeper and fueled by the people power of this community.

For the next decade, the North Sound Baykeeper won dozens of legal actions against recalcitrant industries, partnered with state and regional governments to write modernized, common-sense pollution laws, and ignited public education and engagement.

In 2011, as then-North Sound Baykeeper Matt Krogh monitored the industrial permits that had been filed, he noticed a proposal to build North America’s largest coal terminal at Cherry Point. Matt sounded the alarm and notified the community and regional partners of the coal terminal threat — igniting the largest environmental movement in our region’s history.

The organization engaged in a six-year battle to raise public awareness and oppose the project, with ultimate success in 2016 thanks to Lummi Nation’s victory in upholding their treaty rights.

Both behind the scenes and vocally in public, the five Baykeepers over the years have been unwavering defenders of public health, clean water, and marine habitats that Washington relies on. Today, the North Sound Baykeeper is fighting pollution, for habitat restoration for iconic species like salmon and orca and for the protection of human health. There are so many opportunities here in Bellingham and beyond to really forge the kind of marine and community environment we want. That is where the North Sound Baykeeper come in, and we’re committed to this work for the long haul.

The North Sound Baykeeper is a member of the Waterkeeper Alliance, an international nonprofit made up of over 300 organizations and affiliates protecting rivers, lakes and coastal waterways on six continents, with a goal of swimmable, drinkable, fishable water everywhere.