Call for action: Seeking support to stop “The Stench”


(2007 WSB photo of Fauntleroy Cove, looking toward Lincoln Park)
Since our report about last night’s Fauntleroy Community Association board meeting, there’s one more note from that neighborhood – requesting help ASAP on a hot topic that’s coming up right now in the Legislature – FCA president Bruce Butterfield has sent this from Judy Pickens, who works with Fauntleroy Creek among other local environmental issues:


Rep. Sharon Nelson from our district has introduced, with others, a bill that would provide ongoing funding for research and emergency response to sea-lettuce blooms in Puget Sound (“the stench”). E-mails in support of the bill from Fauntleroy residents could greatly increase its chance of passage.

HB 1231 (“Controlling saltwater algae”) and the Senate version (SB 5412) would assign 25 cents of every dollar that the state now collects from boat registrations for controlling algae in freshwater to doing the same in saltwater. This diversion would result in an estimated $140,000 per year for a grant program that cities and counties could tap for research on sea lettuce and emergency response when public-health concerns warrant haul-out of rotting seaweed. By tapping the existing revenue stream from a related program, the legislation would not require new funding. Read the full text of HB 1231 and analysis at

The Washington State Lake Protection Association is opposing these bills on the grounds that sea lettuce is merely a nuisance, not a public-health threat comparable to algae growth in freshwater. I have updated FCA’s “white paper,” to emphasize Fauntleroy’s experience with hydrogen sulfide from rotting sea lettuce and included data from air-quality studies here. While lake advocates understandably don’t want to lose some of their funding, their position is ill-informed.

If you have a personal story to tell about “the stench” at its worst on a hot summer day in Fauntleroy, please send a quick e-mail to the committee chairmen:

House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee

Rep. Brian Blake, chairman

Senate Environment, Water, and Energy Committee

Sen. Phil Rockefeller, chairman

Send a copy of your e-mail to Rep. Nelson at (corrected from original publication)

For more information, please e-mail

ADDED 1:53 PM: Since there seems to be an intense amount of interest in this, we’ve also uploaded the “white paper” mentioned above, which explains that this goes beyond what you might assume is a smelly natural phenomenon. Read it here.

29 Replies to "Call for action: Seeking support to stop "The Stench""

  • Minette February 11, 2009 (11:24 am)

    I would like to hear more information about why (other than smell) the removal or “control” of this seaweed is necessary.

    Many marine animals depend on sea lettuce for food (for example, anemones and clams and lots of others). I am leery of any types of control that might be used and worry about the impact on Puget Sound’s intertidal creatures. Sometimes nature stinks, but that’s the price we pay for living near a marine ecosystem.

  • stinky nulu February 11, 2009 (11:25 am)

    Another good reason that we don’t want to live at the beach.

  • MSW February 11, 2009 (11:35 am)

    Why should boaters or anyone pay for those who choose to live on or near the saltwater. Sea lettuce growth is a natural process. The “Stench” is the smell of nature. Don’t waterfront property owners want to be one with nature? and can’t you afford to do the clean up yourself. Why should others pay for your choice of living near the ocean.

  • s February 11, 2009 (11:39 am)

    These people choose to live on an arterial, near the ferry dock, near the water. Then they complain about traffic and ferries. And now they complain that seaweed smells bad? Give me a break. I’ll be writing emails to the committee chairmen expressing these thoughts and urge every other West Seattle and Fauntleroy resident to do the same. Enough already. No tax dollars to clean up the front yards of waterfront millionaires. Pay for it yourselves. Or I’ll buy you some wheelbarrows and you can walk out there and clean it up yourselves!

  • s February 11, 2009 (11:43 am)

    These people in the FCA are selfish and highly organized. When there is a public comment opportunity, they come out in full force and give the impression that everyone hates ferries, or in this case, hates seaweed. Don’t let them hijack the public comment process again like they did with the ferries. EVERYONE EMAIL THE CHAIRMEN AND TELL THEM WHAT YOU THINK.

  • d February 11, 2009 (12:10 pm)

    I’ve lived near the waters of Puget Sound for 50 years. You don’t remove the decay of nature. Periodic cycles of stinky stuff is the sign of an ecosystem’s health you people! You live with it, appreciate it and thank your lucky stars that the ecosystem is even healthy enough that sea lettuce thrives.

