Telling South Sound Stories

The final presentation of the day is from Katie Campbell and Ashely Ahearn with Earthfix.  They work to get media coverage for all the wonderful work scientists are doing all over the Puget Sound area.   Stressing to remember that when giving an interview that it’s not live, no one is trying to make you sound stupid and everything can be edited.  If you can aim your content toward 6th graders and relate your science to real people it’ll be easier to draw their interest.  Some times the story requires a picture or a video in order for the issue to hit home for the average person who is not in the scientific community.  Remember that scientists have their thumbs on the pulse of what is happening in our ecosystems and weather the information is good or bad it is our duty to share it with the rest of the world.


Stormwater Toxicity and Green Stormwater Treatment

This talk is being given by Jenifer McIntyre from Washington State University.  NOAA Fisheries and USFW have collaborated on this project.

Stormwater runoff carries chemical contaminants. What their impact on aquatic life?

Examples: Metals, oil and grease, plasticizers…

Coho salmon are like a stormwater sentinal- they spend the first part of their lives in freshwater.  Also, there are very high rates of pre-spawner mortality in urban areas.  For example you can find dead adult females full of eggs.  They died before they spawned.

In a past  study they raised fish from eggs in untreated stormwater, versus treated (filtered) stormwater.  Eggs in the unfiltered water: High rates of death, low growth rates, cranial haemorrhaging.

In this study: Some invertebrates and zebrafish.

Six storm events.  Exposure to stormwater runoff from a highway.  Affects on zebrafish: death, small size, delay in hatching, swim bladder not inflating, small heart, deformed heart and jaw.  Or a developing fish will not escape from the chorion.  This was wh- en they brought water into the lab.

In 2012- Adult coho study- Expose adult coho to stormwater runoff.  They exposed coho to clean well water.  Another group exposed to stormwater runoff (including first seasonal flush events).  Adult fish exposed to stormwater lost ability to stay upright and showed other sublethal symptoms after 3.5 hours exposure.

Now they are looking at treated stormwater.  Exposing juvenile coho, mayfly nymphs, and mayflies.  Treating the stormwater prevented and also completely eliminated symptoms that would have normally been seen with straight stormwater.

In conclusion, soil bioretention, in other words treating stormwater runoff, can greatly reduce the damage caused to aquatic life from stormwater.

In areas where urbanization is occurring, we need to make sure development occurs in a way that stormwater can be treated.

Audience Question: What do you do with the bioretention material (sand and compost) after it has been used to filter stormwater?  McIntyre says: It will take many years to use up the capacity of these bioretention features.  They are studying the design life of these features.

Road runoff can affect saltwater species in the same way.  They have done studies in California on this.

This talk was very triking and disturbing, thought the potential to treat the stormwater looks promising.

Fish Consumption: What’s all the fuss?

Jeff Dickison, assistant natural resources manager, Squaxin Island Tribe.

Catherine O’Neill, Seattle University Law School

Paraphrasing what Catherine is saying:

We know we live in an mazing place, but the fish that we depend on are degraded and are polluted.

Water quality standards are the mechanism for reducing pollution and reducing pollution impact on humans.

Fish consumption rate is a portion of a larger health based equation that is meant to reduce the risk of ill health.

The current FCR is based on an estimate that was done 40 years ago at the request of the tuna industry. Because of pollution, fish consumption was probably pretty low. This is also a time when tribal fishing was still coming back online, the Boldt decision just having been handed down.

Water will only be clean enough to allow up to one meal a month.


The tribe conducted one of the first fish consumption surveys with their members, working with the Tulalip Tribes and the EPA.

The 6.5 rate was built taking into consideration of what people eat in Nebraska. Even coastal people eat more than that. And, tribal members eat even more. Tribal survey was in 1994, 20 years after the original survey.

When you talk about percentiles of protection in Indian Country (90th, 95th) tribal leaders know who the 10 percent and 5 percent who are being left out. It isn’t just a number. So, even rates like 175 are compromise numbers for the tribe, because they leave so many people out.

Squaxin dietary surveys found that children under six consumed fish over 3 times the rate of their parents.

Tribes started proving their populations were at risk 20 years ago, but we’re still not where we need to be. The FCR has not gone up.


EPA was moved by the tribal studies, updated guidance in 2000:

  • National default moved to 17.5 grams a day.
  • Subsistence rate moved to 142.2 grams a day

Default rates are only used as a last resource. Local data is preferred. And, Washington of course has local data.

Also, keep in mind that contemporary numbers are lower than historic rates because of pollution and degradation of natural resources.

So, where is Washington? Fifteen years ago, the state recognized they needed to update the FCR, but a report was never finalized.

