Monday, May 23, 2016

Second vessel runs aground at Ocean Shores

No spill, but 300,000 pounds of caught fish at risk

By Dave Bennett, Communications, @ecySW

Fishing Vessel crew is safe and still aboard the Jamie Marie.
No oil has spilled but the 300,000 pound catch is in question.
UPDATE: May 24 8:43 a.m.
Two tugs safely towed the JAMIE MARIE from the beach during high tide early Tuesday morning. The fishing vessel kept its catch and no spills or releases to the environment occurred.

May 23
The US Coast Guard and Ecology are responding to the fishing vessel (F/V) JAMIE MARIE, which ran aground at about 1 a.m. this morning at Ocean Shores.  The 80-foot vessel is reported to have 4,000 gallons of diesel fuel and 60 gallons of lubrication oil on board. It is upright not taking on any water. 

The crew is safe and no oil has been spilled, but as much as 300,000 pounds of Pacific Whiting fish may have to be off-loaded into a vehicle or dumped in order to remove the boat. Pacific Whiting are processed into a variety of seasoned, breaded and battered fish portions and fish fingers and sold into both foodservice and retail outlets around the world.

The crew of the JAMIE MARIE has elected to stay on board to maintain the catch and ready the vessel to be refloated beginning at the 3:30 p.m. high tide. A tug is in place to pull the vessel from the beach during the next high tide at around 2:30 a.m. tomorrow morning just in case the refloat plan fails.

If the vessel cannot be refloated enough to power up and move out to sea, some or all of the fish may have to be removed. A plan is being developed to recover as much of that fish as possible.

Ecology is gathering information to assess potential concerns and impacts of dead fish on the beach.  

Fishing vessel Jamie Marie has run aground at
 Ocean Shores near the previously grounded Privateer.
The vessel’s location is about one-quarter of a mile north of the F/V PRIVATEER, which ran aground just north of the North Jetty on April 15, 2016.  

For updates follow Ecology SW - Dave on Twitter

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Fecal Matters: No contact advisory issued for Elliot Bay Trail beach, Seattle, King County

BEACH Program Update

On May 22, 2016 Seattle Public Utility posted a no contact advisory for the Elliot Bay Trail beach near Pier 91 in King County.  The no contact advisory was issued due to a sewage spill near Pier 91.  The public is advised to avoid contact with the water in this area until water sample results show bacteria levels are not harmful.  

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 Facebook, checking beach status on Coastal Atlas, or joining our listserv. Debby Sargeant is the BEACH Program Manager and is available at for questions.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Tacoma Smelter Plume: Public meetings focus on next phase of sampling, soil replacement work

Contractors meet with staff to review plans for soil replacement 
on a residential yard.
By Jill Reitz, Environmental Planner, Toxics Cleanup Program 

This summer, Ecology will continue a multi-year project to replace soil on yards contaminated decades ago by pollution from an old copper smelter in Ruston. This year, we will dig up, remove and replace soil at about 80 north Tacoma yards.

The former Asarco Company smelter released air pollution for almost 100 years, which settled on the surface soil over more than 1,000 square miles in Pierce, King and Thurston Counties. Arsenic, lead and other heavy metals are still in the soil in the area now known as the Tacoma Smelter Plume.

Three upcoming meetings will focus on yard sampling and replacement, cleanup at parks and childcare facilities, technical assistance, and continuing outreach and education in the Tacoma Smelter Plume.

Public Meetings

Please visit or call the Tacoma Smelter Plume project line at (360) 407-7688, press 2.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Is Puget Sound healthy? Join us May 10 to find out!

By: Jessie Payne, Environmental Assessment communications manager

A big question has been on everyone's mind lately: 

Is Puget Sound healthy? 

This may seem like a simple question, but talk to our scientists, and you'll hear that the answer can be quite complicated. The answer depends on the situation and what aspect of health you're interested in. 

