Speaker abstracts

Nisqually Community Forest: A New Strategy for Salmon Recovery

Joe Kane (Nisqually Land Trust)

Community forestry is a strategy for changing land management by “re-localizing” land ownership. Over the past fifteen years ownership of Pacific Northwest working forests has grown increasingly globalized, even as these forests continue to have enormous impacts on local concerns such as the health of rivers and wildlife habitat, forestry jobs, and tourism and recreation economies. A challenge many communities face is how best to integrate such concerns with the realities of the global marketplace. The goal of the Nisqually Community Forest is to address this challenge through market-based solutions, and in particular to explore new approaches to working forests as a strategy for recovery of threatened Chinook salmon and steelhead trout.

Active tectonics in South Puget Sound

Brian Sherrod (USGS and UW)

Landslides, Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Volcanic Eruptions: They all happen in Washington. Why? What does it cost? What can we do about it?

Tim Walsh (DNR)

FEMA defines a risk analysis as the combination of hazard identification and vulnerability assessments and answers three basic questions: 1) what hazard events can occur in the community? 2) what is the likelihood of these hazard events occurring? 3) what are the consequences if the hazard event occurs? The overall significance of these consequences in the community or region is called the risk assessment. I will describe the risks in Washington from earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, and volcanic eruptions, and show that the average annualized losses from these events probably far exceeds $300 million/year, excluding the costs of lives lost.

Sea level rise in Budd Inlet

Eric Christensen (City of Olympia)

The City of Olympia has long recognized its vulnerability to sea level rise. Much of downtown Olympia is built on low-lying land constructed of fill material. One foot of sea level rise could potentially inundate 163 acres of downtown Olympia. Four feet of sea level rise could inundate 368 acres. The City has used geographic information systems (GIS) including a high resolution elevation survey, tax parcel data, and infrastructure mapping to better understand its vulnerabilities. This presentation provides a depiction of vulnerable properties and infrastructure in downtown Olympia under a variety of sea level rise scenarios. It also depicts potential structural strategies for protecting Olympia’s downtown from 50 inches of sea level rise.

The impacts of armoring on Salish Sea shorelines

Jason Toft (School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington) and Megan Dethier (Friday Harbor Labs, University of Washington)

Shoreline armoring is widespread in the Salish Sea, but few data have documented actual impacts on physical or biological features of local nearshore ecosystems. Some impacts, such as ‘starving’ the beach of sediments, may take decades to become visible, while others such as ‘placement loss’ are immediate. We quantified a range of geophysical and biological parameters at 65 pairs of adjacent armored and unarmored beaches throughout the Salish Sea. Demonstrating differences attributable to armoring is challenging given the high natural variability among beaches. However, armoring consistently results in reductions in beach width, riparian vegetation, numbers of stranded logs, and amounts and types of beach wrack and the invertebrates that occupy it. For some parameters, such as accumulated logs, there is a distinct threshold in elevation of armoring that causes increased impacts. This large dataset for the first time allows us to identify cumulative impacts that appear when large proportions of drift cells are armored; at large spatial and temporal scales, armoring much of a drift cell results in reduction of the finer grain size fractions on beaches, including those used by spawning forage fish.

An updated groundwater model for regional planning – Chambers-Clover Creek Watershed, Pierce County

Wendy Welch and Andy Long (USGS)

In 2006 the USGS Washington Water Science Center, in cooperation with local partners and the Washington State Department of Ecology, began a project to characterize the groundwater-flow system in the Chambers-Clover Creek Watershed (CCCW) in Pierce County. A series of three reports were published from 2009 through 2011 documenting the monthly groundwater levels, streamflow measurements, hydrogeologic framework, water budget and numerical groundwater model. In 2009, Pierce Conservation District and local stakeholders requested the re-activation of selected wells in the monthly groundwater network to extend the period of record through 2014. In 2014 the group asked the USGS to establish and operate 5 non-permanent streamflow gages and update and refine the CCCW model to include the recently available data. Several model improvements are currently being implemented that will provide resource managers with the means to better evaluate potential impacts on groundwater and surface-water resources and more accurately delineate well head protection areas.