    With all due respect FCA, to me this is just creepy that you want to sanitize nature. Might want to research ecological principles and rethink the slightly “cleanly compulsive” premise of it, you all. Geesh, I’d be dying of embarrassment if I lived there.

  • Keith February 11, 2009 (12:15 pm)

    If the basis of their complaint is an “air quality” issue, I wonder how sea lettuce ranks against the woodburning fireplaces, BBQs, chemicals, and cars that could be found at just about any residence in the FCA area. Perhaps their study could start at home.

  • M February 11, 2009 (12:18 pm)

    Biff! Biff! Come here.
    Yes Buffy!
    Can you smell that? Whatever is it? Will you fix it?

    Why of course my love. Call our lawyer and have him write a letter to those FCA people. They’ll take care of it.

  • old timer February 11, 2009 (12:30 pm)

    Gee, with so many people losing work, all the needs of the foodbank, and the plight of the hopeless homeless, a $6 billion state deficit looming, and we want to take care of an odor?
    Good luck with getting money to waste on that project.

  • JunctionMonkey February 11, 2009 (1:10 pm)

    In no way, shape or form should anyone support this frivolous bill during these hard economic times. May I suggest to those living on the beach and complaining about this “offensive” odor that they pick up a rake and a bag an get to work. Perhaps they can afford to hire some people to do it for them.

  • meg February 11, 2009 (1:47 pm)

    Sea algae is good compost for gardens, for example. However, rinsing it at the beach is crucial, in order to allow the survival of hundreds of tiny, many of them just baby, sea creatures living in it (yes, even in rotting algae!). They will dehydrate & starve away from the sea and their presence is necessary for the health of the entire marine ecosystem. If people feel compelled to remove some algae, then please give it a good swish in the water first.

  • WSB February 11, 2009 (1:52 pm)

    This goes way beyond a smell issue.
    If you are not familiar with Judy Pickens’ work, she is a volunteer (and not a “million dollar beachfront home” owner, not that it matters) who works on watershed issues and has been integral to saving Fauntleroy Creek, one of the last few spawning creeks in the city limits. What I didn’t include here and have uploaded now since there seems to be an intense interest in the issue is the “white paper” that explains how this is NOT a natural phenomenon, and how it has deleterious effects on fish and humans, among other things. If you want to pick apart the science in the report, that’s one thing, but before you dismiss this out of hand, take a look:

    It also will be added inline in the story above. – TR

  • s February 11, 2009 (2:27 pm)

    “…white paper that explains how this is NOT a natural phenomenon”
    The white paper does NOT show that sea lettuce is unnatural. In fact, the last three sentences of the document pose a question: “To what extent is a natural process contributing? Are nutrient-rich currents in the Sound at play? Are incremental changes in water temperature over time encouraging the process?
    I can’t pick apart the science in the white paper because there is no science in the white paper. There isn’t a single peer-reviewed citation in it. It is largely composed of anecdotal assertions and oversimplifications (For example, sea lettuce uses oxygen, and so do salmon, so sea lettuce hurts salmon–Give me a break!)

  • WSB February 11, 2009 (2:39 pm)

    Thanks for reading it!
    Some other info of note – this relates to a short report we ran last summer regarding a pilot program to remove it when it shows up in large quantities (which did NOT happen last year)

  • Gretchen February 11, 2009 (3:20 pm)

    I was the principal investigator and author of Blooms of Ulvoids in Puget Sound, which attempted to spur some investigation of a heretofore largely ignored issue. I am also a former marine scientist with a specialty in seaweeds. I am alarmed at the oversimplifications surrounding the issue, the continuing lack of accurate data regarding ulvoid dynamics in Puget Sound, and misinformation about the role of ulvoids and other seaweeds in nearshore environments. Once again, the politics is not based on sound science, and passing any bill without it will not provide a sensible, long-term solution. Frankly, at this point no one, especially not the politicians, really knows what is “natural” in terms of seaweed dynamics in Puget Sound. Seaweeds are the base of the food web in central Puget Sound (and the fact that they rot is essential to this role), and no laws should be passed without thorough investigation of the effects of removal on food and habitat resources.

  • d February 11, 2009 (3:39 pm)

    I appreciate folks who volunteer and engage in their communities and causes. Absolutely! But, dang, let’s choose our battles for the right reasons. Do either of these communities really need the state tax payers money for this?