Today in Ecology's podcast, we sit down with our Scientific Environmental Modeling Engineer Mindy Roberts to discuss this question and learn about a talk she'll give tomorrow evening in Tacoma for the Pacific Science Center Science Café. 

Join Mindy at the Science Café event

Describing the health of Puget Sound is as complicated as describing your own personal health. At the Science Cafe, Mindy will dive into some of the latest water quality findings and discuss ways that everyone can help improve the health of Puget Sound.

Join Mindy in Tacoma to learn about some of the latest science we have on Puget Sound. Bring friends who want to understand the different ways we measure it's health.

Pacific Science Center
Tacoma Science Café
“Is Puget Sound Healthy?”
Tuesday, May 10 at 6:30 p.m.
The Swiss Restaurant & Pub
1904 Jefferson Avenue, Tacoma

Science Cafés are open to all ages. No science background is required, and no question is too basic. Learn more about the Pacific Science Center Science Café event.

Puget Sound science at Ecology

Scientists at Ecology collect, research, and provide credible data to guide our agency's environmental choices for Washington. They work to help us track our environmental health, and to ensure the actions we've taken are working. Learn about our Puget Sound science.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Eyes Over Puget Sound: How's the water? And what's under it??

Click to view the May report here

Our marine monitoring team goes out several times a month to check the pulse of Puget Sound and Washington's coastal bays. Once a month, we bring you Eyes over Puget Sound. Because of their work, it's common for them to get the question:

How's the water quality in Puget Sound?

This seems like a simple question, but it can mean many different things. When you wonder about water quality in Puget Sound, what are you really interested in? Is it safe to go swimming? How will El Niño impact our water? Is it safe to harvest shellfish? Should I be worried about about pollution and toxins?

Visit the field impressions section of this month's Eyes Over Puget Sound report to learn answers to these questions and dive deeper into the discussion.

But really, how's the water?

May 2016 Eyes Over Puget Sound
Scroll through to see images from the flight, or
follow the link to Flickr to view the entire album.
Water temperatures are still higher than normal and groups of jellyfish are already going strong in southern inlets. Normally, we don't start seeing jellyfish "smacks," or schools of jellyfish, popping up around Puget Sound until later in the season. After last year's Year of the Jellyfish and observing populations holding steady throughout winter, we expect another summer full of jellies.

Our sunny and dry spring means air temperatures are higher than usual for this time of year. We're seeing these temps 7 °F warmer than typical in the mountains, which means the snowpack we built over the winter is quickly disappearing. Our rivers that are fed by snow-melt are running very high.

How does warm weather affect water quality in Puget Sound? 

Sunny weather means lots of growth! We observed a strong spring phytoplankton bloom extend across Puget Sound and through the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This high growth of plankton, algae and plant matter was evident across the Sound in large floating mats of organic debris.

Often, this material ends up on our beaches looking like strange waves of seaweed and muck. Sometimes, these mats of plants begin to decompose on beaches and cause a stinky mess.

What's underwater? A Sand Star!

This month, our Eyes Under Puget Sound taxonomists have featured a familiar creature for the Critter of the Month: The Sand Star. Did you know the Sand Star can move up to nine feet per minute?

Learn more in our field impressions section of the report. Read about marine sediment animals monthly by following our Critter of the Month blog series.

What's Eyes Over Puget Sound?

Eyes Over Puget Sound combines high-resolution photo observations with satellite images, ferry data from travel between Seattle and Victoria BC, and measurements from our moored instruments. We use a seaplane to travel between our monitoring stations because they are so far apart. Once a month, we take photos of Puget Sound water conditions and turn those out, along with data from our stations, in the monthly Eyes Over Puget Sound report.

View the draft review – proposed coal export terminal near Kelso studied for environmental impacts

It’s been almost a week since we released a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Millennium Bulk Terminals – Longview coal export terminal under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) with Cowlitz County. And given that it’s the last of four coal export terminals proposed in recent years that is still moving forward, we expect an unprecedented amount of interest.

