West Seattle, Washington
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.
Thanks to Jason Bell for the Friday morning photos from Alki, less than an hour after the highest tide of the month, 13.0 feet at 7:07 am. A brisk wind brought spray as well as seawall slopover.
Saturday morning’s tide will be almost as high, peaking at 12.9 feet just before 8 am. If you go out to watch, bundle up – the temperature (already into the mid-20s as we write this) will be even lower than it was this morning.
Back on Sunday, a text resulted in this report about a dead seal south of Alki Point. Commenter Jenny mentioned there was another carcass nearby. Tonight, we have an update from David Hutchinson of Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network:
Thanks to those of you who have reported these two dead marine mammals to Seal Sitters’ Hotline (206-905-7325). As of the evening of 11/21, the California Sea Lion is at the north end of Constellation Park and the adult Harbor seal is at the south end of the park. Seattle Parks has been notified of their current location. Seal Sitters has been tracking the position of both dead animals since first reported back on November 16th when one was onshore at Cormorant Cove and the other on private property to the north.
When Seal Sitters responds to dead marine mammals, the animal is photographed, measured and examined. An official report is then completed and entered into NOAA’s online marine mammal database. If the location is on a public beach, we typically bag the smaller animals, remove them from the beach and contact Seattle Parks for disposal, unless the animal will be transferred for necropsy by WA Department of Fish and Wildlife. In certain situations if a necropsy is performed, Seal Sitters pays for blood and tissue lab tests on the animal.
In this case, both animals are too large to be easily removed from the public beach – the sea lion is over 7 feet in length. Disposal of animals on private beaches is the responsibility of the property owner. Thankfully, the ebb and flow of tides will most often return carcasses back to the sea, to nourish other marine life. For smaller animals not suitable for necropsy due to decomposition, that is the ideal end result as well.
Got a text a little while ago about a dead seal on the Beach Drive shore, toward the south end of Constellation Park. First thing to do if you see a marine mammal on the shore, dead or alive, is call Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network – 206-905-SEAL – which the texter had done, but due to cell-signal breakup, wasn’t sure the message had gotten through. We e-mailed Seal Sitters, which confirms the seal’s carcass has been washing up and then back out again for a few days in the Constellation Park/Cormorant Cove Park area. Since it’s on public property, it’s also been reported to Seattle Parks – too large and heavy for a simple removal.
David Hutchinson from Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network sends the photo and this request/reminder:
Each year, Seal Sitters’ “Share the Shore” banners are installed along Alki Avenue SW. This is timed to correspond with our busiest months of responses to harbor-seal pups using our West Seattle beaches – September & October. Unfortunately, during our recent windstorm, two of the banners blew down and have not been found. If anyone comes across one of these banners, please give our hotline a call and we will arrange to pick it up.
Just a reminder – young harbor seals are still in the area and use our local beaches throughout the year. If you see one – or any marine mammal – on the beach, please keep back, keep people and pets away, and call Seal Sitters’ hotline at 206-905-7325.
You can read the Seal Sitters’ latest update on responses, from this past weekend, here.
While we work on a couple more news stories for tonight, how about a photo break? Mark Wangerin – who you know primarily for his amazing bird photos, often shared with us so we can show them to you – sent these images, explaining: “I was down at Luna Park trying to shoot Osprey diving, when this little pup attempted to haul out and get warm. After a few tries, it was successful. It rested and yawned, but its rest was soon disturbed by a ferry wave. It gave up on this spot and went to the sandier side of the pier. I had to remind a few not to disturb. That they need to haul out to warm themselves.”
We asked Mark if he had notified Seal Sitters (which handle, as we were reminded during Sunday’s Fauntleroy humpback stranding, ALL marine mammals in the area); he said he didn’t have a phone with him, and said the seal was soon out of sight. By the way, checking Seal Sitters’ Blubberblog, we see they’re having a volunteer-training session on August 27th – go here to RSVP if you’re interested.
