Watershed News – from outside the watershed

Image result for birds eye view"What can we learn from outside the Tenmile Creek watershed that will help us understand things closer to home? A ‘bird’s eye’ view, so to speak. Well there are no great revelations here, but it’s all informative nevertheless.

First, some good news!
Drayton Harbor shellfish harvest upgrade:

Effective Oct 22, a new area of 765 acres is approved for commercial shellfish harvest in Drayton Harbor! This brings the total to more than 1500 acres, after marine water sampling, extended over time, indicated sustained improvement.  The reclassification of the shellfish growing area reflects the Drayton Harbor watershed community’s commitment to finding & fixing preventable sources of human & animal bacteria pollution. So how we mark such important milestones?

Shellebration of course!

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Join the community and celebrate the three-year anniversary of reopened shellfish harvesting in Drayton Harbor:
Friday, Dec 13th, 4 to 6:00 p.m. at the H Street Plaza located in downtown Blaine, right next to Drayton Harbor Oysters – so stay and have some more!
This free event will include refreshments, oyster samples courtesy of the Drayton Harbor Oysters, and the presentation of community awards at 4:30 p.m.
We will be outdoors (!!) so be sure and bring all the layers you need!

Finally, a look at Nooksack River
water quality issues, watershed-wide.

This link displays the monthly E-news from Whatcom County PIC Program (Pollution, Identification & Correction). Our monthly water quality sampling is part of this program. You can register here to receive this monthly e-news by email.
Embedded in this month’s issue is a good water quality summary of the Portage Bay shellfish beds, a focus for the PIC Program and our work. E.g. this image:This map shows routinely-monitored sample points in the shellfish beds, which lie just south of the Nooksack River estuary, where fresh water flows into Bellingham Bay. Colored dots summarize fecal bacteria sample results for the fall period (Oct-Dec) for the last 5 years. Red indicates sample points that have exceeded the 90th-percentile water quality standard for human consumption of harvested shellfish. (This standard tracks the ‘spikes’ in high bacteria levels – different than the overall averages.) These high bacteria levels continue to keep Portage Bay beds closed to harvesting during the fall period – all of which explains the emphasis and extra scrutiny throughout the lowland Nooksack watershed during this time!
There is also a monthly data summary for the Nooksack basin,
which you can download here.

Speakers this week: Streamside Buffers, and Winter Mud Management

Both, brought to you by Footer_2Kpx.png

Wed, Nov 13th: at our Tenmile Clean Water Project meeting, 6:30-8pm, Bellewood Acres Farmstead & Brewery. TenmileCleanWaterProject_V7Program begins at 7pm, and will feature Aneka Sweeney, Whatcom Conservation District, who will present…
Streamside Buffers: How trees help our watershed.
Q&A will follow.

Mud Managment


Thu, Nov 14th: Farm Speaker Series: Winter Mud Management. 6-8pm at Everson Auction Market, 7291 Everson-Goshen Rd.

Mud happens. Are you knee deep? Whatcom CD can help! Join us for a free workshop to learn about resources available locally to help farmers prepare for the rainy season including rebates for barn gutters and heavy use area footing, pasture soil testing, tarps for manure piles, small farm grants, and more!
RSVP suggested: Katie Pencke, kpencke@whatcomcd.org or 360-526-2381 x105

Speaker program Nov 13, and photos from Tenmile work day

First, looking forward:

Our Tenmile Clean Water Project meeting is Nov 13, 6:30-8pm, at Bellewood Acres Farmstead & Brewery.

TenmileCleanWaterProject_V7The speaker program begins at 7pm, and will feature Aneka Sweeney, Whatcom Conservation District,
who will present…

Streamside Buffers: How trees help our watershed.
Q&A will follow.

And now, looking back
but still very relevant to our speaker’s subject!

IMG_1113One week ago on Oct 26th, as described earlier here, we joined with partners NSEA & WCD to plant trees along Tenmile Creek at the site of recent restoration work by Whatcom County. Just as with our earlier workday there in April, we had beautiful weather and a good turnout of volunteers.IMG_1110All together these folks learned more about this important part of their home county, enjoyed a fine mountain view from the Nooksack lowlands, and planted roughly 1,000 trees to help buffer the creek from pollutants, and cool its waters for salmon. It was a good high-five day!

October showers bring… more water quality concerns.