Ecological carrying capacity and the influence of shellfish culture in South Puget Sound

Bobbi Hudson (Pacific Shellfish Institute)

Ecological carrying capacity is the maximum extractive pressure that does not cause unacceptable change in the ecosystem. The Ecopath with Ecosim (EwE) modeling framework provides a way to visualize the biomass of a suite of species groups over time, using mortality rates or ‘production’ of species groups, food intake and diet composition.

Our EwE model simulates known historic changes for 1970-2012, and forecasts potential changes through 2054 for 12 key species of marine mammals, marine birds, salmon, game fish and bivalves. We selected 12 focal species groups to analyze in detail. Geoduck clam, Pacific oyster and Olympia oyster, adult Chinook salmon, adult Coho salmon, adult Chum salmon, rockfish, Pacific herring, sea lions, harbor seals, Great Blue heron, and marine birds were selected because we were interested in exploring the effect of population changes, and/or their populations would have consequences on fisheries or managed species.

Because assessment of regional carrying capacity could inform current and future management decisions, our EwE was performed in conjunction with a diverse stakeholder working group. Representatives included Puget Sound county planners, shellfish growers, and staff from state natural resource agencies, tribes and conservation non-governmental organizations. Stakeholder inclusion facilitated the best population/biomass data to be gathered, and ensured relevant scenarios were modeled.

The model we built is focused on several lower trophic level components of the food web. A key aspect of our approach is the unique application to multi-species shellfish aquaculture and harvest. Simulations forecast potential future ecosystem configurations under a variety of population changes and fishing and aquaculture management policies.

Analyses of the 1970 and 2012 mass balance models suggest that the rapid expansion of shellfish aquaculture would not likely have significantly influenced the biomasses of other species. Therefore it was not surprising that, in all our scenarios of future marine production, there were few trophic effects on the South Puget Sound ecosystem when maintaining or significantly increasing shellfish aquaculture production.

Steelhead smolt survival through Puget Sound

Megan Moore and Barry Berejikian (NOAA)

Puget Sound steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) were listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 2007. One major factor limiting recovery is likely the decline in marine survival rates (smolt-to-adult returns; SARs) over the last 25-30 years (Scott & Gill 2008; Ward 2000). Estimated survival rates for wild steelhead smolts during the two-week migration through Puget Sound were found to range from 6% to 25%, indicating that mortality during the migration through Puget Sound may be substantially affecting SARS and thus, population productivity. Observed patterns of rapid migration coupled with high mortality suggest predation as a likely mortality vector, as it acts quickly on a large number of migrating smolts. An acoustic telemetry study of harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) in Puget Sound in 2014 revealed substantial interaction between harbor seals and steelhead smolts, as well as several inferred steelhead predation events. Current work underway includes efforts to quantify a harbor seal predation rate on steelhead smolts in South Puget Sound using a combination of additional seal and steelhead telemetry and scat analysis. Determining the factors affecting steelhead survival, as well as the magnitude of the various factors, will help managers identify the most effective strategies for recovering Puget Sound steelhead populations.

Testing batch tagging methods on nearshore forage fish

Phill Dionne (DFW)

Surf Smelt and Sand Lance are forage fish that spawn in the intertidal region of beaches in Puget Sound. Due to their choice of spawning habitat and their importance to the health of the Puget Sound ecosystem, documenting the distribution of these fish and their habitat has been a priority. To this end, beach surveys have been conducted to identify where and when eggs are deposited since the 1970’s. In recent years we have increased these survey efforts and improved our sample processing methods, but we have also explored new approaches to study these critical species. One such approach we explored through a pilot study in south Puget Sound was an investigation of whether we could tag and release Surf Smelt and recapture them at a later date. This study included both a holding trial and a field trial. We will discuss this study, its results and potential implications.

LOTT’s Reclaimed Water Study: What we have learned so far about residual chemicals in our local waters

Wendy Steffensen (LOTT Clean Water Alliance) and Jeff Hansen (HDR)

This presentation will describe LOTT’s ongoing Reclaimed Water Infiltration Study, which is intended to answer the question: What are the risks from infiltrating reclaimed water into groundwater because of chemicals that may remain in the water from products people use every day, and what can be done to reduce those risks? The first part of the study, water quality characterization for wastewater, reclaimed water, groundwater, and surface water, has been completed. Results from this initial study task will be shared, and next steps of the study will be discussed.

