West Seattle, Washington
The photo and reminder are from David Hutchinson of Seal Sitters:
Seal Sitters’ “Shore the Shore” banners have recently been installed by Seattle Parks & Recreation along a section of Alki Avenue. Just a reminder that we are now entering what traditionally has been the busiest months for harbor seal pups to rest and warm up on West Seattle beaches. For those of you who have recently moved to this area, Seal Sitters is part of NOAA’s West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network. We respond to reports of any marine mammal, alive or dead, on the beaches of West Seattle from Brace Point through the Duwamish River, including Harbor Island.
If you come across a marine mammal on our local beaches, please keep back, keep people and pets away, and call Seal Sitters’ hotline at 206-905-7325.
You can also remember that number as 206-905-SEAL.
County health authorities just announced that the state Health Department has closed beaches to shellfish harvesting from “Alki Beach south to the Pierce County line, including Vashon Island and Quartermaster Harbor beaches.” Here’s the full text of the news release:
Paralytic Shellfish Poison (PSP) has been detected at unsafe levels in shellfish on Vashon Island and at the Des Moines Marina. As a result, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) has closed Alki Beach south to the Pierce County line, including Vashon Island and Quartermaster Harbor beaches, to recreational shellfish harvest.
The closure includes all species of shellfish including clams, geoduck, scallops, mussels, oysters, snails and other invertebrates; the closure does not include crab or shrimp. Crabmeat is not known to contain the PSP toxin, but the guts can contain unsafe levels. To be safe, clean crab thoroughly and discard the guts (“butter”). Working with partners, Public Health – Seattle & King County is posting advisory signs at beaches warning people to not collect shellfish.
Commercial beaches are sampled separately and commercial products should be safe to eat.
Anyone who eats PSP contaminated shellfish is at risk for illness. PSP poisoning can be life-threatening and is caused by eating shellfish containing this potent neurotoxin. A naturally occurring marine organism produces the toxin. The toxin is not destroyed by cooking or freezing.
A person cannot determine if PSP toxin is present by visual inspection of the water or shellfish. For this reason, the term “red tide” is misleading and inaccurate. PSP can only be detected by laboratory testing.
Symptoms of PSP usually begin 30-60 minutes after eating the contaminated shellfish, but may take several hours. Symptoms are generally mild, and begin with numbness or tingling of the face, arms, and legs. This is followed by headache, dizziness, nausea, and loss of muscle coordination. Sometimes a floating sensation occurs. In cases of severe poisoning, muscle paralysis and respiratory failure occur, and in these cases death may occur in 2 to 25 hours.
If symptoms are mild, call your health care provider or Washington Poison Center (800-222-1222), and Public Health (206-296-4774). If symptoms are severe, call 911 or have someone take you to the emergency room immediately.
Recreational shellfish harvesting can be closed due to rising levels of PSP at any time. Therefore, harvesters are advised to call the DOH Biotoxin Hotline at 800-562-5632 or visit the Shellfish safety website before harvesting shellfish anywhere in Puget Sound.
After our friends at Beach Drive Blog published a report of a warning sign on the beach at Cormorant Cove Park, in the 3600-3700 block of Beach Drive, we started checking around with public agencies today. From Andy Ryan at Seattle Public Utilities:
Yesterday (8/22), SPU responded to a report of an active side sewer leak, at 3601 Beach Drive SW. We contacted the property manager, who was unaware of the leak, and who then called the plumber to arrange for repairs. SPU’s inspector posted beach-closed signs and reported the leak to: the state Department of Ecology; Public Health — Seattle & King County – King County; the state Department of Health and Seattle Parks. SPU will coordinate with the property management to ensure the repair is completed and, as advised by Public Health — Seattle & King County – King County, will begin to take water quality samples after the leak is stopped.
