Is the Hood Canal Floating Bridge Causing The Problems in Hood Canal?

In 2010 I worked on a video for the Puget Sound Partnership called, “Voices of the Strait”. In that video I interviewed old timers from all over the Peninsula, and asked them about their experiences and changes in the environment. Off camera, I happened to meet one old fisherman, a man who had fished here for his whole life, and was in his 80s. We got to talking over coffee about the Hood Canal problems, and he had an interesting thing to tell me.

“It’s my opinion,” he said, “that ever since the Hood Canal Floating Bridge went in, we have seen a collapse of fish stocks and water quality down there. None of this ever seemed to be a problem before that. I bet the bridge is the cause of it all.”

I remember that conversation clearly, but didn’t ask him to be on camera, because it was, as we say, more of a hypothesis than a proof. You could insert many other hypothesis’ and be just as likely to be right, given a lack of data.

Now, it appears the old timer may have been correct in his observations. At a meeting of restoration recovery organizations held in Port Townsend, Scott Brewer, the head of the Hood Canal Coordinating Council, stood up and validated what the old timer had said. Brewer said that preliminary research  has shown, especially with steelhead, that the bridge might be stopping the fish from moving out to sea. Radio tagged fry have been seen swimming up to the bridge and are unable to figure out how to get around it. They appear to pool against the bridge, which is 30 feet deep, and get picked off by seals or sea lions.  The fry tend to stay on the surface layer of the water, so are stymied by the blockage. Additionally, the bridge may be affecting tidal water exchange.

This poses an interesting problem. Obviously, if accurate, short term fixes might look something like fish ladders or perhaps some kind of underwater fence that could direct the fish towards one end or the other. But longer term, if the bridge is the problem, the question of replacing the bridge will have to be raised. The health of an entire ecosystem might be at stake.

While all this is preliminary and speculative, we’ll keep an eye on this issue and report back as we get more data. But it’s worth remembering that most of the major and minor fundamental scientific advancements, up to the 20th century, were usually amateur local scientists, relying on observation, and hypothesis based on that knowledge of local systems from living there. It’s well worth keeping an open mind to even the oddest possible root causes. The notion that we can throw down a bridge and  have it not affect the body of water it lies on is  something that most bridge planners probably never anticipated. And the findings also point out that the revolution in miniaturization of computer and GPS tracking, will have profound effects on our ability to better understand natural processes.

Beaches appear clean after Bangor naval base spill of oil, water mixture; shellfish harvest still suspended – PDN

I go on vacation for a few days and the Navy screws up Hood Canal…..I  wonder why they didn’t put boom in place around an active fuel transfer, which I believe is the law. Or is it? Also, interesting to note from the earlier story, listed at the bottom, that the Navy dismissed first reports from Washington State Ecology people, that the spill was much larger than they wanted to admit. This is distressing in that the Navy is likely to be very much a lead entity in larger spills that they might cause.

Officials with the Navy, the state Department of Ecology, the Coast Guard and Jefferson County Public Health continued Thursday to monitor the possible effects on wildlife of a 2,000-gallon spill earlier this week of an oil and water mixture at Bangor naval base.  “We haven’t yet seen any oil attached to birds or beaches,” said Lisa Copeland, Ecology spills manager. “But we are watching the situation very carefully and are most concerned with the spill’s effect on wildlife and the environment.” After the spill, the state Department of Health issued a shellfish advisory for Hood Canal from Brown Point on the Toandos Peninsula to the Hood Canal Bridge. Charlie Bermant reports.

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Earlier report of the oil spill:

The Navy is blaming a failed pump for its spill of nearly 2,000 gallons of oily wastewater into Puget Sound.

Tom Danaher, spokesman for Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, said the Navy was using a pumping system on one of its piers to remove oily bilge water from a ship late Monday.


Judge rejects suit to halt dock addition at Trident base – Seattle Times

As this points out, what the military wants from an area once it is in, is pretty hard to stop. The expansion of the militarization of Puget Sound and Hood Canal continues. This expansion of the Trident base is in addition to the designation, without any feedback from our local politicians at either the city of Port Townsend or County Commissioners, of the entire area around Admiralty Inlet as a ‘training area’ for low flying helicopters and other Navy needs. Add to that the expansion of the Navy air base on Whidby Island, and the scene is set for us to have no way of effectively stopping more jet noise, low overflights by helicopters at all hours of day and night and greatly increased ship traffic. Let alone the understandable secrecy that the Navy brings to it’s efforts, so that even when we suspect something, like the incredible destruction of the shoreline well documented (and apologized for) by the Navy in Hood Canal a few years back, by one of it’s ships, we have to prove it before they even discuss it with us.

