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 do the June lab results tell us?

Interpreting fecal coliform lab results can be like trying to solve a mystery without all the clues. We can only learn so much from lab data; after that, we need local watershed knowledge, eyes on the ground, a little technical advice, and many inquiring minds. Care to join us as we examine our June results? Read the summary below, and let us know what you think! Comment on this post, or use the ‘Contact Us’ page here.  (See a link for the full report at the end of this page.)

Background: our Tenmile Creek watershed has been meeting both water quality standards for more than 18 months now. We want to continue this!
Problem: our results for the last 12 months provide a warning that this record could be at risk, due to persistent high results at two particular sample sites.
Questions: what could be causing this pattern, and what can we do about it?

Here are the trends as-of June. Site T1, where the creek flows into the river, is what ultimately determines whether the  watershed is meeting the standards. The upstream sites tell us how various stretches of the creek are doing. All sites are meeting the standard for Geometric Mean (or ‘average’); a red line indicates the standard.
Monthly focus Geo Mean - June 2018But we have problems with the 90th Percentile, below; this measure is sensitive to occasional spikes in results (90% of samples must be less than 200) and thus is harder to meet. You can see we have 4 sites failing this standard. The black ‘dot’ in each bar indicates direction of the 12-month trend: T2 & T3 are gradually getting better. DC1 & TM15 are getting worse, and if this trend continues, these high values could ‘drag’ the value of T1 back into the red (as the T1 dot indicates), and our watershed would again be failing this standard.
Monthly focus 90th Percent - June 2018So where are these sample site locations? These two maps give you an idea. It is important to also note the next site upstream, because if the upstream lab results are lower (and they are), then we assume something entering the stream in between the two sites is likely causing the problem. First, DC1 is on Deer Creek, west of Northwest Drive; second, TM15 is on Tenmile Creek at Northwest. Each site has a mix of land use upstream, both dense residential with septic systems and larger Ag parcels; there is also greenbelt habitat for wildlife, including beavers.
Sample focus area - DC1 + DC3
Sample focus area - TM15 + T2So what could be causing this troublesome trend? One idea is that wildly variable weather recently, with alternating periods of wet & dry, create more chances for rainfall ‘flushes’ of the landscape. Another speculates about wildlife concentrations & migrations. There is always suspicion of failing septic systems, but there is no inspection data to support this. What do you think?

If you like, you can download the most recent (June) report here, lab analysis imagebut this and all other available prior reports are also catalogued on our Meeting Notes page here, on the same line for each appropriate month.

Whatcom County’s Pollution, Identification & Correction (PIC) program publishes this monthly report of fecal coliform lab results specific to Tenmile, and uses the standard 3-page, pdf-format template like other PIC focus-areas.

Available now: County fecal lab results monthly reports for Ten Mile Creek

Whatcom County’s Pollution, Identification & Correction (PIC) program has periodically published a monthly report of fecal coliform lab results specific to Tenmile – but not on a regular basis. We have now arranged to regularly receive the pdf-format report, which applies a standard 3-page template like other PIC focus-areas.

data report snip

You can download the most recent (April) report here, but this and all other available prior reports are now catalogued on our Meeting Notes page here, on the same line for each appropriate month.

Now we can talk about it: Manure Matters!

manure matters

In early May the Whatcom Conservation District announced a new public information campaign that should be of great interest to our watershed – ‘Manure Matters‘. You can read about it on their website here, and in a Lynden Tribune article here.
“The campaign will provide information on the steps farmers must take to protect water quality in local streams, rivers and bays and help generate a public understanding of how and why farmers recycle manure as an organic crop nutrient and soil amendment.”

Manure Matters

“The educational, and humorous ads will run in local newspapers, websites, radio, and social media throughout the spring and summer. This campaign is funded by a Washington State Department of Agriculture grant created by fines issued for improper manure management: Whatcom CD is recycling those funds back to the community.”
“The “Manure Matters” campaign will include a series of ads with different themes representing the variety of manure producers and users in Whatcom County. Whatcom CD hopes to remove the stigma around manure, bring a positive view to a valuable resource, and increase its appropriate use that is protective of water quality.”





NRCS presentation at our April 10 meeting

The Natural Resources Conservations Service (NRCS) sponsors the NWQI:NWQI logo plusFind information and materials from the presentation below.

At our April 10th meeting, Emily Usher presented “results from our local watershed forum last year, combined with results from five other watershed forums conducted across the country (NC, WA, VT, IL, and OK), and watershed-specific recommendations surrounding watershed management, resource needs & education/outreach.”

You can learn more by downloading her presentation (44 page Powerpoint here) and summary of results (2 page pdf here). Or contact us here for assistance.

County septic system homeowner training: April 24

This next opportunity to learn about your home septic system is Wednesday, April 24th, 6pm to 8pm, at the Ferndale WECU, 5659 Barrett Ave.

Evaluate image

With this training you will save money by being certified to evaluate your own system and have confidence knowing how your septic system works.

If your system is not eligible for homeowner evaluation or you simply don’t want to do it yourself, this class is still for you. The training covers the way septic systems work and provides tips for proper maintenance. You will leave feeling good about understanding how this expensive and important piece of your property works.

When you complete the training in person, 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.