Weather Watch Park was a seal-pup-watch park for a while Friday afternoon, but the little harbor seal that Seal Sitters Marine Stranding Network was guarding did not make it. So reported Robin Lindsey from Seal Sitters in a note to volunteers today. She says the pup was on the beach twice that day – first “forced back into the Sound by an encroaching tide,” then back on the shore in the afternoon. It didn’t appear well, Robin noted, “tiny and terribly thin with some kind of issue with the left eye.” It was still on the beach when volunteers left after dark, keeping the cove taped off, and still there early Saturday morning, appearing to be having seizures. It was taken to PAWS in Lynnwood, where euthanasia was decided as the most humane course of action due to “a number of health issues.” It weighed only about 15 pounds. A necropsy is planned.
P.S. As Seal Sitters reminded us last month, it’s pupping season around the region. If you see a seal or any other marine mammal on a local beach, or in trouble offshore, their hotline is 206-905-SEAL.
(2014 US Army Corps of Engineers photo of failing seawall)
From City Councilmember Lisa Herbold‘s newest weekly update – a milestone for the Beach Drive seawall project that’s been years in the making. How many years? For one – the 475-foot stretch of seawall itself, at Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook, is 90 years old. For two – it’s been three years since the official public-comment period that accompanied an announcement from the Army Corps of Engineers of its agreement with Seattle Parks, and even that followed years of consideration, Beach Drive Blog pointed out earlier in 2014. Now, Herbold writes (sixth item here), a vote this past week puts the project on the road to construction starting next year:
The Council passed an agreement between the City’s Parks Department and the US Army Corps of Engineers to replace the seawall at Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook Park (along) Beach Drive. The seawall was originally built in 1927, and is nearing the end of its useful life; it has a 30% probability of failure during a storm event, and by 2025 will have a 60% probability of failure. It’s 500 feet long, and supports important infrastructure, including a sewer main, a PSE gas line, a storm sewer main, and a water main.
The estimated cost is $2.8 million; the agreement provides for 65% federal funding, and 35% from Parks (approximately $1 million). After detailed design and permitting are completed, construction is anticipated for Autumn of 2018, with completion by Spring 2019.
I asked whether the design accounts for climate change and sea level rise; the Project Management Plan notes that the new seawall “will be two feet higher than the existing structure “to account for increased storm wave heights and future sea-level rise.”
Earlier this month, the Office of Sustainability & Environment released a Preparing for Climate Change report, which noted this seawall as being at risk from sea level rise.
The report notes that sea level rise increases the potential for overtopping of seawalls, and notes that “newer seawalls and other structures have been designed to accommodate projected sea level rise.”
Seattle Public Utilities has a map showing areas in Seattle most likely to be affected by sea-level rise.
Thanks to Councilmember Juarez, Chair of the Parks, Seattle Center, Libraries and Waterfront Committee, for shepherding the legislation through committee.
If you look back at our 2014 story (linked in the first paragraph), you’ll note the cost has gone up – still split two-to-one between federal and local funding, but it’s now estimated at $2.8 million, up from $2.3 million.
1:34 PM: Thanks to Erin for the photo. Crews from West Seattle-headquartered Global Diving and Salvage have arrived off the 6000 block of Beach Drive SW, where a pilot made an emergency landing in shallow water a little over 24 hours ago (WSB coverage here). The landing was made after the Cessna’s engine quit (according to Boeing Field radio exchanges, as pointed out by WSB readers), and both men in the plane got out OK. The plane was almost fully revealed at low tide after 7 this morning:
Here’s a from-the-water look, courtesy of Kona Greg:
1:46 PM: Just in from our crew, more vessels clustered at the salvage scene:
2:16 PM: The plane’s being brought out of the water:
2:34 PM: Shortly after that last update, our crew reports, the plane was placed on the barge, and taken away. (Photo by James Bratsanos, added:)
We haven’t found contact information for its registered owners, a Las Vegas-based LLC.
2:44 PM: We’ll be adding video. (Update – here it is:)
Meantime, we checked with Global about what happens next. They’ll be taking the plane to a holding dock on the Duwamish River, and from there, they say, it’s up to the owners to arrange to reclaim it.
3:30 PM: Three more photos by WSB’s Patrick Sand:
Thanks again to all the Beach Drive and vicinity residents who have shared photos, info, (and a photography location!) since this happened Monday afternoon.
