This talk is being given by Sarah Hamman of the Center for Natural Lands Management.
I’m jumping in a little late to blog this talk, but here we go.
Prescribed fire is a very important tool to remove scotch broom and non-native grasses from South Sound prairies. They have over fifty trained fire fighters (fire setters) who work on prescribed burns. Over the past decade, they have learned how to use fire to its greatest benfits. From 50 acres in 2005 to over 2500 acres burned in the past year. A hot headfire removes scotch broom. A low intensity low severity burn increases bare ground and stimulates germination. Once they complete a fire, they put seed on the ground. They have been adapting farming and agricultural practices to try to get as many native species on the ground as possible. Each species takes a different strategy.
They have been able to greatly increase the poundage of native seed production over the past decade. Field germination rates of native species are typically less than 25%, many less than 10%. Very low germination rates, which one of the reasons why these species are struggling in the first place.
The checker spot butterfly is very picky about where it germinates. It needs golden paintbrush, Indian paintbrush, and plantain. That went by fast. I need to check the exact name of those three species.
Women from the Sustainable Prisons Project helped grow plants and tend to butterflies in studies of butterfly preference.
Understanding the most efficient effective strategies for each step of restoration will help restore prairies successfully in the Pacific Northwest.
Some important, unique partnerships have been key to forwarding prairie restoration here. Joint Base Lewis McCord, Department of Corrections, Universities… The list was so long, that I could not write it out.
Patterns of dissolved oxygen in South Sound:
At depth, oxygen levels follow seasonal patterns, and they are lowest at this time of year. Shallow inlet oxygen patterns are much more complex. Water stagnates during neap tides, and dissolved oxygen can be lower then.
Mindy Roberts does water quality modeling for Department of Ecology. She is sorting out human versus natural drivers on oxygen levels in South Sound, especially nitrogen sources. Marine sources are more influential than rivers. Examples of human influences are wastewater treatment, leaky septic systems, runoff developed areas… Ocean conditions are changing as well.
Our population will increase significantly in the future. South Puget sound is at the end of along conveyor belt of circulation in South Sound. It is very sensitive to increases in human pressures.
Every inlet of Puget Sound has a unique pattern of circulation and oxygen pattern, a unique response to changing conditions.
This is a long term modeling effort. Mindy and her colleagues are looking right now at how to reduce nutrient inputs that affect dissolved oxygen.
North Sound influences South Sound.
This photo is from the LOTT reclaimed water website. http://www.lottcleanwater.org/reclaimed.htm
The LOTT Clean Water Alliance in Olympia is at the intersection many serious water issues in our region.
- The Thurston County population continues to grow and therefore produce more wastewater.
- For the health of South Puget Sound, LOTT is limited in how much wastewater it can discharge to Budd Inlet.
- In order to avoid discharging treated wastewater into Budd Inlet, LOTT treats wastewater to almost drinkable quality (“Reclaimed Water”), and infiltrates it into the ground at a site up near Hawks Prairie.
- A growing population requires adequate sources of water for drinking and many other uses.
- Most basins in Thurston County are closed to new water rights, and some streamflows are low compared to historical levels.
- Groundwater is connected to surface water.
Once reclaimed water infiltrates into the Hawks Prairie site and to two other proposed new sites, it will move with groundwater and into the vicinity of drinking water wells. Reclaimed water will be treated as it moves underground, and it will eventually find its way to nearby streams and to the Deschutes River. This could be very beneficial for augmenting stream and river flows. However some residual chemicals may remain in reclaimed water. These chemicals would come from household products like medicines, shampoos, and cleaning products. Imagine you are a fish swimming in the Deschutes River. You could be swimming in the last traces of ibuprofen, Mr. Clean, and Dial soap left in LOTT’s reclaimed water. Imagine pouring water from your tap. Though drinkable, it could have the smallest trace of other people’s antibiotic prescriptions, bathroom cleaner, and Head and Shoulders. These chemicals may already be in groundwater and surface water, because thousands of septic tanks are in the ground in Thurston County. Septic tank waste is not nearly as thoroughly treated as reclaimed water, but it too will eventually connect to groundwater.
Reclaimed water could be a very good tool for water conservation, but it is a new tool in Thurston County. LOTT is currently planning a study to determine if residual chemicals remain in reclaimed water as it moves through groundwater and eventually to streams. You can find a link to the study plan at http://www.lottcleanwater.org/pdf/groundwater.pdf. As a representative of the Tribe, I sit on the science task force for the reclaimed water infiltration study. The role of the science task force and also a community advisory group and independent peer review team is to provide input on the planning and implementation of the study.
To support the tribe’s treaty reserved right to harvest, salmon need good spawning habitat and an adequate supply of clean water. In some streams, there is not enough water. LOTT’s reclaimed water may help increase flows, but the chemical content of that water when it reaches streams is unknown. Also unknown are the potential effects on animals and plants in the water and on humans. The results of this study will turn those unknowns into solid information and answers.