State started the process, but in July 2012, the state pivoted in their process:

And, lastly, this past summer, the state announced an increase in the FCR to 175, but increased the risk of cancer rate by 10 fold. The state also announced that for the pollutants that would go up, that they wouldn’t backslide.

Live blogging the South Sound Science Symposium tomorrow

We’ll be using this blog tomorrow to cover the South Sound Science Symposium.

Throughout the day, there will be regular updates from the symposium being held at the Squaxin Island Tribe’s Little Creek Events Center. All of the posts will be under this category. You can also follow the social media hashtag (on Facebook or Twitter) #S42014 for even more discussion.

You can find the list of speakers at the symposium here.

Squaxin Island Tribe, land trust, turning golf course into habitat

Bayshore on Oakland Bay. Photo by the state Department of Ecology.

Bayshore on Oakland Bay. Photo by the state Department of Ecology.

The Capital Land Trust and the Squaxin Island Tribe are working to bring back salmon habitat and protect an important shellfish growing area by restoring a former golf course on Oakland Bay. The land trust recently purchased the 74-acre Bayshore Golf Course, which includes the mouth of Johns Creek and over a thousand feet of Oakland Bay shoreline.

The tribe and the land trust will remove a 1,400 foot dike, restoring the Johns Creek estuary and important marine shoreline. “Taking the dike out will provide salmon with additional acres of saltwater marsh to use as they migrate out to the ocean,” said Jeff Dickison, assistant natural resources director for the tribe..

Eventually, the golf course fairways will also be replanted with native vegetation, restoring a streamside forest that helps provide habitat to salmon.

Preventing development around the bay also protects the most productive shellfish growing area in the state.

The former golf course sits on a peninsula jutting into Oakland Bay that is made up of mostly gravelly glacial outwash. “If the golf course had been sold to developers, the porous nature of the gravel underneath the golf course couldn’t have protected shellfish beds from being polluted by septic tanks,” Dickison said.

The mouth of Johns Creek was the site of one of the largest longhouses and Squaxin villages. “We have always thought of this place as special,” said Andy Whitener, natural resources director for the tribe. “Our people lived there for thousands of years, subsisting on the fish, shellfish and wildlife that was always available.”

The state Department of Ecology also helped the land trust buy the surface water rights associated with the golf course. “Johns Creek doesn’t have enough water to support a weak run of summer chum,” said Scott Stelzner, salmon biologist for the tribe. “By securing this water right, we can balance against increased water appropriations throughout the Johns Creek watershed.

The restoration of the old golf course is part of a larger effort to protect and restore Oakland Bay. The tribe, the land trust and other local partners have protected hundreds of acres of habitat and improved water quality throughout the bay.

“It is important to make sure we protect places like Oakland Bay, before they turn the corner and can’t be saved,” Dickison said. Currently, Oakland Bay is relatively undeveloped, but that could easily change in the next few years.

“The decline of salmon and shellfish directly impacts our culture, economy and our treaty reserved rights,” Whitener said. “Making sure Oakland Bay is healthy is one of the most important things we can do to protect our way of life.”

Legislative funding kick-starts Deschutes Watershed Center

With over $7 million in state funding, the Deschutes Watershed Center in Tumwater will finally start taking shape in the coming years.

The watershed center will be a fully functional salmon hatchery operated by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. It will enhance existing state hatchery operations at Tumwater Falls Park. The project will also entail a new facility at upstream Pioneer Park and will create new opportunities for community involvement.

“We want to make this much more than a salmon hatchery,” said Andy Whitener, natural resources director for the Squaxin Island Tribe. As natural resources co-managers, the tribe has been working closely with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and other local partners for 10 years to fund the project.

In addition to a new rearing facility, the watershed center will also educate the local community about salmon. “There is a real opportunity here for this facility to be a showpiece our region’s hatchery system,” said Jeff Dickison, assistant natural resources director for the tribe.

Read more about the Deschutes Watershed Center here.

“The watershed project will provide needed trail connections from the new hatchery facility at Pioneer Park to the Deschutes Falls fish ladder and beyond. People would be able to visit the hatchery and then walk all the way to saltwater,” Tumwater Mayor Pete Kmet stated. “This should help people understand the life cycle of the salmon and the importance of the Deschutes watershed as a whole in contributing to their survival.”

Most of the funding provided by the legislature will go to renovate the existing facilities at Tumwater Falls. The remaining $1.3 million will go towards preparing the Pioneer Park site. This work will include building a water delivery system, expanding trails and installing educational signs.

“These funds won’t finish out the project, but this will certainly get us down the road quite a bit,” Dickison said.

Currently, all of the fish released at the Deschutes hatchery are raised in several other facilities around Puget Sound. By keeping all aspects of the hatchery in one facility, chances of spreading fish diseases decrease and salmon survival increases. Even though the number of fish raised and released won’t increase from around 3.8 million annually, the number of chinook returning every year will.