ADDED TUESDAY NIGHT: A postscript, resulting from a discussion in comments: Jeff Poschwatta of AvTech Services, LLC, which he describes as an aircraft-recovery business based in South King County, says his company put together the salvage operation. He was contacted by an insurance adjuster for Galvin Flying at Boeing Field, which a reader tells us was accountable for the plane (though records showed it registered in Las Vegas). He says he “in turn contracted Global Diving & Salvage, who obtained Manson Construction for a barge, tug and crane.” More than a dozen people from the three firms were out there: “We worked together to make this a successful recovery in quick time. I know the USCG, SPD, Dept/Ecology, Fish & Wildlife were happy with our efforts.”
The low-low tides are back, starting with -1.6 right now and receding to low tides below minus-3 feet both days this weekend (here’s a chart). On Saturday (July 22nd), the Seattle Aquarium beach-naturalist program is offering a “Deaf Community Beach Walk,” with sign-language interpretation available 10 am- 1pm, as well as beach naturalists, on the shore at Lincoln Park. Look for the signs.
The host Muckleshoot Tribe's canoe arriving. pic.twitter.com/Ozkkbu6C07
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) July 19, 2017
(Muckleshoot Tribe’s canoe arriving)
2:17 PM: As first reported here last weekend, Alki Beach is an overnight stop again this year for some of the Tribal Journeys canoe families. Dozens of tribes around the region participate each year, and destinations rotate among different nations – this year, the journey is bound for Campbell River, British Columbia. The Muckleshoot Tribe hosts the Alki stop, and told us the landings were expected at 3 pm; commenters on our morning highlights said they were seeing canoes earlier, and indeed, we’re here at Alki, and canoe families are coming ashore.
2:37 PM: The early arrivals are headed back into the water to await others and the official welcoming.
2:57 PM: And the visitors are being welcomed (video added above), so the canoes are back ashore. There are five routes that canoes are taking to Campbell River – this stop is along the Inside Passage route.
We’re told tomorrow morning’s departure is expected around 10 am; the visitors will be shuttling to Auburn for tonight’s feasting and celebration with the Muckleshoots. We’ve counted eight canoes here; fewer than last year’s stop, since they were headed southbound and most participants had already joined, while this year, they’re northbound, and this is an early stop, with many yet to join along the routes.
ADDED 11:52 PM: Thanks to David Hutchinson for this beautiful sunset view with canoes’ silhouettes:
This page on the Suquamish Tribe website details the plan for the stop there tomorrow and Friday.
ORIGINAL SUNDAY REPORT, 6:25 PM: Again this year, dozens of Northwest tribes are sending canoes on a regional journey to a gathering site, and Alki Beach is one of the stops along the way. Last year was the first time in four years that they stopped at Alki, where the Muckleshoots are the hosts; here’s our coverage of their arrival and their departure. Last year the canoe families were headed to the South Sound; this year, participants are taking separate routes to Campbell River, British Columbia, with arrival there on August 5th. The Alki stop is set for this Wednesday, July 19th, departing the next day; we don’t have specific times yet but will update when we do.
MONDAY MORNING UPDATE: We’re told the arrivals are expected around 3 pm.
12:12 PM: That was the view looking north across the street from Me-Kwa-Mooks a short time ago, as today’s low tide ebbed to a very, very low -3.6 feet. Lots of people out exploring the shore; if you weren’t able to join them, maybe tomorrow? Another -3.6 low tide is expected Sunday at 12:25 pm.
ADDED 3:28 PM: Thanks to Peter Commons for sharing a few views from shore level:
We appreciate photos – email@example.com if it’s not breaking news, text 206-293-6302 if it is!
The photo is courtesy of David Hutchinson, who explains that it shows “‘Wonder‘, a yearling harbor seal (last year’s pup) that has been using Alki-area beaches recently – watched over by Seal Sitters. Taken as usual from a distance with a telephoto lens.” Rather than saving the photo for tomorrow’s daily lineup, we’re sharing it tonight for two reasons:
-With low-low tides continuing through Monday, more people are out on the beaches, and might encounter marine mammals. If you see a seal or sea lion on the beach, or a marine mammal that appears to be in trouble, the Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network hotline is 206-905-SEAL.