A federal judge in Tacoma has dismissed a lawsuit seeking to halt construction of a nuclear-missile handling wharf at Naval Base Kitsap Bangor, clearing the way for the contested $650 million Pentagon project to proceed.

Kyung M. Song reports.

Hood Canal Divers Proud of Giant Pacific Octopus Habitat – Kitsap Sun

Good short piece in the Kitsap Sun yesterday by Tristan Baurick, on the Giant Pacific Octopus, the recent furor and ban due to one diver who killed one, and information on their locations on the Hood Canal (where their capture is banned).

Given that the Sun refuses to allow any reproduction of their articles in any form, and they have put up a pay wall, you’ll just have to go find it on your own. I’m not going to be supporting their actions by even reproducing one word of their content, nor am I going to be supporting having anyone find the links easier than I have to. The Sun should understand that those of us blogging out here are supporting them by advertising their work for free, and funneling viewers to their site. We have a unique set of readers, and are focusing our efforts on locale. We don’t compete for their advertising and even if we did, it’s doubtful we would eat into their paying customers, since ours is so much smaller than theirs. If they feel that any use of the content is prohibited, then they will have to forego our efforts.  I take the same attitude towards the Port Townsend Leader, which I subscribe to.  Newspapers continue to be almost clueless in how to drive online viewership. I fully understand the need to make a profit on their work, but limiting the reproduction of even leads (the first sentence or paragraph) is a recipe for failure.

Will Hood Canal experience a fish kill this year? – Chris Dunagan

Chris Dunagan blogs: Are we about to see one of the infamous fish kills that we have observed in Southern Hood Canal in past years? I am unable to sound any alarms at this time, but if you live in the Hoodsport-Potlatch area or are scuba diving nearby, you might want to watch for dead fish on the surface, rockfish or shrimp swimming in shallow water, or wolf eels and octopuses acting strangely.

Tracking the Progress of the Puget Sound Partnership – The Kitsap Sun

The Kitsap Sun’s Christopher Dunagan starts a multipart series in looking at the indicators of the health of the Sound as seen by the Puget Sound Partnership. Check it out. Great work by Chris.

Cavier day on Hood Canal

Apparently Researcher Tessa Francis got to witness a herring spawn, a good reminder why this basic food of much of our larger predators like salmon, is critical to protection efforts.

A caviar day on Hood Canal
Submitted by jeffrice on Mon, 2013-03-18 17:16
Puget Sound Institute research scientist Tessa Francis reports a “lion country safari” on Hood Canal today. Thousands of spawning herring churned the otherwise calm waters of the canal, and brought the wildlife out in force.

Halibut and Ling Cod fishing season set.

Season will open in May. Hood Canal and South Puget Sound being closed to help protect the rockfish population, which could be argued is similarly threatened in the Strait, but for some reason the State scientists felt that the populations there are healthy enough to support more by catch.

We hope all you fishermen will stick to one Halibut a day, and report your catch. Your reporting helps make the science better, and ultimately leads to you being able to your grandchildren being able to fish. Given the current trend, that’s seriously in doubt.

Be aware that the Seattle Times is preparing to put a pay wall into affect. Soon you may have to subscribe to get any content from them. I recommend that anyone that appreciates getting substantial local news subscribe to their local papers. Us bloggers don’t get paid to go out and gather the news. The newspapers do, if ever so poorly since the Internet has hobbled their profit model.

Puget Sound getting ready for halibut seasons similar to last year’s
The Seattle Times

Halibut fishing will be closed in Hood Canal (Area 12) as well as
south-central and southern Puget Sound (Areas 11 and 13) to protect
endangered rockfish …

Bangor construction not affected by budget crisis?

While those in the middle and bottom of society are going to be the ones most affected by the budget crisis in Washington, the militarization, and urbanization of Hood Canal continues unabated. I’m not saying this is right or wrong, at least not here and now, but what it is, is the continued growth of urban like efforts in the last semi-natural fjord in the lower 48.