WSB photos by Christopher Boffoli and Patrick Sand; reader contributions credited below
From shortly after the first text message came in early Sunday morning, until a Washington State Ferries crew finished a short tow early Sunday evening, we covered here how hundreds of people, responders and spectators, dealt with West Seattle’s first stranded whale in six years. We shared many scenes of the day in photos and video, but we have more to show – telling the story, really, of the people as much as of the whale (including, added 6:56 am, “Diver Laura” James‘s 360-degree video): Read More
8:28 AM: If you want to watch the tribal canoes’ departure for the next stop on the Paddle to Nisqually journey, get down to Alki fast. The first canoe has just departed, after its skipper called out thanks to the Muckleshoots for hosting them here while they travel to the Nisqually Nation. They’re headed to Tacoma, so you should be able to see them off Beach Drive and points south, too.
8:48 AM: The pace of the departures is picking up.
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) July 28, 2016
9:35 AM: Most of the canoes have headed out, and the flotilla of motorized spectator/support boats is departing too. More photos after we get back to HQ.
10:48 AM: Thanks to Harley Broe for this view from Beach Drive:
1:55 PM: And David Hutchinson shares these views from Alki Point:
Yes, that’s a real buoy in the background of the photo immediately above. The usually-annual canoe journey, as explained on the Paddle to Nisqually site’s “about” page (where you’ll also find the history), is for “… bringing together natives and non-natives with a common goal of providing a drug and alcohol free event and offering pullers a personal journey towards healing and recovery of culture, traditional knowledge and spirituality. … Canoe Journey gatherings are rich in meaning and cultural significance. Canoe families travel great distances as their ancestors did and participating in the journey requires physical and spiritual discipline. At each stop, canoe families follow certain protocols, they ask for permission to come ashore, often in their native languages. At night in longhouses there is gifting, honoring and the sharing of traditional prayers, drumming, songs and dances. Meals, including evening dinners of traditional foods, are provided by the host nations.”
This year’s journey will end in southernmost Puget Sound on Saturday, where tens of thousands of people are expected to welcome the canoe families as they land. One week of ceremonies and celebrations will follow.
(UPDATED 7:33 PM with Thursday’s departure time)
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) July 27, 2016
1:08 PM: That’s the scene at Alki Beach as we write this a few minutes past 1 pm, with canoes continuing to arrive at the Muckleshoot Tribe-hosted stop along the route of the Paddle to Nisqually. As previewed here Monday, up to 100 canoe families are expected from tribes all over the region – they left the Suquamish Tribe-hosted stop on the west side of the Sound this morning, and will be here overnight until heading out tomorrow. Dozens are here already, some already hoisted up and carried onto the sand, some in queue on the waterline.
1:25 PM: The line of canoes continues to stretch further westward. Hundreds of people are on the beach, some from canoes that have already been brought ashore, some from support crews, plus spectators. This is the first time the canoes have come to Alki during the annual journey since 2012.
4:51 PM: More photos added.
We’re heading back to the beach for a late-in-the-day view as well as the latest on tomorrow’s departure plan.
7:33 PM: With the visitors all celebrating with the Muckleshoots tonight, we checked with security watching over the canoes at Alki, regarding tomorrow’s departure time. He said 8 am. They head to Point Defiance in Tacoma tomorrow, the map shows.
(2011 photo by David Hutchinson as canoe families arrived at Alki)
As first reported here last Friday, tribal canoe families from throughout the region are stopping at Alki Beach on Wednesday, during the Paddle to Nisqually journey. It will be the first such stop at Alki since 2012. Today, we have new information about the timeline: The canoes heading here are coming from a west Sound stop hosted by the Suquamish Tribe, whose schedule shows them leaving around 8 am Wednesday. The Alki stop here is hosted by the Muckleshoot Tribe, whose newspaper editor John Loftus shared this information with WSB:
The Muckleshoot Tribe will be hosting the 2016 Canoe Journey at Alki Beach on Wednesday. The various canoe routes from both sides of Vancouver Island, Georgia Strait, and the Olympic Peninsula will converge at Alki and, thus, all of the canoes that will land at the final destination — Nisqually (Olympia) — will also land here.
Eighty to 100 canoes are expected, and Muckleshoot tribal representatives are scheduled to begin welcoming them to come ashore at noon. The tribe will be hosting, honoring, and feeding about 1,000 guests at their reservation between Auburn and Enumclaw afterward. Singing, dancing, and various honoring ceremonies will continue throughout the evening. The canoes will return to Alki Beach and depart for the Puyallup Reservation on Thursday morning. This is also quite a sight to see. All are welcome.
