Thursday, August 25, 2016

McCleary’s first shoreline master plan proposal ready for public input

The first of anything only happens once. So, here’s your chance to get in on the ground floor and comment on the first Shoreline Master Plan proposal for the City of McCleary. Public comments are open now through Sept. 26, 2016. The proposal addresses uses and development on Wildcat Pond and a small segment of the shorelands associated with Mox Chehalis Creek. If approved, the proposal would meet the requirements of the Shoreline Management Act and the Shoreline Master Program Guidelines. 

What’s a Shoreline Master Program?

Shoreline Master Programs are local plans developed by cities and counties to manage shoreline use. These local programs protect natural resources for future generations, provide for public access to public waters and shores and plan for shoreline uses and development.

City of McCleary’s shoreline plan

McCleary’s new shoreline program establishes vegetative buffers to accommodate existing development, reflects the city’s underlying zoning, and references a restoration plan that identifies potential projects for future restoration efforts. To schedule a time to read paper copies of the proposal, contact the City of McCleary or Ecology Regional Planner Kim Van Zwalenburg at the address below.

All comments should be sent to Kim Van Zwalenburg. There are four ways to do it:

By email:             kim.vanzwalenburg@ecy.wa.gov

By mail:                Southwest Regional Office
                              PO Box 47775
                              Olympia, WA 98504-7600

In person:            300 Desmond Drive
                              Lacey, WA 98503

By phone:            360-407-6520

Ecology must receive comments no later than 5 p.m. on Sept. 26, 2016.

Comment summaries and the city’s response will be posted to the City of McCleary Shoreline Master Program page on Ecology’s website.

By: Dave Bennett, Southwest Region communications manager


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Fecal Matters: Cline Spit County Park CLOSED to Swimming, Clallam County

BEACH Program Update


On August 23, 2016, Clallam County Health and Human Services issued a "No Water Contact" health advisory for Cline Spit County Park. The closure was issued due to high fecal bacteria levels in the water. The health department will be re-sampling the water next week. The public is advised to avoid any contact with the water until further notice.

Contact with fecal contaminated waters can result in gastroenteritis, skin rashes, upper respiratory infections, and other illnesses. Children and the elderly may be more vulnerable to waterborne illnesses.

Stay updated about water quality at your beaches by keeping up with us on our blog Fecal Matters, on Facebook, or join our listserv.

Julianne Ruffner, is available at 360-407-6154 or julianne.ruffner@ecy.wa.gov for questions.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Eyes Under Puget Sound: Critter of the Month – The Pea Crabs

Eat your peas

Imagine yourself in a nice restaurant with a delicious-looking batch of steamed oysters in front of you. You insert your knife, pop open the shell, and right before you devour your prize, you discover that your oyster has a tiny crab as a houseguest!

Male Fabia subquadrata, a species of pea crab found in Puget Sound

These little stowaways are called pea crabs, so named because many of them are small (most are less than a cm wide) and round. In the southeastern US, pea crabs are a common sight inside oysters, even considered by some to be a delicacy. This is a sight you won’t often see on the west coast, although plenty of pea crabs are found here. Scientists hypothesize that cold water temperatures or the way shellfish are grown on the west coast might play a role in controlling the number of oysters inhabited by crabs.

Hostess with the mostest

Pinnixa schmitti, the most common Puget Sound pea crab
The pea crabs of the Pacific Northwest have a wide range of hosts – each species has one (or several) favorite organisms that it prefers to shack up with, and they aren’t just bivalves. Mating pairs of Pinnixa tubicola, for example, are often found in the tubes of certain species of polychaetes (marine segmented worms).

The most common Puget Sound pea crab, Pinnixa schmitti, likes to hang out in the burrows of ghost shrimp and echiurans (spoon worms), where it feeds on detritus and leftovers from its host. Many pea crabs can also filter feed if needed, but why pass up a free meal?

Two (or more) peas in a pod

Scleroplax granulata, another Puget Sound species, also chooses ghost shrimp as one of its hosts. Up to six crabs can squeeze into a single ghost shrimp burrow but the crab usually prefers just its host as a roommate. It can also move from burrow to burrow if it finds that the accommodations are better elsewhere. S. granulata may play host to its own freeloading organism as well - a bryozoan (tiny colonial invertebrate) that grows on its shell or lives inside its gill cavity.