One military expense that’s not discussed in budget talks is construction of a $715 million dollar explosives handling wharf at the Navy’s Bangor Nuclear Submarine Base. The base occupies five miles of shoreline on the northern edge of Hood Canal, Puget Sound’s western arm. It manages the third largest collection of nuclear warheads in the country. A National Environmental Policy Act lawsuit was filed against the Navy last summer. Legal wrangling kept the case on hold. But last week the 9th Circuit said its first responsibility was to resolve issues raised by the suit and the case would move forward. Martha Baskin reports.

A Multi-Million Dollar Military Expense Not in ‘Budget Talk’: Construction of a 2nd Explosives Handling Wharf at Bangor Nuclear Submarine Base 20 Miles from Seattle

DNR Undersea Mapping Discovers Rockfish Habitat

Undersea mapping efforts by Washington State Fish and Wildlife found less than they thought for geology, but did manage to find some new rockfish habitat, along with other species. This data appears to be useful in future rockfish assessments. Rockfish are key species needing protection, as they are not a migratory species, and take a long time to reproduce.

Specifically, they got video documentation of several species of rockfish from an underwater location not easily accessible. WDFW marine fish scientists also gained valuable insight into the spatial distribution and habitat use by rockfish in Hood Canal that will be used to design future rockfish assessment surveys. Also observed were burrowing anemone (Pachycerianthus fimbriatus), white sea whips (Osteocella septentrionalis), marine worms, ratfish (Hydrolagus colliei), and several species of flatfish.

Long-time director of Belfair salmon center leaves legacy of education – Kitsap Sun

We continue to see the changing of the guard in the Northwest. As many of you know, there is no sure thing that these organizations will survive beyond their founders, as witnessed by the rapid end of People For Puget Sound after Kathy Fletcher’s retirement. We wish Neil Werner a wonderful retirement, and all the best to Ted Smith who takes over. The Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group has accomplished a lot over their 17 years under Neil.

“Working at the helm of the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group for the past 17 years has not been unlike raising a family, says Neil Werner.”

Read more:

Some beaches open for shellfish – PDN

Ok to do some shellfish harvesting.

Port Townsend Bay, Oak Bay, Admiralty Inlet and North Hood Canal have reopened for recreational shellfishing. Levels of the marine biotoxin that causes Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning, or PSP, are now below the recreational closure level for these four areas, the Jefferson County Public Health announced Friday. Other beaches in Jefferson County — and all beaches in Clallam County — remain closed because of marine biotoxin levels or pollution. Kilisut Harbor, including Mystery Bay, remains closed to butter clams only.

Read the rest of the story at:

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Hood Canal restoration sought for $6.9 million in Navy funding – Kitsap Sun

Chris Dunagan brings home the reality of the almost $7M in restoration projects that Norm Dicks and the Navy have traded out to allow work to be done on the sub base in Hood Canal.

Does anybody have an old dock he would like to sell? Does the dock happen to be located anywhere near the Navy’s submarine base at Bangor? Under a new mitigation program, the Hood Canal Coordinating Council will use $6.9 million from the Navy to compensate for habitat damage caused by the Navy’s $715-million explosives handling wharf, now under construction at Bangor. Besides removing old docks, projects under consideration include the removal of shoreline fill, creosote pilings and bulkheads located in tidal areas.

Chris Dunagan reports.

Review of science lets people off the hook for Hood Canal fish kills – Seattle Times

The difference between this piece and Chris Dunagan’s piece yesterday, is that this points out more issues about the septic issues. As someone who lobbied in Olympia to put the monitoring and upgrading of septic systems in place to protect against the fish kills, the *lack of definitive science studies on this issue* was the reason we were pushing to get something done immediately by making sure the septic systems weren’t root cause. As mentioned in the article below, the fish kills of the last decade were unprecedented, regardless if the Oxygen levels have been shown to be bad in the past. Now that we have the data, we can tune the regulations to match the science. It proves, once again, that while science is expensive, making assumptions based on best guesses is also expensive, and ultimately angers the voting public. There are not a lot of extensive long term studies on the Sound. The Puget Sound Partnership needs to get even more studies underway, to make sure that policy decisions are based on accurate underlying data, and not best guesses. We saw a similar situation happen because of a lack of studies of the beaches under geoduck farms. Environmental groups called for a go slow policy on geoduck farm licensing, because the data was lacking. Now that the data is in, it shows that the long term effects are not as serious as many believed. Whether the size of farms running over decades and thousands of acres can be destructive to an ecosystem is certainly a valid question, but the Sea Doc study seemed to show that concern for the beaches in smaller farms is not the issue that it once was. Or did I misread that study?