April showers bring May flowers’ …

Thus begins a familiar proverb. So, what do October showers bring? In the Nooksack lowlands, all too often our soaking rains act to flush contaminants off surface areas into the River and its tributaries, like Tenmile Creek. Typically, material from the ground, gutters, ditches, paved areas, animal lots, trees, etc gets washed into the creek. Here are some observations lately from our lower Tenmile watershed.

Our regular sample run in October occurred on the 22nd, coinciding with 2.5 inches of rain over 24 hours; and that came after 5 straight days of intermittent showers, which had the river gauge peaking later that day. Nooksack gage 10-22-19The result had our creek running fast, deep and muddy. Lab results for the day confirmed a pattern repeated across the county: many sites reporting excessive levels of fecal bacteria well above water quality standards. (See our other recent post about September results, here.)

Another notable condition that day is reported by our dauntless volunteer out there collecting samples… “An odd anomaly occurs when the Nooksack River reaches a certain level: lower Tenmile Creek flows upstream. This can be observed where the creek flows under the Barrett Road bridge.”
(seen here a previous year, similar conditions)T1 sample site“Upstream, east of the bridge, Barrett Lake lies below the river when it runs high, so during major rain events water flows into Barrett Lake from both the landscape upstream, and the river downstream.” In these conditions, the usual creek sample drawn at the bridge (identified as ‘T1’) will show conditions in the river, not the creek.

Now as a footnote, we must admit there are side-benefits to the often-challenging task of collecting water samples from the creek. For example, in the midst of all the rain & bad news about what’s in the water, the day’s intrepid volunteer reports this:

Any sample day without rain is appreciated, but today is particularly nice.
Sun breaks show on fall colors, with dark purple clouds in the background. sun through cloudsEspecially bright is the crimson foliage
on blueberry fields.
And even though it is super slippery after all the rain, at least I don’t have to deal with spiders everywhere.

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

This week: join us Saturday on the creek to plant trees!


October 26th  is ‘Make a Difference Day‘!

Join us! along this beautiful stretch of Tenmile Creek as we plant native trees & shrubs to create a buffer along a newly restored section of the creek.  Meet at 9am-12pm – look for the NSEA signs on E. Hemmi Road, just east of Hannegan.
IMG_20190420_102902724This beautiful spot is adjacent to agricultural lands and home to salmon, birds and an incredible view of Mt. Baker.  And we are happy to co-sponsor this event with our partners Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association (NSEA) and Whatcom Conservation District (WCD). NSEA provides tools & gloves – all you have to do is wear sturdy shoes & weather-appropriate clothing. Snacks courtesy of The Bagelry & the Community Food Co-Op. Coffee provided thanks to NSEA’s official coffee sponsor, Tony’s Coffee.

This is a continuation of the work we helped with for Earth Day in April, and a great continuing example of restoration potential in this multi-use area of our county. This past summer, the county redirected the creek into an original section of its channel, while installing a new, larger road culvert under E. Hemmi to alleviate local flooding.

Join us – we will be there with our display table – mud-boots, work gloves & all!DCIM100MEDIADJI_0011.JPG

And, to learn more about the benefits of stream-side buffers, don’t miss our program…

Nov 13: our Tenmile Clean Water Project meeting, Logo full - Oct 2018 - 50% for site icon6:30-8pm, at Bellewood Acres Farmstead & Brewery. Program: Aneka Sweeney from the Whatcom Conservation District will present:
Streamside Buffers: How trees help our watershed. 
Q&A will follow.






What’s in the water? Caution flag is up after high water quality results

After frequent rains in September, water quality results for fecal bacteria were high at multiple sites across the lower Nooksack River, including our Tenmile watershed. Most alarming, these conditions also resulted in higher counts in the marine waters of Portage Bay, which will only make it more difficult to achieve our long-range goal of removing the conditional closure for fall harvest.

And all this comes in spite of heightened awareness before the fall rains to prevent this historical trend; cautions were raised, and continue, by multiple partners in the Whatcom Clean Water Program, including Whatcom County, Whatcom Conservation District, Dept of Ecology & Dept of Agriculture.

Here is a quick reference for the data behind this story and further activities in response:

  • We have increased our own sample schedule in two ways: each month we are repeating the usual 10 sites, 2 weeks after the scheduled date; and at our own discretion, we also collect some ‘source ID’ samples at sites around particular hot spots or during rain events.
  • Find the updated Tenmile data report for September here (pdf download.)
  • Find the September report for the Nooksack River here (pdf download.)
  • The Laurel Watershed Improvement District sent a letter to its members (pdf copy here), which includes a helpful list of ways farmers can avoid contributing to the problem.
  • The Whatcom Clean Water Program has distributed a 3-page reference of ‘fall tips’ for many different stakeholders, including: all types of farm operations; septic system owners; pet owners; watercraft operators; and interactions with wildlife. Download the reference here.