Wearing out your welcome

These types of relationships are symbiotic, or an association between two organisms. In the case of pea crabs, many of them are not well understood. In most cases, the symbiosis seems to be commensal; that is, one animal (the crab) benefits from the shelter and food provided by its host, and the host is not affected one way or another by the crab’s tenancy.

Fabia subquadrata inside the mussel Mytilus sp.
Photo courtesy of Aaron Baldwin,
Alaska Department of Fish and Game
In some cases, however, it appears that pea crabs do have a harmful effect on their hosts in a form of unintentional parasitism. Fabia subquadrata, the grooved mussel crab, lives the majority of its life inside a mussel or other bivalve, only leaving its host to find a mate. The female then re-enters the host and produces an egg mass that is almost the size of her body.

Over time, the presence of this sharp-clawed foreign object is thought to erode the gills of the mussel. Eventually the crab larvae will hatch out, each finding a mussel of its own to squat in.

Rule of thumb

The chelipeds of Pinnixa schmitti (left) and P. occidentalis (right)
 have a different shape that helps taxonomists distinguish the two species.
Identifying pea crabs can be tricky because they are so small, and they often don’t have a lot of distinct features to examine. Some of the more reliable characters that taxonomists use to determine the species are the shape of the carapace (shell), the size of the walking legs, and the shape and dentition of the chelipeds (claws).

For example, Pinnixa schmitti has a cheliped with a straight fixed “finger” while the similar-looking P. occidentalis has a finger that is deflexed in a sort of permanent “thumbs down.”

P. schmitti male (top) and female (bottom).
Arrows indicate the abdomen, which can be used to
differentiate between the sexes.

Peas and love

Telling male and female crabs apart may seem like an impossible task when they are so tiny, but there is an easy trick that applies to many crab species. If you turn a crab over and look at the bottom side, you will see where its abdomen wraps around under its carapace. The female crab has a wide, rounded abdomen, because she uses it to carry her egg mass. Males have a much narrower abdomen.

Critter of the Month

Our benthic taxonomists, Dany and Angela, share their discoveries by bringing us a Benthic Critter of the Month. Dany and Angela are scientists who work for the Marine Sediment Monitoring Program. These posts will give you a peek into the life of Puget Sound’s least-known inhabitants.

In each issue we will highlight one of the Sound’s many fascinating invertebrates. We’ll share details on identification, habitat, life history, and the role this critter plays in the sediment community. Can't get enough benthos? See photos from our Eyes Under Puget Sound collection on Flickr. Look for the Critter of the Month on our blog.


By: Dany Burgess & Angela Eagleston, Environmental Assessment Program

Ecology Youth Corps get it done!

Litter season ends with a landfill tour, celebration

Ecology Youth Corps across Washington wrapped up their season this week, including crews from Central Washington that worked from the top of Snoqualmie Pass to Highway 14 along the Columbia River.

It was a productive summer, with youth crews across the state picking up more than a million pounds of litter on state roadways. The crews sort out the recyclables, then send the rest to a landfill.

Youth ended their season with a visit to the Terrace Heights Landfill
"This is the first job for many of these kids," said longtime regional EYC supervisor Rod Hankinson. "These kids are tough - this isn't an easy job.
 
"I tell them this is the kind of work that helps them throughout their life, it teaches them to respect the environment and what they can do about it. It sets them up to receive recommendations to college from their supervisors, and if they work for me for two years - they'll get a recommendation from me."

What did they find on the roadways? Alongside the cigarette butts, fast-food paper waste, cups, cans and bottles you would expect, each year brings surprises. One girl found a "ninja star," another found baby clothes. Pocket knives and phones are common finds. In the Seattle area, an EYC crew came across a World War I-era rifle (which was passed on to police). Larger debris, like boards, car parts and furniture is also hauled away.

The central region crews ended their season with a tour of the Terrace Heights Landfill in Yakima County, where they learned about recycling and reusing household hazardous wastes like paint, batteries and household cleaning products. They watched yard waste being chipped and turned into valuable compost. They tested the temperatures of various yard waste piles to check on the progress of the composting process. They learned the life of the landfill was coming to an end -- all the more reason for recyclable products to find a new life as a new product in new markets.
 
