South Sound Science: Curtis Tanner and question time

Curtis Tanner of Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration Project provided closing comments.  “My job is to summarize everything and rally the troops.”  Curtis provided a summary of today’s speakers, telling of lessons that he will take away, uplifting solutions, and many questions to consider. 

Sampling of questions:

This was in a panel format, and for the most part I was unable to tell who was speaking, so responses have been consolidated.  I also was unable to include all the questions and responses.

How should or could ports be involved in crafting solutions for South Sound restoration? 

There is the potential; Port of Seattle rephrased its objectives to include environmental priorities.  Shipping is related to the port’s activities, so they need to have a role, eg. oil spills.  Ports/shipping uses a lot of energy, so they are ripe for activity on this front. 

Ports are a peculiar agency under state law.  They need to reflect the public interest, but also they are an economic development agency and grow jobs.  There is constant tension between these two roles. 

Pete Swensson:  It is difficult to determine how much of our economy is due to the port.  The Port of Olympia is fairly small in the Pacific Northwest economy (especially compared to Port of Tacoma).

What’s the best way to balance monitoring  and research?

We often get asked what is the most important: monitoring, research, outreach, or restoration?  The answer: “Yes!” 

Betsy Peabody:  The question of ocean acifidication cannot be answered in a couple of years.  This is an area where we need to act even in the face of uncertainty.  We’re facing upwellings of water containing CO2 from 50 years ago.

To deal with climate change and sustainability issues, we need to make long-term predictions and modeling.  Monitoring can provoke process.  We monitor all the time without thinking about it, eg. census and land use.

Where do you see the role of education?

Citizen involved and engagement is a very important driver to getting stuff done.

On the individual level, we have the freedom to act quickly without restraints.  For example, water conservation.

Linda Hofstad:  Community engagement was essential to our project.  One-by-one we got people to do something.

Regulation vs. market-based system of change (incentives):

Linda Hofstad:  Having the Henderson Inlet program regulatory is eessential.  people are more willing to do the work if the rules apply to everyone  To level the playing field you need some regulation there, and then use incentives to make it easy and painless for residents.

to consider: If you have $2 million a year fo rthe next 10 years, how would you spend it in the South Puget Sound?

What should we advocate for?

  • good science
  • science education
  • energy and water conservation
  • linking actions to consequences
  • active accounting
  • teach people is it easy to act; our resources are finite
  • less sprawl, more compact development
  • more collaboration
  • talking with people who don’t already know science and these problems

South Sound Science: Linda Hofstad

Linda Hofstad, Thurston County, on “Improvement in Henderson Inlet water quality/shellfish harvest status”:

All was going well until State Department of Health started looking at water quality data, and closures and downgrades resulted.

2001 Shellfish Protection District formed, and in 2003 grant dollars became available to develop septic program.

Keys: 1) process;

2) risk-based approach (low risk systems inspected every 3 years, high risk: inspections plus dye test every 6 years);

3) incentives and asssitance (riser rebates, low interest loans, homeowner workshops, and grants)

Many people with septic systems repaired theirs before the inspection/tests.  The #1 neglected maintenance issue was pumping septic tanks.

Stormwater is also a key priority.

What made it happen?  willd, hardwork, cooperation

Who made it happen?  watershed residents, homeowners, farmers, cities, county staff, state agencies

South Sound Science: Paul Cereghino

Paul Cereghino, NOAA Restoration Center, on “Assessment of human/natural ecosystems for nearshore protection and restoration planning”:

Nearshore systems are physically dynamic.  Critical processes operate at large scales.  The best strategy is based upon the whole situation (social, economic, ecological).

Aims: Plan at the scale of physical systems.  Support quest for USACE Construction General.  Facilitiate regional project comparisons. Identifying high value sites without projects.  Begin integrating protection and restoration.

We want to invest in projects that will deliver in terms of ecosystem benefits/services to Puget Sound.

PSNERP data site is Landform-Based Framework:  river deltas (Nisqually and Deschutes); Coastal Inlets; Barrier Embayments, and beaches (1/3 of all Puget Sound)

As degradation increases, the risk of a threshold change of state, cost, and opportunities for regaining lost services increase as the reliability of restoration decreases.  Degradation differs according to landscapes, and varies in character.

