Opportunity strikes! Next water sample day: Tuesday, Dec 10th.

We can always use help with our water quality sampling. We have one intrepid volunteer who is reliably on duty, but assistance would be appreciated. If you are interested: 1) see a short description here; and/or 2) contact us here. Stream flows are picking up as the ground becomes saturated – and it won’t be [quite] as cold next week! – so come on out and get a different view of the neighborhood.

Four Mile Creek
Four Mile Creek

New: summary data results summary for Tenmile

As counterbalance to our last blog post showing our concerning results for November, the County has provided their November report (see here) that summarizes data for the metrics actually used for comparison to water quality standards – this is the ultimate measure for a long term look as well as trends. By this test, we are still meeting both standards! This is continuing good news, which also includes a cautionary reminder.

The Geometric Mean is the easier standard to meet as it is a long term average. As the chart makes clear, all of our sample stations not only meet the standard, but are improving – exactly what we want to see!geomean 11-2018
The 90th Percentile is the second, tougher standard because it counts peak results; so if a site frequently ‘spikes‘ high, it can easily exceed the standard. In this case, site T1 at the mouth shows the creek is [barely] meeting the standard (which is really what counts) but multiple individual sites are struggling – and these are the same ones we saw spiking-high during recent rain events, as shown in our special samples (see last blog post.) So the lesson is clear: even brief events that create exceedances can hurt our long term progress. Vigilance is always needed!90th Percent 11-2018

November lab results: updated!

This is an update on data reported at our Nov 14 membership meeting:
During this month our project has collected 21 special samples, in addition to the 10 we regularly collect as part of the County PIC program. With these samples we were hoping to learn more about a trend that is often seen when fall rains arrive: harmful ‘spikes’ in fecal bacteria counts in streams and the Nooksack River. With lab results generally improving during other periods, this year the county and partners created a Fall Strategy to focus attention on prevention, in hopes of minimizing the historical impact. Unfortunately, our results, as well as those reported from collection sites in many other areas, seem to repeat that autumn trend – but we’ll keep working on it! This chart shows lab results & rainfall amounts; scroll down for some explanatory notes.TCWP lab results Nov 2018 v2-1
Notes: color code corresponds to relative impact on the standards shown; Marine results are from samples collected by WA State Health and must meet standards for shellfish consumption, which are more stringent than general standards shown here; the undisclosed ‘high’ result on 11/14 is being investigated further.
County’s Tenmile summary for the same period is available here.

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