    So, from looking at the links, it looks like only two small areas are somehow needing this special help? Fauntleroy Cove and Dumas Bay only will be cleaned by the hired help when “it smells bad” – as determined by whom? Wait! Wait! Don’t tell me! The homeowners? Well, THAT’s good science and a confidence builder. It’ll be the subjective sniff test of neighbors. I’m also a little disappointed in Sharon Nelson, frankly. She should be encouraging volunteerism to address this.

    What a waste. Why hasn’t FCA just put together a volunteer group and do the right thing as a community when the time comes to save their fellow tax payers some bucks in precarious times? Have the blooms been THAT bad that a trained and informed group with tarps and shovels can’t handle it? Honestly, the way the letter reads and the very narrow scope of effected areas, makes this bill pretty much high drama and over kill.

    FCA – just try it – the volunteer approach. I bet you would get the help from your green neighbors; that is, if you don’t tick them off in the process of pursuing these funds.

  • d February 11, 2009 (3:44 pm)

    Thanks for posting Gretchen!

    Good lord, it’s nice to know peeps like you read WSB!

  • Ron February 11, 2009 (7:17 pm)

    I live about 3 blocks East of Fauntleroy Cove and it’s issues like this that have influenced my decision to stay clear of the FCA meetings. They seldom speak for me, but in spite of them I still enjoy the area, just not the politics. Yes I smell the odor of the Sea Lettuce or whatever it may be, but I have to tell you, those people that think they have to have a beachfire on warm Summer nights bother my clean air a whole lot worse than the rotting Sea Lettuce. I have to close my windows on warm to hot evenings because of these thoughtless people who insist on having an a unneeded fire sending smoke into the rest of the neighborhood’s windows.

    I wonder why the boaters should have to pay for the cleanup, they didn’t cause the problem. If the beach residents don’t want to clean it up themselves maybe we should charge another untaxed group to pay for it, Bicycle Riders. So far they use our roads, have special trails built for them and main arterials capacity reduced to make room for them so lets put a special use tax on them like we do to autos, boats and RV vehicles. Sounds fair to me!

  • vincent February 11, 2009 (7:40 pm)

    Wow Ron, harbor some bike hate in there? ( PUN INTENDED ) if you think bike riders are untaxed, your 1040 must be a riot.

    I am mostly amazed this gets the time of day in todays economic climate. Leave the lettuce alone, its part of living by the beach, if you don’t want to deal with it, move alongside a lake.

  • Ron February 11, 2009 (8:07 pm)

    Well Vincent, what’s the license number on your bike if you are trying to say you pay for screwing up traffic everywhere you go? I just think everybody ought to pay their fair share if they are going to get special priviledges. When I owned a boat, I paid to license it every year, I paid for the trailer to tow it in, I paid a launch fee to put it in the water and I paid for a fishing license. Now just what tax are you paying on your bike?

  • glocson February 11, 2009 (8:34 pm)

    I know Ron, my bike spills gasoline and oil into the water, not to mention it scares wildlife and causes damage to the shoreline from it’s wake. Also I like to urinate off the back of my bike and throw cut up herring guts off of it too. Toss my sea salad(lettuce)Ron!

  • WSB February 11, 2009 (8:37 pm)

    Stop right here, please.
    Debate the merits of this, or not, but this personal back-forth does not achieve anything and I’d like to be able to keep this thread open for further discussion on its merits – TR

  • vincent February 11, 2009 (8:37 pm)

    Congratulations on your boat, its amusing you think vehicle licensing somehow pay for 100% of road based services, it clarifies your obvious inadequate knowledge on this subject. To answer your clearly inflammatory question I actually pay federal taxes on my income to to government, which happens to be the major source of funding for roads, ( like highways ) I also pay property takes on two homes, another source of taxing for roads ( like city and county roads ), I paid sales tax on my bicycle, as well as when I buy parts for it ( at local businesses ) and to top it all off I pay the yearly car tabs for two vehicles that my wife and I use when we don’t ride our bicycles. In short I subsidize your driving, by not using the roads I pay for with a vehicle, probably that boat launch you use, ( cause your boat tabs dont pay for 100% of the launch) as well as removing my car from the traffic I am sure you love so much each day. But thanks for asking, I love reminding people how ill informed and wrong the bicycles pay no tax myth is. oh, and leave the lettuce alone, its part of the sound.

  • Ron February 11, 2009 (9:01 pm)

    You are right WSB, we should stick to this important issue. The issue of bicyle behavior and lack of paying their own way is a separate issue and should be addressed in a different venue.

