Blog Posts

WCD announces new DNA research project to ID bacteria sources

No we will not attempt explaining DNA analysis in a short DNA Analysis: More Than Risk Reduction, It's About Optimal Health!blog post!
But here’s the short story… This year-long project will test whether the DNA of bacteria in our waterways can be used to accurately identify sources of pollution, including fecal bacteria – which we know is of central interest to us, the Laurel WID and all our partners in the Whatcom Clean Water Program. As water quality in the Nooksack basin gradually improves, it is getting harder to find and eliminate those few sources that still keep the Portage Bay shellfish beds conditionally closed. If new tools like this can help we will all be celebrating!

Image result for dna analysis imagesRecent state funding has enabled an expansion of work on this idea that began locally, which we and others have been following for a year or so. Many folks have high hopes and expectations for this promising technology, for good reason; the possibilities are tantalizing! But there are also many uncertainties, so managing expectations is important too. This is a great example of the local research by WCD and others; let’s get started! For more details, see the full press release here: WCD press release – DNA project (pdf document)


Watershed focus: our T1 sample site – in flood

T1 focus

We have ten sites we sample regularly for fecal coliform as part of Whatcom County’s monthly monitoring program. The one labeled ‘T1’ is just upstream of where Ten Mile Creek flows into the Nooksack – specifically, at the Barrett Road bridge. Data from this site indicate the overall water quality for the Tenmile watershed. Other major tributaries, like Bertrand & Fishtrap creeks, also have sample sites at their mouth, which all help provide a summary view of the lower Nooksack watershed quality.

Because T1 is so close to the river, in an area with little slope, it floods when the river rises – as it has this week. After recent steady rains, this photo from Friday (11/2), looking north across the bridge, clearly demonstrates the ‘close’ relationship between river & creek. With water actually flowing up-stream from the Nooksack, there is no use in collecting this day’s water sample, since it would duplicate the County’s separate sample drawn just up-river.
Thanks to our usual man on the scene for the un-usual scenic blue-sky view!T1 sample site

Guest speaker at our Nov. 14 Members Meeting: Dr. Sandra Matheson

Save the date! We are pleased to have Sandra coming to our next meeting to talk about her family’s local beef operation, Matheson Farms. We will have announcements in local media and hope to have a good turnout. Don’t miss it!
See location information here and contact us if you have any questions.sandra_event5 postcard
Sandra is a life-long farmer, educator, filmmaker, author, speaker, active grandmother and retired veterinarian. She is also an Accredited Consultant/Field Professional in Holistic Management and a certified consensus facilitator. She serves as the president of Roots of Resilience and Managing Change Northwest; has co-authored the book The Art and Science of Success; and is a co-founder and past president of the North Cascade Meat Producer’s Cooperative.

Septic awareness – on Facebook!

Here’s another TCWP member benefit: FB news without messing with Facebook!
The septic awareness crew at County public works has been upping their ‘outreach’ game, using social media to encourage septic system owners to keep up to date with maintenance. Last month they ran a series of posts with clever, attention-grabbing tag lines – see below for a couple examples (here are the links shown: septic info; and rebate program.)

Reportedly, these have been working – not so much because people love the county’s FB page; mostly it’s because of how news spreads once it gets re-posted a few times. So, do your part – either with FB, or with reliable original technology: spread the word in the neighborhood!

Portage Bay: [mostly] good news

On Wednesday last week there was a joint meeting of the county’s Portage Bay and Drayton Harbor shellfish advisory committees. In 2+ hours they covered lots of territory, but here are some highlights of particular interest:
* Vacancies! You can see the member list below, and the 4 empty chairs stand out pretty clearly. Do you have an interest yourself? (or a nomination?!!) Let us know.
* The ‘Fall Strategy‘ is led by the Whatcom Clean Water Program, which we support with our work. This has been mentioned in our meetings, and we’ll be talking more about it. The 8-page document represents a coordinated effort to avoid typical seasonal spikes in fecal counts in the Nooksack watershed by focusing attention among all stakeholders.
* PB closures: there is still hope for a spring opening for Portage Bay; WA Dept of Health should have a decision before December. There was obvious disappointment in the room that Health will not be doing extra fall sampling, which could yield helpful data to support a fall opening in 2019; stay tuned….
* ‘First Flush‘ sample results on the river included some puzzling & alarming numbers, particularly in mainstem upper reaches, emphasizing the need for seasonal precautions. More sampling will continue….
* Hurray! Tenmile creek now meets both water quality standards, according to the county’s comprehensive monthly reporting for October (pdf.) We have ‘known’ this for a while, but now it’s official! Credit to everyone doing the little things that make a difference.
* Save the Date:  for more cheers – at the annual Drayton Harbor shellfish celebration, Dec 14 at 4pm on the waterfront in Blaine. Dress warmly!


Chickadee: a lesson in the value of water

A member living near Ten Mile creek describes a recent wildlife encounter:

Black-capped Chickadee Adult

“Weeks before the rains came back, a chickadee made it clear that I had not been keeping a 5 gallon bucket adequately full of water. The cedar this chickadee lives in, with many others, also shelters trees I had healed-in for later planting. I was using the bucket to help maintain humidity.

The chickadee arrived as soon as I did, landed on the lip of the bucket, then loudly and repeatedly announced that the water level was too low for easy access, while alternately dipping and glaring at me. I filled the bucket and have kept it full ever since. I have not been lectured again.”

Image credit: © Scott Martin | Macaulay Library
Massachusetts, February 03, 2017

Did you know? – Tenmile on social media!

No, we’re not using Facebook; or Instagram; or Twitter (gosh, no). But from our friends we are getting help trying to reach Tenmile residents on, where there are 653 residents in three NextDoor neighborhood groups that overlap our watershed. Here is an example, a post last week that promotes an upcoming WCD event highlighting assistance for farm operations preparing for ‘mud season’. Spread the word!

Farm Grant Opportunities: Oct 18

Farm operators small & large, commercial or not, can attend this free event sponsored by Whatcom Conservation District and Cloud Mountain Farm Center. On Oct 18 they will have folks from multiple organizations with information and practical assistance, at Bellewood Acres right here in our watershed. Note that RSVP is encouraged but not required.

“This event is organized to help local farmers gain an understanding of what grant opportunities are available and what funders are looking for. Get all your questions answered in face-to-face interactions…”

Ten Mile history: a watershed profile, c. 2005

We are very gradually making our way through boxes of material reflecting the history of citizen & agency activity to improve water quality in the Tenmile area, over the last 20+ years. Eventually, we will be posting relevant parts of it on our website on a dedicated page. For now, you can see teasers on this page, including today’s example, with an image shown below. This is a one-page fact sheet produced by the local entity responsible for our state-designated Watershed Resource Inventory Area (‘WRIA 1’); it is likely from activity around year 2005. While that dates it a bit, much of the information (aside from population?!) is likely still pretty accurate. What do you think?Portrait of a Watershed - Ten Mile WRIA1 circa 2005-page-001