-Tomorrow morning, Seal Sitters and friends will be out cleaning up Alki, and it’s not too late for you to RSVP to be part of it. They’re gathering at Alki Statue of Liberty Plaza (61st SW/Alki SW) at 9:30 am and cleaning until noon.
(Photo by Robin Lindsey)
As this weekend winds down, here’s a plan you can make for the start of next weekend: Lend a couple hours next Saturday morning to help Seal Sitters keep Alki Beach wildlife from being harmed by trash. Here’s the announcement:
Let’s clean up our act! Join Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network and co-sponsor Sno-King Marine Mammal Response on Saturday, June 24th, as we clean up Alki Beach and surrounding sidewalks and streets to help reduce the impact humans have on our fragile marine ecosystem and save wildlife (photo is a typical early morning scene at Alki during warmer months). Trash on the beach becomes treacherous in the water. The “Sentinels of the Sound” cleanup is from 9:30-noon with assembly at the Statue of Liberty Plaza (Alki Avenue SW and 61st Ave SW).
All marine life is endangered by marine debris and plastics pollution. Many, many thousands of marine animals and sea birds are injured and die each year from derelict fishing gear, marine debris, and pollution. They are entangled and drowned by nets and gear – strangled and contaminated by plastics.
Harbor seals (who do not migrate and are year-round residents) and resident Puget Sound orcas, both animals at the top of the food chain, are especially hard hit by pollutants from storm runoff and plastics that break down into microscopic particles and enter the food chain. These deadly toxins are then stored in the blubber of marine mammals and passed on in mothers’ milk to nursing young.
You can truly make a difference for wildlife. Come on down and grab a bucket and pair of “pluckers” (if you have your own, please bring them). RSVP is requested – e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org – to ensure there are enough materials on hand. If you can’t attend on Saturday, you can make every trip to the beach a personal cleanup day by taking a bag and gloves along with you to pick up and dispose of trash. Every little bit helps!
Please visit Seal Sitters’ website to learn more, in-depth, about the dangers of marine debris and pollution.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
After what was publicized as an hourlong meeting was well into overtime, a relentless round of questioning finally dug into the heart of the matter:
Is there really any choice about what’s going to be done about Lowman Beach Park‘s failing north seawall?
While Seattle Parks‘ David Graves (top photo) and his consulting engineers showed three possibilities – including one keeping the tennis court and restoring the seawall – Graves acknowledged it was unlikely he would be able to get grant money for a new wall.
And that concerned many of the ~40 people at the meeting, mostly waterfront residents north and south of the park, some of whom think the city’s removal of a south seawall section in the ’90s has adversely affected their property, and are worried the city doesn’t have enough information about effects of another removal.
Here’s how it all unfolded: Read More
Gun-safety advocates are planning a walk and rally along Alki Beach this Saturday (June 3rd). While the timing might make you wonder if it’s in reaction to last week’s as-yet-unsolved deadly shooting, it’s a long-planned event in connection with National Gun Violence Awareness Day, which is this Friday. We hadn’t received an announcement about this, but after seeing a flyer posted at a local park, we contacted the sponsoring organization for details. They tell us the event will start with a “Wear Orange” (explained here) walk from Anchor Park at 11 am Saturday; it’ll be on the path/sidewalk, so no road closure is involved. Walkers will head to Alki Beach, where they tell us the walk will be “followed by gun violence survivor speakers. There will also be an art display of 93 pairs of orange shoes organized by a survivor of gun violence.” The speakers are expected to start around 12:15 pm.
In case you wondered about the water-rescue response at Alki about an hour ago – Christopher Boffoli checked it out for WSB. The original call was a report that a small boat with one person in it was taking on water.
But the boat and its operator made it to the beach OK, unassisted, and Christopher reports it was headed back out as the call closed.