You can contact us here if you have any questions or suggestions. Thanks for doing your part to keep our waters clean!


Save the dates! For October & beyond…

save the dateHere is a preview of the many events relevant to our watershed that will be occurring this fall. If you know of others that we missed, let us know so we can include them!

Farm Speaker Series Oct 15: WCD Speaker Series, Farm Funding Opportunities, 6-8pm at the Ferndale WECU. Last year this was reportedly the best-attended of the entire speaker series. Less ‘speaker’ and more conversation, this event offers direct connections with representatives from a wide range of funding sources & types. Plus, you will hear from panel of funding recipients from the local farm community.


partner work party 9am-12pm on Tenmile Creek.
Read about it here!
This is a continuation of the work we helped with for Earth Day in April, on a stretch of the creek east of Reither Elementary, at E. Hemmi Road. This summer, the county redirected the creek into an original section of its channel while installing a larger road culvert to alleviate local flooding. Now this month we will celebrate ‘Make a Difference Day‘ as we plant native trees along the creek there. This is a beautiful site we should all know about, a great continuing example of restoration potential adjacent to agricultural lands while maintaining salmon habitat. Join us – we will be there with our display table – mud-boots, work gloves & all!

Evaluate image

Oct 29: Septic System Homeowner Training, 6-8pm, Ferndale WECU; follow the link to register – seats are limited!
The training covers how your septic system works and provides tips for proper maintenance. You will leave feeling good about understanding how this expensive and important piece of your property functions. When you complete the training you also qualify to apply for rebates on repairs or maintenance costs for your septic system. Learn more on the County’s septic system website here. For 5 tips on keeping a healthy system see our previous blog post here.

Logo full - Oct 2018 - 50% for site iconNov 13: our Tenmile Clean Water Project meeting, 6:30-8pm, at Bellewood Acres Farmstead & Brewery.
Program: Aneka Sweeney from the Whatcom Conservation District will explain how tree & shrub stream buffers help improve water quality. Q&A will follow.

Looking ahead: We have confirmed speakers for our next two meetings, and expect you will not want to miss these – plan now!

Jan 8: 6:30-8pm, at Bellewood Acres Farmstead & Brewery.
Program: Chuck Lindsey (Associated Earth Sciences) has extensive experience studying our Whatcom watersheds. That experience will be on display as Chuck will share: Groundwater Insights: From Nooksack River to Tenmile Creek. Q&A will follow.

Mar 11: 6:30-8pm, at Bellewood Acres Farmstead & Brewery.
Program: John Mercer (Co-owner of Water System Services) and his business has supported both public & private drinking water systems in our county for decades. John will share some of what he has learned along the way with: Rural Whatcom Water Systems: Lessons from 20 Years of Service. Q&A will follow.

Helpful tips for a healthy septic system

After a busy time last week, we are catching up with the mail – like this, some important advice left over from a ‘Water Week‘ of useful information. Ask yourself this: how is that septic system working for you? That’s essential because your sewage doesn’t go ‘away’ – it gets processed right there in your yard. And that system works well, if you take good care of it.

tip 1Here are Five Tips in our mailbox about that – how many do you know about already? (We might even throw in some of our own, at the end.)

Tip #1: A worn out toilet flapper can allow water to leak from the toilet tank to the toilet bowl. These leaks often go unnoticed and could send hundreds of gallons of additional water through your septic system each day stressing the system and eventually costing you big bucks. Replacing them is cheap, quick and easy!  Check out this video.

tip 2

Tip #2: Double check that rain water runoff and downspouts on your property are diverted away from your septic system. A properly designed septic system is made to handle a specific amount of wastewater. Extra water can lead to the increased likelihood of expensive repairs or replacement.

tip 3Tip #3: Try to do laundry throughout the week and avoid ‘laundry catch up days’. Washing 5 loads of laundry in one day could send more than 200 gallons of water through your septic system! When too much water goes through your system in a short period of time the solids in the wastewater don’t have enough time to settle in the tank. The solids make their way into the drainfield and can eventually cause you expensive problems.

tip 4

Tip #4: Think at the Sink! Your septic system contains a collection of living organisms that digest and treat your wastewater. Pouring toxins down your drain can kill these organisms and harm your septic system. Whether you are at the kitchen sink, bathtub, or utility sink, remember these rules:
* No chemical drain openers;
* No cooking oil, fats or grease;
* No paints, solvents toxic cleaners;
* Eliminate or limit the use of a garbage disposal.

tip 5Tip #5: Septic systems problems can be expensive and messy. You can avoid troubling repairs and backups by only flushing toilet paper and poo down your loo! Anything else you are tempted to flush should be disposed of in the trash.