To end their summer tour, the EYC crews left the landfill for a picnic of pizza in the park. Needless to say, after they finished eating, they picked up their trash and left the park spotless. Check out the crew's Flickr set
 
Want to know where you can recycle moderate risk waste in your community?
http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/swfa/mrw/mrw_contacts.html#local

Story and photos by Joye Redfield-Wilder, Central Regional Communications Manager



Ecology Youth Corp Crews from Ellensburg to Goldendale celebrate the end of the 2016 litter pickup season
 

Fecal Matters: Freeland County Park CLOSED to Swimming, Island County

BEACH Program Update


On August 19, 2016, Island County Public Health issued a "No Contact" health advisory for Freeland County Park. The closure was issued due to high fecal bacteria levels in the water. The public is advised to avoid any contact with the water until further notice.

Contact with fecal contaminated waters can result in gastroenteritis, skin rashes, upper respiratory infections, and other illnesses. Children and the elderly may be more vulnerable to waterborne illnesses.

Stay updated about water quality at your beaches by keeping up with us on our blog Fecal Matters, on Facebook, or join our listserv.

Debby Sargeant, our BEACH Program Manager, is available at 360-407-6139 or debby.sargeant@ecy.wa.gov for questions.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Proposed amendments of University Place shoreline plan ready for public input

University Place’s proposed update to its Shoreline Master Program is ready for public comment now through Sept. 1, 2016. The proposed amendment provides consistency with the Growth Management Act’s mandate that local governments use the best available science in their critical areas ordinances. This type of amendment is not unusual.

What’s a Shoreline Master Program?

Shoreline Master Programs are local plans developed by cities and counties to manage shoreline use. These local programs protect natural resources for future generations, provide for public access to public waters and shores, and plan for shoreline uses and development.


University Place’s shoreline plan

University Place’s new amendments are related to wetland buffers and mitigation, as well as geological hazardous areas and their associated buffers. 

To schedule a time to read paper copies of the proposal, contact the City of University Place, or contact Ecology Regional Planner Michelle McConnell at the address below.

All comments should be sent to Michelle McConnell. There are four ways to do it:
By email:             michelle.mcconnell@ecy.wa.gov

By mail:               Southwest Regional Office
                             PO Box 47775
                             Olympia, WA 98504-7600

In person:            300 Desmond Drive
                              Lacey, WA 98503

By phone:            360-407-6349


Ecology must receive comments no later than 5 p.m. Sept. 1, 2016.

Comment summaries and the city’s response will be posted to the University Place Shoreline Master Program page on Ecology’s website.


By: Dave Bennett, Southwest Region communications manager

Friday, August 12, 2016

Water quality declining in Whatcom County – but work is underway


Water quality is the topic of many conversations in Whatcom County these days. And sometimes the conversations aren’t easy.

We live in a beautiful region of the state where we prize our views and waterways. It might surprise you that many of the waterways flowing through our communities are in trouble. Many tributaries and streams have high levels of fecal coliform bacteria, an indicator that disease-causing organisms are present. In fact, 80 percent of the sites that we monitor are failing to meet bacteria water quality standards.

Water contaminated with fecal coliform can make people sick. It’s a serious public health issue. It also threatens an important shellfish industry.

Last Friday, the Washington Department of Health announced restrictions on another 300 acres of Lummi Nation’s Portage Bay shellfish growing area—the second reclassification in two years. That means, for six months of the year, about 800 acres of the tribe’s treaty-protected shellfish growing area are off-limits to harvest. Their culture and way of life are impacted, and incomes threatened, as a food source becomes scarcer.


What are the sources of pollution?


Preventable sources of fecal coliform bacteria pollution include human and animal waste (poop!) from failing septic systems, pets, and livestock. Small sources might seem inconsequential, but it all adds up.


Working together to reverse the trend


We’ve been partnering with the community to develop an effective response to this growing concern. Formed in 2012, the Whatcom Clean Water Program is working with residents to identify and address fecal bacteria sources and prevent pollution. The group includes representatives from local, state, tribal and federal agencies. Each partner plays an important role:
       

We meet regularly to coordinate work, address challenges and share progress.


Everybody can help 


Individuals are the key to making progress. We can pick up our pet waste, manage manure on our properties, and keep our septic systems in working order. 

You can keep informed of current water quality. And if you're curious to know if your property is contributing, you can join a citizen monitoring program


Image courtesy of Whatcom Conservation District

Additional helpful tips are available on the Washington Waters Ours to Protect webpages.


Next time


Small successes add up: Learn how one family spruced up their farm to protect a nearby creek


By Krista Kenner, Communications Manager, NWRO-Bellingham Field Office