What we studied

We evaluated potential environmental impacts during construction and operation of the proposed facility. Some of the considerations included air, water and soil, noise, vehicle delays, rail traffic, coal dust and greenhouse gas pollution. (Visit the project website for a full list of the areas studied and factsheets).

Where the study found significant potential impacts

We found several significant impacts. Proposed mitigation may lessen the impacts for some, but the study identifies that if mitigation is not done, some impacts would be significant and unavoidable:
  • Rail line segments in Washington would be unable to meet the capacity demands 
  • Increased noise along the rail line in Cowlitz County would impact the local, low income and minority neighborhood
  • Rush-hour delays and backups in the industrial area of Longview would worsen
  • Greenhouse gas emissions would affect climate change; climate change is impacting Washington

And where the study did NOT find significant impacts

Some findings may surprise you:
  • Coal dust from the facility and trains would not exceed state or federal air pollution standards
  • Additional  vessels would not exceed the capacity of Columbia River traffic system
  • Stormwater would be managed and re-used on site and treated before discharging into the Columbia
  • Groundwater – including the City of Longview’s water supply next to the site – would not be significantly affected

It’s not a vote – all comments matter

Comments on the draft study will be accepted until June 13 and can be submitted online, via U.S. mail or at public hearings.

Comments should provide feedback on the studies and analyses in the environmental review. The draft report is not a decisional document and won’t determine if the project is approved or not. Instead, the environmental review is an informational tool for those issuing permits to refer to.
For more information, visit

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Eyes Under Puget Sound: Critter of the Month – The Sand Star

By: Dany Burgess & Angela Eagleston, Environmental Assessment Program

A familiar face

If you’ve ever been to an aquarium or explored a tide pool, then this Critter of the Month is no stranger to you! Luidia foliolata, also known as the Sand Star, is one of many sea star species commonly found in Puget Sound.

Luidia foliolata. Photo courtesy of Neil McDaniel.

The need for speed

L. foliolata is dull in color but makes up for its drabness in other exciting ways. It is one of the fastest sea stars in the world, traveling at speeds of over nine feet per minute! Impressive when you consider that the speed of a typical sea star is only about six inches per minute.

Like all sea stars, the underside (oral side) of the Sand Star’s arms contain thousands of tube feet, called podia, that move together to take it wherever it needs to go. However, L. foliolata’s specialized tube feet take locomotion to the next level, allowing it to obtain remarkable speeds.

Rather than the typical suction cup-like discs that most other sea stars have at the end of their tube feet, L. foliolata uses what is called a duo-gland adhesive system in its tube feet. First, it secretes a glue-like adhesive so that it can pull itself forward, then it secretes a de-adhesive so it can pick up its feet and take the next “step”.

Close-up of tube feet. Photo courtesy of Neil McDaniel.

Use it or lose it

LEFT: L. foliolata with part of one arm missing. By Jennifer Vanderhoof.
Photo courtesy of King County Marine Monitoring Program.
RIGHT: L. foliolata with regenerating tip arm.
L. foliolata can get fairly large--up to 30 cm in diameter--with five tapered arms or rays bordered by small white spines. It's not uncommon to see Sand Stars with missing limbs, or with one or more arms that are much shorter than the others.

These tiny limbs are actually brand new arms, replacing ones that were shed as a defense mechanism when the sea star was stressed or disturbed. This process is called regeneration, and it can be used to grow back multiple arms at once as long as the sea star’s central disc is not damaged and it can still eat.

Tube feet and spines surround the central mouth on the
underside of the Sand Star.

Armed and dangerous

The Sand Star is predatory in nature and uses its tube feet to bury itself in the sediment, eating whatever gets in its path during the excavation process. Unfortunately for the Sand Star, it is limited to the size of prey it can eat based on whatever fits into its tiny mouth.

Unlike other sea stars that can expel their stomachs and digest large prey items outside of their bodies, L. foliolata has to ingest its prey. It typically consumes little sea cucumbers, small clams, brittle stars and marine worms.

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.