As a site becomes larger, the more complex, quantity, diversity, and/or resilience of ecosystem services increases.

The best strategy might change according to where you fall along the two gradients of potential and degradation.

“Strategy loves opportunity”

South Sound has a shallow mosaic of inlets and embayments, with the shortest beaches in the Puget Sound.  A high percentage of South Sound watershed flows into inlet sites compared to Sound-wide.

South Sound Science: Larry Phillips

Larry Phillips, Department of Fish and Wildlife, on “Season movements and associated management implications for coastal cutthroat trout in South Puget Sound”:

Presented observational data from multi-year, multi-agency study

Coastal Cutthroat trout is an important sport fish species that historically supported a large harvest fishery, and overharvest resulted in declines (anecdotal).

In 1997 the Natural Marine Fisheries service petitioned to list cutthroat trout under Endangered Species Act.  Determined it wasn’t in danger, but this was based on little data.

Stock Status challenges: “Coastal cutthroat trout don’t follow the rules,” and a general lack of data

In 2006 WDFW began surveying South Puget Sound streams to create methods to detect changes in relative abundance.

Fish were tagged with acoustic tags.  There was low post-tagging mortality, and high post-spawning mortality.  None of the tagged fish went outside study area.   

Conclusions include: “Index surveys may be useful at detecting changes in relative abundance over time.”  “Goldsborough and Mill Creek could be important spawning locations in South Puget Sound.”

And then a couple questions for David Beauchamp, regarding stratification of the coastal ocean and the effects of copper.  Recent research has shown that copper hampers coho salmon’s ability to detect predators.

South Sound Science: David Beauchamp

David Beauchamp, University of Washington, on “Pelagic Food Web Ecology in Puget Sound: Implications for Marine Growth & Survival of Chinook Salmon”:

We need to consider the next life stage for chinook and the processes involved.

Smolt to adult survival is highly correlated with body weight in July, suggesting this weight represents ‘critical size’.  Offshore growth in May to July is a ‘critical period’ for determining survival.

Possible factors affecting growth and survival: feeding rate; food availability (data limitations); temperature; competition (within species, among salmon, forage fish); predation

Total ocean survival is tightly linked to early offshore marine growth.  Offshore feeding was significantly higher during years of high survival. 

Chinook must feed at a high rate (>60% max) to grow and minimize size-selective mortality.

Conclusions:  Feeding rate is more important than temperature.  Temperature effects are minimal, but non-linear.  Variable feeding rate suggests food limitation, data on needed on their prey.  Competition by herring more important than competition between hatchery and wild chinook and other salmon.

South Sound Science: Wendy Brown

Wendy Brown, Invasive Species Council, RCO, on “Invasive mudsnails in Capitol Lake”:

New Zealand mud snail found in October 2009: “perfect invader”, tiny, parthenogenic, fast reproducing, dense, tolerant of moderate salinty levels

Impacts: consumes large quantities of primary production; out-competes natives; not a good source of food for fish, as they pass through undigested, restricted recreational opportunities, costs to aquaculture and [elsewhere] municipal water control facilities

Spread by: fish hatcheries; recreational watercraft and trailers; anglers and hunters; sand and gravel mining, dredging; commercial shipping; pets, fish and wildlife; natural resource management activities.

Response work group formed in November 09, consisting of FW state and federal; general administration; DoE; DNR; Olympia; Invasive Species Council

Response: 1)  close Capitol Lake; 2) lake level lowered in response to freezing temperatures (90% mortality rate); 3) saltwater back flush (12% mortality rate, negative but temporary impact on resident benthic invertebrates)

For more information:

A couple questions and answers:

What would the impact of a estuary conversion have on the New Zealand mud snail?

A littl irrelevant, because we don’t have the time.

Could opening up the lake to an estuary lead to a great spread?