Now for some bonus tips:
#6: Know where your septic tank is in your yard. It will need occasional inspecting, and problems observed there can head off more serious issues later.

#7: Register here for a Health Department free homeowner training, to learn more about maintaining your system.
#8:  Take advantage of septic rebates here, available for septic evaluations, equipment installation & septic tank pumping when done by a licensed professional.
#9: To repair or replace a failing septic system, loans are available through a partnership between Whatcom County and a non-profit lender.

For more about either rebates or loans, contact Kate Rice at Whatcom County Public Works: krice@co.whatcom.wa.us or 360-778-6302.


This week… is Water Week! Tours, talks, stories – and SeaFeast

water week posterWhat you see here only scratches the surface, so for the whole lineup and to learn more, check out the whole schedule at the Water Week website here.

But here’s a teaser selection:
Tue thru Thu: Multiple library story times.
Wed & Thu: Multiple tours of municipal water & sewer facilities in Lynden & Bellingham.
Wed & Thu: stream tours, two in Bellingham and one on Maple Creek outside Maple Falls.
Thursday: a Whatcom Museum special exhibit.
Saturday: guided salmon sighting on 2 creeks.

And for some special highlights….

equine field day

Thu, Sep 19th: Okay, it’s not officially part of Water Week, but it’s very much about helping to protect water quality in our streams. As part of the continuing Speaker Series, the Whatcom Conservation District presents:
Equine Health: Are you winter ready?
6-8pm; RSVP for location.

Thu, Sep 19th, 6-8:30pm: Seize this special opportunity to hear from many of the water experts – both residents & professionals – in our community:
Shared Waters, Challenges & Solutions: Short talks that might just change how you look at water.’
Explore the status of water for fish and people, why it matters, and possible solutions to address challenges for meeting these needs.  Light refreshments available. Register here for this free event. Find program details here.

Sat & Sun, Sep 21/22: SeaFeast closes out the week. ‘Come Eat & Play. A memorable gathering for family and friends, providing education, fun & food of the surrounding bay and straits.’  Admission is FREE.
Two locations: ​Squalicum Harbor both days, plus Downtown Bellingham on Saturday & Zuanich Point Park on Sunday. Find information here.

Finally, looking ahead:
Oct 15: WCD Speaker Series, Farm Funding Opportunities, 6-8 pm Ferndale WECU
Oct 28: Tenmile Creek Workday, 9am-noon; we return to the site of our Earth Day event this year near Reither Elementary school, with partners WCD & NSEA.
Oct 29: Septic System Homeowner Training, 6-8pm, Ferndale WECU
Nov 13: our Tenmile Clean Water Project meeting , 6:30-8pm, at Bellewood Acres Farmstead & Brewery. Our guest speaker, WCD’s Aneka Sweeney, will explain how stream buffers can help improve water quality.

This week: Tenmile members meeting, and Run with the Chums

Most important this week:TenmileCleanWaterProject_V7
Sep 11: on Wednesday, don’t miss our Tenmile Clean Water Project meeting, 6:30-8pm, at Bellewood Acres Farmstead & Brewery.

At this meeting, our member Kirsten McDade, Pollution Prevention Specialist at RE Sources, will be describing the Water Reporter program; she says:
The Water Reporter program will empower & engage community members in keeping our waters free and clear of pollution.  The Water Reporter program teaches citizens how to recognize and report everyday pollution.  Becoming a Water Reporter is simple, easy, and fun.  Together we can find solutions to our pollution problems!
You can read her blog post about the program here.

Sep 14: Saturday opens Whatcom Water Week, featuring multiple events over 2 weekends, beginning with:
Run with the Chums at the ‘BP Highlands’ in the Terrell Creek watershed south of Birch Bay. Included are a kids run, event t-shirts & refreshments. For information and registration see the website here.


There are several other Water Week events on the same day, with more over the coming 10 days. Check it out!
For more September events, see this earlier blog post.
Finally, if you know of events that we missed, let us know so we can include them!