In our coverage of the most-recent Morgan Community Association meeting, we mentioned MoCA announcing that the city was working on a May 31st meeting about the ongoing Lowman Beach seawall issue – it’s damaged and needs to be either replaced or removed. MoCA board member Cindi Barker sends word that the city has set the time and location – 6:30-7:30 pm May 31st at The Hall at Fauntleroy (9131 California SW). The details are on the Lowman Beach Park webpage, and indicate that the city is likely to remove the seawall – as was done with one to the south years ago – and keep the tennis court. See the official meeting flyer here.
What you see in Kersti Muul‘s photo above aren’t bubbles – they’re herring eggs. And their presence is “a big deal,” we’re hearing from her and from “Diver Laura” James tonight. This area is not a documented Puget Sound spawning ground for herring (this infosheet shows the areas that are), so wildlife watchers have nothing to compare it to – but they’re seeing not only the eggs, but also sea lions offshore feasting on the herring (that explains the second photo in this gallery we published early today, as well as other reports of sea-lion groups offshore last weekend), and gulls with beakfuls of herring:
Kersti says, “I encourage people to be on the lookout for it as well, and to tread lightly right now in the nearshore during these very low tides!” She has been in contact with the state Fish and Wildlife Department, as has Diver Laura, who says WDFW will be sending somebody up for a firsthand look. Here’s a closeup photo she shared tonight:
Because this isn’t a historic spawning ground, the state hasn’t historically sampled here, so, she explains, “we simply have zero data,” and it’s not known yet whether this is a return or a cycle. Both point out that the significance of this might also be future effects on construction and other activities on the shore, since without documentation of this previously, there are no rules/laws about habitat protection.
P.S. Here’s more background information about herring in Puget Sound. Followups to come!
That was the scene this morning at Anchor Park along Duwamish Head, which is one place you might want to be later this week when low-low-tide season starts, for a good overview of the shore, or a starting point to walk along it. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday will bring the first minus-two-feet daytime low tides of the year – -2.3 at 1:03 pm on Friday, -2.4 at 1:51 pm on Saturday, -2.1 at 2:41 pm on Sunday. So far, the weather looks best on Saturday.
P.S. Memorial Day weekend will bring the first minus-three-feet tides of the year, and Seattle Aquarium beach naturalists too.
When we first mentioned Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network‘s concerns about a seal pup nicknamed Taffy, who’s been coming and going from a stretch of Alki Beach for two weeks, they described her as healthy. Now, that’s changing, and they are asking you to please keep your distance:
This morning she tried to come ashore, but was scared away repeatedly by people gathering on the sidewalk above her – this, even though they were standing behind the yellow tape – still far too close to the 7- to 8-month-old weaned pup. The pup is terribly sensitive to activity even 50 yards away, much less 20 feet. She gave up after about 5 attempts and we did not see her the remainder of the day and on into this evening. It is imperative that harbor seal pups get stress-free rest out of the water.
Taffy appears to have some kind of trauma to her front foreflippers, though we have not been able to sight any specific wounds. The first few days we observed her, she would not bear weight on her left flipper. Now she will not use either one. This makes her terribly vulnerable on land to people and off-leash dogs.
We have seen a rapid decline over the past week as she has lost weight, is dehydrated, and appears to now have some lung issues, most likely lungworm infestation. While trying to come ashore this morning, we could actually hear her hoarse breathing and cough – not a good sign.
It is unusual for Seal Sitters to leave a tape perimeter in place when there is no seal onshore. However, under this special circumstance, we have been leaving tape intact on the sea wall above small bit of beach she prefers, as well as leaving stakes and tape on the beach when the incoming/outgoing tide permits.
We ask that people please respect the perimeter – even if you can’t see Taffy inside it. Often, she crawls up in between rocks and cannot be seen. Since she is now struggling with health issues, her haulout patterns have changed and we can’t predict when she will try to find rest. If you see her onshore, please don’t gather directly above her on the sea wall. Observe her from either end of the perimeter and please call Seal Sitters’ hotline at 206-905-SEAL (7325) if volunteers are not onsite, as that means we are not aware Taffy is on land at this dangerous location. She needs space.
Seal Sitters First Responders had hopes of capturing the skittish pup today and transporting for evaluation and treatment. Capture will be very challenging because of the location and her hyper-awareness – she stays just a few feet at most from the water’s edge. Sadly, we anticipate her health will rapidly decline.