    I was really hoping to hear from the people who build fires on the beach that want us to be concerned about the rotting Sea Lettuce which is a naturally caused problem, while some of them are guilty of creating a larger problem with their air polluting smoke and forcing their neighbors to go to bed with a hotter house because they can’t open their windows.

  • alkigirl February 11, 2009 (10:32 pm)

    Wow…”stench”??? It’s a natural occurance. I grew up on Alki Beach, and frankly, I enjoy the smell of the seaweed when the tide goes out. It smells like nature and “home” to me. I no longer live “on” the beach, because I can’t afford to, (so sad…lived there for my entire life!!) and when I can smell the beach from up on the hill, it takes me back in time to my childhood.

    All you “mucky mucks” that can’t stand the smell…too bad! It is nature. It is the beach. “If you can’t take the heat….get out of the kitchen”!! Seaweed is a natural “cleanser” for our Puget Sound. Get a clue. I think most of us would like to enjoy the beach in it’s natural state for years to come. Who knows what your “clean up” of the “water cleanser” would do to the eco system of the Sound.

    Geesh! Find something else to complain about or get on the band wagon for. Try doing something constructive, like taking care of the homeless, or helping out the food bank. Leave the seaweed alone, and move off of the beach if you don’t like it!

    And you want all of the rest of us to pay for your “clean up” with tax dollars? You guys are pathetic! Do you even care about this earth? Or just your pretty view and impressing your friends with your vanilla scented homes. Heaven forbid they might get a whiff of nature….you live on the beach! Get used to it….or leave.

  • Beth February 12, 2009 (10:05 am)

    Saltwater algae/sea lettuce can be a problem. I’ll grant you that. What you don’t talk about is where the money is coming for the saltwater algae removal. The bill proposes taking a quarter of the freshwater algae budget (administered by the Department of Ecology) that has been dedicated, based on a several stakeholder and legislative task force, to understand and control toxic blue-green algae in our freshwater lakes across the state.

    Blue-green algae blooms in lakes can produce well known liver and nueral toxins that have killed dogs and other animals that drink the lake water as well pose serious health risks to boaters, swimmers and lakeside residents.

    It is not appropriate to take money from a program that is trying to limit exposure to toxins and protect the health of all Washington residents.

    Marine shoreline owners, like lake owners, have the power to form a Beach Management District to deal with these types of issues. I would recommend finding the money for this project that way.

  • BiJay February 12, 2009 (10:20 am)

    I am a Lake Manager for Liberty Lake (on the east side of the state) and this sea lettuce bill even effects me over here by Spokane since money is being taken away from the Freshwater Algae Control Program that I take advantage of. I encourage proponents of this bill to find alternate funding sources that DO NOT have negative consequences statewide for only a coastal problem. I encourage all of you to write your senators and representatives to stop this bill!

  • Jacob February 12, 2009 (11:16 am)

    While the impetus for this bill is certainly based upon a problem that affects the aesthetic sensibilities of some, the public health risk has not been sufficiently demonstrated to warrant removing funding from a program that was created to help stop an existing and VERY REAL public health issue. Toxic cyanobacteria kills pets and livestock every year, and it has also been associated with very serious chronic health conditions in humans.
    The Freshwater Algae Control Program is one of the very few tools that lake residents, health jurisdictions,and lake manager have to study and possibly control the occurrence of toxic blooms in Washington Lakes. The program, as it stands, is underfunded and not able to conduct all the research and analysis that is needed.
    Please write your Senators and Representatives and let them know that the answer for “the stench” does not lie in robbing money from the poor animals and children whose lives are endangered by the occurence of toxic cyanobacteria in our lakes.

  • FriendO'Dingus February 13, 2009 (7:45 am)

    Yet another example of what I call ‘subsidizing the wealthy’. I know someone who lives in one of the multi-million dollar beachfront homes in the cove, and this is exactly the sort of tactic they continually use, across the board in every aspect of their greedy lives, to get the rest of us to pay for somethng that benefits only themselves. All the while, mind you, moaning and griping about welfare recipients, tax code, Democrats, etc. and how they are destroying America.
    If they don’t like the smell, then may I suggest moving to one of the new town homes on Delridge, or a lovely split level in White Center.
    Get over yourselves FCA. I for one will indeed be writing my senators and representatives to see that this ridiculous plan is not implemented.

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