It’ll be happening on the beach, east of the Bathhouse. The canoes’ journey will end Saturday at the south end of Puget Sound, and a weeklong gathering will follow.
For the first time this seal-pup season, Seal Sitters have had a West Seattle visitor to protect. We mentioned this briefly in our coverage of the Alki Art Fair‘s second day; we stopped by the Seal Sitters booth near the Alki Bathhouse, and asked volunteers David and Eilene Hutchinson if the group still hadn’t had any local pup reports. In fact, they told us, the first one of the season had happened the day before – someone came up to the booth on Saturday and reported a seal pup on Alki Beach, near the volleyball courts. It went back into the water just after 9 pm.
A pup also turned up on Sunday, at some point after we talked to the Hutchinsons; we don’t know if it was the same one – we’re checking – but we have the photo courtesy of Andrea Howell. And it’s a chance for us to remind you about what to do and what NOT to do if you see a seal pup: Don’t get close to it – that’s not just a request, but federal law. Don’t touch it. Do report it to a marine-mammal stranding network so they can keep watch – in the West Seattle area, that’s Seal Sitters, and their hotline is 206-905-SEAL. Complete information on pupping season and best beach behavior is here.
A month and a half after a community meeting (WSB coverage here) on whether to take over a King County-owned beachfront home at 8923 Fauntleroy Way SW, the Seattle Parks recommendation is in – they support moving ahead with a swap of sorts that would in effect expand Cove Park next to the Fauntleroy ferry dock. Here’s the news release we just received:
After considering public comments, input from a public meeting, and City policy, Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) has recommended that King County Wastewater Treatment Division move forward with the street vacation request which would involve the transferring of the King County owned property located at 8923 Fauntleroy Way SW to the City of Seattle. Having made this recommendation, the next step in the process involves King County Wastewater Treatment Division applying for a street vacation. This is one of many steps in the process prior to the Seattle City Council making a final decision on the street vacation and taking ownership of the property.
In 2015, the King County Wastewater Treatment Division finished an upgrade to the Barton Pump Station by the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal to accommodate West Seattle’s growing population. To build the new pump station, King County acquired the property just to the north of SW Barton Street for use during construction. Once the project was finished, King County began the process to surplus the property. With the City expressing an interest in the property, this raised the possibility of trading the Fauntleroy Way SW property to the City for a partial vacation of SW Barton St. (under the county’s pump station) which the County is interested in obtaining.
This potential trade is not solely an SPR issue, but rather a City issue that needs the input of multiple departments for an adequate review. The comprehensive City review required by a street vacation application will help provide the information necessary to fully inform the public, address unanswered questions, and lead to an informed decision by City Council.
The street vacation process will be run by Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and will include plenty of opportunities for further public input and dialogue.
For more information on this proposal, please visit http://www.seattle.gov/parks/projects/cove_park/addition.htm or contact Chip Nevins, SPR, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-233-3879.
The possibility of Seattle taking over the county-owned house and 35-foot-wide strip of beach (aerial map here) was first explained publicly at April’s Fauntleroy Community Association meeting (WSB coverage here).
People come to Alki Beach from all over the region – but not always just to hang out. We just received this report about one group who visited Alki recently specifically to give the beach some TLC. And they have a request for you:
5th-grade students from Beacon Hill International School did a beach cleanup at Alki Beach on June 22nd. These students are part of the school Global Leadership Team and spent all year working on sustainability education at their school and in their community. The students had just held a 30-day single-use plastic ban at the school and choose to culminate the event by picking up plastics and other garbage along the beach. Students collected mostly plastic bottle caps, cigarette butts and a variety of small plastic particles that washed ashore during their low-tide cleanup.
The team would like to remind beachgoers this busy holiday weekend of the critical impact plastics have on our oceans and sea life and encourage everyone to refrain from using single-use plastic products, such as straws, cups and lids, cutlery or single use water bottles, whenever possible. Instead, bring your own reusable bottles, silverware, and containers, and take all your garbage with you. Help keep our beaches and seas healthy!
The students would also like to thank the folks at Pagliacci Pizza in West Seattle for donating pizzas and fully compostable products for the cleanup.