New science documenting stormwater impacts to aquatic animals

Jen McIntyre (WSU Puyallup)

Dr. McIntyre will summarize the state-of-the-science on stormwater impacts to aquatic animals. New research on impacts to various species of Pacific salmon will be presented

Exploring drivers of fecal coliform pollution trends in South Puget Sound

Lindsey Hamilton (DOH)

Washington State is the leading producer of farmed shellfish in the United States, contributing 270 million dollars to the region’s economy and creating over 3,200 jobs. These filter feeders can absorb bacteria, viruses and other contaminants that are in the water. In poor conditions, contaminants can accumulate to the point where the shellfish are unsafe to eat. The Shellfish Growing Area Section (Office of Environmental Health and Safety) at Washington State Department of Health continually monitors and analyzes the potential health impact of over 100 commercial shellfish growing areas, across 300,000 acres of Washington marine waters. For over 25 years they have been collecting fecal coliform bacteria counts from about 1,700 stations between 6 and 12 times a year. Through collaboration with local government and non-government entities, continuous monitoring allows the department to ensure shellfish are safe to eat, and provide early warnings of water quality impairment. The Water Quality Restoration Program engages with external stakeholders and partners to develop and evaluate ongoing marine pollution identification and correction programs in areas where fluctuating fecal coliform bacteria counts put shellfish harvest beds at risk. Trend analysis is important for ongoing evaluation of program success and evaluating the impacts of changing environmental conditions. This presentation will highlight current efforts to analyze water quality data and develop long-term trends in the interest of identifying historic actions resulting in improving or declining marine water quality. It will discuss challenges in discerning accurate trends through variable water quality data and confounding environmental conditions. Lastly, it will report results and identified actions and activities that have had significant impacts on water quality in shellfish beds in South Puget Sound.

Nisqually Community Forest VELMA modeling

Bob McKane (EPA Corvallis), Bradley Barnhart, Jonathan Halama, Paul Pettus, Allen Brookes, Joseph Ebersole, Kevin Djang, Gregory Blair, Justin Hall, Joseph Kane, Paula Swedeen, Laurie Benson

We developed a set of modeling tools to support community-based forestry and salmon-recovery planning in Pacific Northwest watersheds. Here we describe how these tools are being applied to the Mashel River Watershed in collaboration with the Nisqually Community Forest (NCF) Advisory Group. The tools are designed to help inform restoration of hydrological and ecological processes critical to salmon recovery, and more broadly, to the functioning of entire watersheds and the ecosystem services they provide. Tools include a watershed simulator – VELMA (Visualizing Ecosystem Land Management Assessments) – to quantify long-term effects of alternative forest management and climate scenarios on key salmon habitat variables, including peak and low flows, in-stream wood, fine sediment in spawning beds, and riparian condition. Stream temperature will be simulated using Penumbra, a new stream shade and temperature model that is being integrated with VELMA. VELMA-Penumbra stream habitat outputs are being used to drive the EDT (Ecosystem Diagnosis and Treatment) fish habitat model to simulate habitat potential and salmon population responses to the forest management and climate scenarios. A 3-D visualization tool (VISTAS; Cushing et al. 2009) is being used to summarize and communicate model outcomes in an intuitive way. Training workshops are underway to transfer these tools to the NCF Advisory Group to assist with several goals:

  • Identification of sensitive habitats (e.g., cold water refuges) for prioritizing new NCF acquisitions.
  • Formulation of community-based best management practices that sustainably support forest-sector jobs, healthy fish and wildlife populations, recreation, tourism and cultural pursuits.
  • Development of long-term management strategies for mitigating and adapting to impacts of climate change. For example, where and what kinds of in-stream, riparian and upland restoration practices will be most effective in coming decades for improving cold water refuges, spawning and rearing habitat, and hydrologic flow regimes (higher summer flows and lower peak flows)?