In case you missed Christopher Dunagan’s account yesterday of the Hood Canal study, here’s Craig Welch’s report: The most comprehensive review ever of existing research on Hood Canal has concluded that septic systems aren’t a leading cause of the massive fish kills that have hit the hooked fjord over the years.

Public can comment on Navy’s magnetic signature range proposal – Kitsap Sun

The militarization of the Hood Canal continues…no stopping the Navy when it wants something. Hope all you fishermen and sailors will be content to have yourselves harassed by Coast Guard vessels as you fish and sail the Canal in years to come. Speak now or forever hold your peace.

A draft environmental assessment of the Navy’s proposed Hood Canal electronic measurement ranging system has been published. It describes the proposed project, its purpose and need, and identifies alternatives to be analyzed. The range would measure the electromagnetic signature of the area’s submarines. Magnetic signatures can build up and be detected by planes and ships. The signatures must be reset occasionally at a magnetic silencing facility by exposing the boat to high electrical currents. Subs must now go to San Diego or Hawaii to be measured. The draft document can be viewed at Comments can be made until Sept. 28 at

Report: No conclusive blame of humans for canal oxygen levels – Kitsap Sun

Human sources of nitrogen no doubt contribute to low-oxygen problems in Southern Hood Canal, but federal and state officials say they will need more precise information before taking action under the Clean Water Act. Other actions to reduce pollution and nutrients in Hood Canal — some voluntary and some regulatory — remain under discussion by the Hood Canal Coordinating Council, which includes county and tribal officials. A new report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Washington Department of Ecology concludes that existing studies fail to show conclusively that nitrogen from septic systems, fertilizers and other human sources have caused Hood Canal’s oxygen levels to drop by 0.2 milligrams per liter — the threshold for legal enforcement. Chris Dunagan reports.

Hood Canal beaches reopen to recreational shellfish harvesting – PDN and others Hood Canal beaches reopen to recreational shellfish harvesting

Hood Canal from Seal Rock south to the Mason County line has reopened for recreational shellfishing. Levels of the marine biotoxin that causes diarrhetic shellfish poisoning — or DSP — are currently below the recreational closure level, according to the Jefferson County Public Health Department. Many of East Jefferson County beaches were closed in July because of elevated levels of DSP as well as the more potentially serious paralytic shellfish poisoning — or PSP. Many remain closed by the state Department of Health because of marine biotoxin levels, with PSP the primary biotoxin of concern.

Hood Canal Shellfish Closed Due To Vibrio – State of WA

If you have purchased or dug shellfish on Hood Canal in the last few days, you might want to consider this news.

Hood Canal 5 growing area is closed effective immediately because of a Vibrio parahaemolyticus-associated illness outbreak involving six unrelated people. According to the Model Ordinance Chapter II, when a
growing area is closed for naturally-occurring pathogens, a recall must be initiated; the recall will apply to all oyster product harvested on and after August 16, 2012. All growers in Hood Canal 5 will be
contacted telephonically with details. The growing area may be reopened when it is determined that the naturally-occurring pathogen is no longer a risk to public health. If you have any questions, please contact Richard G. Lillie, MPH State Standardization Officer at 360.236.3313 or via email, or Cari Franz-West at 360.236.3326. Questions about the recall may be addressed to Frank Cox at

‘Red tide’ closure for shellfish harvesting expands – Kitsap Sun

Marine biotoxins that cause paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP), also known as “red tide,” have been detected in high levels in shellfish samples from north Hood Canal. As a result, the Washington State Department of Health and the Kitsap Public Health District have closed recreational shellfish harvesting in north Hood Canal from Foulweather Bluff south to the Hood Canal bridge, including all bays and inlets, for all species of clams, oysters and mussels. An existing PSP closure for all species of shellfish remains in effect on the eastern shoreline of Kitsap County from Foulweather Bluff south to the Pierce County line.

New Shellfish Toxin discovered in Hood Canal

Chris Dunagan reports on DSP found in Central Hood Canal.

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