“The current program on the Deschutes is piecemeal,” Dickison said. “There isn’t enough room to rear the fish that will eventually be released. To have a successful program, everything from spawning to rearing and release needs to be in the same place.”

More than 30 percent of the fish produced at the Deschutes hatchery are caught in sport fisheries in Puget Sound. These anglers catch the largest portion of any fishery targeting Deschutes chinook. “These chinook are vital to a lot of fisheries because they’re caught everywhere from Alaska to Budd Inlet,” Whitener said. “They also provide the backbone for our own chinook fisheries.”


For more information, contact: Jeff Dickison, Assistant Natural Resources Director, Squaxin Island Tribe, (360) 432-3815. Heidi Behrends Cerniwey, Communications & Marketing Specialist
City of Tumwater, (360) 754-4128,

Capitol Lake is the cause of low dissolved oxygen in Budd Inlet

Budd Inlet has a dissolved oxygen problem. In short, there isn’t enough oxygen in the water near Olympia to support healthy marine life.

And, the primary reason for this dramatic drop in oxygen is Capitol Lake.

Recent findings released by the state Department of Ecology point out that even if all of the other problems that cause low oxygen went away (other than the lake), most of the problems in Budd Inlet would still exist.

Low dissolved oxygen is important because fish and other marine life need enough oxygen to live. Capitol Lake is shallow, stagnant and fills each summer with algae, so the water flowing out of it is extremely low in dissolved oxygen.

Some people have argued that the real problems we face in deep South Sound have don’t have anything to do with Capitol Lake. But, as the results from Ecology show, even if we moved the LOTT treatment outfall to Priest Point or Boston Harbor, implemented advanced treatment at waste water treatment plants and reduced all other influences on dissolved oxygen, Capitol Lake is still the biggest problem.

These maps shows all of the parts of southern Budd Inlet that violate water quality standards. Each colored area (from blue to red) indicates by how much water quality standards are violated. These maps were presented at the most recent meeting of the Deschutes watershed TMDL advisory committee.

This is current conditions, with the lake in place and a host of other issues:

Current day

This is the map if everything else was cleaned up and just the lake remains:

Lower Budd just the lake

And, this is the map if the lake was removed and the rest of the problems were taken care of:

Current condition no dam

Clearly what happens when you try to clean up the rest of the issues and just leave the dam is that the dissolved oxygen problem remains. You’ll still have some issues if you do nothing else and take the dam out, but Capitol Lake is clearly the leading cause of low dissolved oxygen in Budd Inlet.

About the Deschutes Watershed Center

Detail of Pioneer Park conceptual site plan from Master Plan for the Deschutes Watershed Center, 2002.

The proposed budget recently released by the state House of Representatives includes $7.3 million towards renovating the current Deschutes River hatchery in Tumwater and creating the Deschutes Watershed Center.

This new facility on the Deschutes River in Tuwater wouldn’t replace the current hatchery at the waterfall park in Tumwater, but would supplement it. The current program on the Deschutes is piecemeal. There isn’t enough room to rear the fish that will eventually be released. To have a successful program, everything from spawning to rearing and release, needs to be in the same place.

By keeping all aspects of the hatchery in one facility, chances of spreading fish diseases decrease and chances of salmon survival increases. Even though the number of fish raised and released won’t increase from around 3.8 million annually, the number of chinook returning every year will due to better survival.

The Deschutes River incubation and rearing facility will enhance existing operations at Tumwater Falls Park and create a new facility at upstream Pioneer Park, improving water quality and creating new opportunities for community involvement.

Detail of Tumwater Falls Park conceptual site plan from Master Plan for the Deschutes Watershed Center, 2002.

New Facilities Overview

Tumwater Falls Park
• Adult collection and holding facilities (enhanced)
• Egg collection facilities (enhanced)
• Fingerling rearing program (enhanced)
• Visitor facilities (enhanced)
• Effluent treatment facilities (new)
• River pump station (enhanced)

Pioneer Park
• Incubation
• Fry/fingerling rearing program
• Salmon yearling program
• Recreational fishing program
• Educational/community use facilities
• Integrate with other Deschutes River watershed activities
• Deschutes River trailhead

The Deschutes River hatchery by the numbers

  • Each year, 3.8 million chinook are released.
  • More than 30 percent of the fish produced at the Deschutes hatchery are caught in sport fisheries in Puget Sound. A majority of the fish caught by sport fishermen are caught in Puget Sound between Everett and Tacoma.
  • More than 10,000 people visit the hatchery every month.
  • Harvest of Deschutes hatchery chinook produces $720,000 of economic activity each year.

Click image for larger version