South Sound Science: Betsy Peabody

Betsy Peabody, Puget Sound Restoration Fund, on “Ocean acidification monitoring in Totten Inlet”

Partners: NOAA PMEL, UW, Pacific Shellfish Institute, PS Restoration Fund, Pacific Coast Sehllfish Growers Association; Taylor Shellfish, Baywater, Inc.; Department of Ecology; funded by Puget Sound Partnership

Warning signs were repeated larval mortalities in WA and OR shellfish hatcheries and shellfish failures in Willapa Bay/Grays Harbor.

These were part of larger problem of ocean acifidication.  25% of human-emitted CO2 is absorbed by oceans leading to a decrease in pH (an increase in acidity), which affects ocean life.

Coastal upwelling brings deep water in the North Pacific, which  contains more CO2 than the rest of the world, to the surface.

More CO2 in the water leads to a decrease in aragonite, which is required by shelled organisms.

Question studied: Is there an effect on natural shellfish populations in Puget Sound?

Study:  A two year sampling effort of Big Cover, Totten Inlet and Dabob Bay, Hood Canal, which are both important shellfish places.

Increasing acidity could affect shellfish production, and their role in natural filtration, ecological services, and ecosystem restoration.  The non-scientist would notice fewer local food sources, increasing eutrophic waters, and troubled economies.

Thus far, no sign yet that natural shellfish populations are affected.

“Knowing about potential local effects increases the urgency to reduced CO2 emissions.”

South Sound Science: Alan Hamlet

Alan Hamlet, member of Climate Impacts Group at University of Washington, on “Flow regime change forecast for Nisqually/Deschutes Rivers & Chambers Creek”

Showed graphs with historic climate change and projected change.

Two different scenarios based on different reductions in greenhouse gas emissions show vastly different results, but only after a couple of decades. 

Columbia Basin Climate Change Scenarios Project goals and objectives: provide a wide range of products to address multiple stakeholder needs, increase spatial and temporal resolution, provide a large ensemble of climate scenarios to assess uncertains, and address hydrologic extremes

Studied changes to runoff and frequency extreme events for the Nisqually watershed.  Also the increase of sediment discharge at teh Nisqually headwaters in Mt. Rainier Nationa Park due to glacier melting.

Question for future research:  How will sea level rise  and sediment change affect Nisqually delta? 

South Sound Science: Curtis Hinman

Curtis Hinman, WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center, on “Flow Control and Water Quality Treatment Performance of a Residential Low Impact Development Pilot Project in Western Washington”:

LID will become the first approach to dealing with water quality issues.

Pilot Project: Meadow on the Hylebos (35 home community): partnership between local government (Pierce County), designer, owners, and developer

Goals: mimic native hydrologic function (for Hylebos Creek) and provide “an affordable and livable neighborhood” 

Monitoring Objectives:  how well the project matches flood-control standards, effectiveness of LID techniques, stormwater runoff quality, and provide accurate scientific data

LID features (‘LID light’): bioretention swales along roads, pervious concrete, compost amended soils and sloped biodentention

For 0.3 ha sub-basin, project exceeded design objectives and met forested duration standard.  Also exceeded objectives at Hybelos Creek.  Water quality results from 2 storms:  metals were below detection threshold.

If largest planned bioretention area was functional, modeling shows this would have met forested duration standard at Point of Compliance.

“The LID applications appear to be robust.”

South Sound Science: Laurie Pierce

Laurie Pierce, Operations and Facilities Director at LOTT Alliance on “The evolution of wastewater treatment at the LOTT Clean Water Alliance”:

Main treatment facility is in the heart of Olympia, and discharges into the Budd Inlet.  A portion of the discharge (up to one million gallons) is reclaimed for reuse.

She explained the history of treatment facilities to accomodate new laws, population, and for better water quality.

Satellite treatment plants:  Lacey (Hawk’s Prairie), then Tumwater, and then the Chambers Prairie area in order to accomodate growth.

Showed current permit limits for total inorganic nitrogen and BOD according to season, and loading-based limits.  These are “some of the most stringent in country.”

Plan extends to 2053.

LOTT Alliance’s focus on education

A couple of questions and answers:

How are you dealing with emerging chemicals of concern?

We have a long retention time, which according to EPA is good for these contaminents of concern.

Rate structure and history of?

We began in incremental increase about five years ago, $1.50 a year.  We don’t foresee huge adjustments.