If you haven’t already noticed the taped-off perimeter in the past two weeks, the area in question is east/north of the main sandy stretch of Alki; if you are walking/running in the area, consider crossing to the inland sidewalk until you’re past where the tape is.
That sign was up this afternoon near the 63rd Avenue Pump Station south of Alki Point, following the 330,000-gallon combined-sewer overflow reported late last night by King County Wastewater Treatment. The overflow happened during Thursday afternoon’s less-than-one-hour power outage in western West Seattle, before a portable generator could be brought to and fired up at the pump station.
We followed up today with county spokesperson Doug Williams. For one, as commenter Schwaggy asked, why isn’t there already a generator at the pump station? He says there soon will be:
We are wrapping up a construction project at the 63rd Avenue Pump Station that, when finished, will include a new emergency power generator at the facility. While that construction project is underway, we have an emergency generator loaded on a trailer and stationed at the Alki CSO facility. Yesterday when our workers got the 63rd Ave pump station overflow alarm they went to the Alki facility and picked up the emergency generator for the short drive over to the pump station (about ¼ mile, I believe). However, power was restored before the emergency power was brought online.
As for how long the signs will stay up, Williams didn’t have information on water-quality-test results yet when we checked in, but he said the signs will not be taken down until results are “below thresholds for human contact.”
4:32 PM: Thanks to David Hutchinson for the photo – north wind and a 12-foot tide slapped the Alki promenade with big waves this afternoon. Can’t guarantee the north wind will return, but even-higher “king tides” are expected, peaking Saturday (6:49 am) and Sunday (7:27 am) mornings at 12.9 feet.
4:45 PM: Another photo arrived shortly after we published this – from Theresa, also near Alki Statue of Liberty Plaza:
ADDED 8:10 PM: More photos! This one’s from Robert Spears:
And from Aaron Whitmore:
ORIGINAL REPORT, 12:58 PM: About a week and a half ago, Seal Sitters FYI’d us about another dead sea lion on a local beach, just in case anyone asked, saying they had notified Seattle Parks, since in this case, it’s their beach, so it’s their problem. It was in a fairly high-profile place – Seacrest, near the West Seattle Water Taxi dock. It’s still there, according to several people who asked us about it in the past few days, so today we inquired with Parks to see what their plan is.
So far, Parks spokesperson Christina Hirsch tells us, “We have been monitoring the situation and exploring possible options for removing the animal. The beach location is extremely difficult to access with trucks and heavy-lifting equipment because of the retaining wall. We currently don’t believe it is feasible to safely access the site to remove the animal — which we estimate weighs several hundred pounds. For now, we believe the best option is to let nature take its course and for the animal to decompose and/or wash back out to sea. We have signs at the site warning people to stay back.” The highest tides of the month are coming up next weekend, 12.9 feet on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
P.S. If you see a marine mammal on a local beach – alive or not – Seal Sitters’ hotline is 206-905-SEAL.
2:52 PM: Parks spokesperson Hirsch just sent this update after speaking with the Southwest-region crew:
This afternoon, staff were able to manually push the sea lion out into the water with large garden rakes. We had staff members waiting in the water with a large bag to catch the animal. The bag was then manually brought to the edge of the beach and a hoist was used to place it on a truck for disposal.
(2016 Alki Polar Bear Swim photo by Scott Nelson)
Just got confirmation that the West Seattle Polar Bear Swim is on again for Sunday (New Year’s Day 2017). From organizer Mark Ufkes:
January 1, 2017, at 9:50 am, polar-bear swimmers will line up along the beach across from Duke’s.
With a countdown, at 10 am sharp we will hold hands with our friends and run into Puget Sound.
Bring water shoes, a towel, a change of clothes and your hopes and dreams for 2017 with you. Also bring the lessons you learned in 2016. Running into the water with friends and family will help you leave behind the complexities of 2016 and start the new year clean and burden-free. We hit the water at 10 sharp.
Thinking about trying it for the first time? Here’s our coverage from last year, including video and links to previous years’ coverage.