West Seattle, Washington
(WSB file photo, Duwamish River seen from high-rise West Seattle Bridge)
Seattle’s only river – the Duwamish River. much of which runs along West Seattle’s eastern edge – is the site of an ongoing major cleanup operation, after decades of pollution. This Wednesday morning, you can hear firsthand status reports during the Lower Duamish Waterway Stakeholders‘ next meeting. It’s happening online, and community members are welcome. Attendance information is on the agenda, which makes note of one thing that will not be happening at the meeting: There’s no decision yet on the cleanup-area reduction proposed because of a change in the definition of safe levels of a particular pollutant (as covered here earlier this year). There will, however, be an update on the number and type of comments received on that. Other agenda items include habitat restoration and cleanup milestones. The meeting is set for 10 am-noon Wednesday (June 9th).
As the Challenge closes on June 4th — the culmination of a nine-month process that brought together students from 55 countries and all 50 states — Students Rebuild has selected six changemakers to honor for their community-change efforts, including Adonis. Each award recipient will receive $1,000 to further their efforts.
Adonis Williams is a high school junior, artist and activist. At the age of 12, Adonis was one of eight young people who, in partnership with Our Children’s Trust, sued the Washington State Department of Ecology for failing to adequately protect them and future generations from the effect of climate change. Since then, he has remained deeply involved in environmental activist work across various organizations in the Puget Sound region, including Greenpeace, Seattle Tilth, and Plant for the Planet.
Adonis dearly appreciates the world’s life support systems and the ecology of the natural world around him — and takes every chance he gets to appreciate the beauty of mother earth, which fuels his activism.
(Students Rebuild, which provided the photo, is part of the Bezos Family Foundation.) The Changemaker Challenge awards for middle- and high-school students, including Adonis, will be presented in an online ceremony at 11 am Friday; you can watch by RSVPing here.
The next two Saturdays are your next two chances to join in community-organized cleanups around West Seattle:
ALKI, JUNE 5TH: Jessica‘s been leading monthly cleanups on the first Saturday of each month
Meet up at 10 am at 2452 Alki Avenue SW. Bring your own pick stick, garden gloves, and a bucket (Jessica says they work better than bags, especially when it’s windy). She has a few pick sticks and buckets if you don’t have your own. Kids welcome. To RSVP, text Jessica at 206-769-6330.
UNDER THE BRIDGE, JUNE 12TH: Conrad is organizing another of these cleanups for Saturday, June 12th. Meet up at 1 pm at the SW Marginal Place cul-de-sac that meets the bike/foot trail along the west end of the low bridge. Sign up – and get more details – by going here.
By Judy Pickens
Special to West Seattle Blog
Despite the pandemic’s many extra demands on teachers, seven West Seattle schools (half the usual number) managed to rear coho this year. In addition, two preschools released fry reared by volunteer Jack Lawless for the Fauntleroy Watershed Council to supplement what schools were able to produce.
Most teachers scheduled their releases in Fauntleroy Park by family groups. All told, 130 students, plus 190 adults and siblings, put 1,044 fish in the water.
An additional 30 park users who happened by the release site on Saturday let the last of the supplemental fish go for their year in freshwater.
About the same time that fry were going into the creek, 49 smolts were heading out for their two years in saltwater. Between mid-March and late May, volunteers Dennis Hinton and Pete Draughon documented 15 smolts leaving from the upper creek and 34 from middle and lower reaches of the mile-long system. This number is about average for the past five years of this 19-year study.
Next up will be spawning season, starting in mid-October.
If you had passed that family on the trail in Fauntleroy Park on Saturday, you might have assumed they were just out for a family walk. Except for the clipboards carried by daughters Estela and Vivian as they walked with dad Eddie and mom Carina…
… and these flags they placed at 10 spots along the trail.
Estela and Vivian, 4th- and 1st-graders at Arbor Heights Elementary, are in their third month of a volunteer project in conjunction with the Fauntleroy Watershed Council. They’re gone out every month to survey the trail – through the watershed of salmon-bearing Fauntleroy Creek – for what visiting dogs left behind. We went along on Saturday afternoon for this month’s survey. Every place they found something, they marked with a flag.
The 10 flags they placed this time were fewer than their first two times (17 and 14). The flags are intended to both warn – one side says “Watch your step!” – and educate. They’re rain-resistant and made from paper, says creek steward Judy Pickens, and are removed two weeks after placement. Pickens’ community-connection work is what got Estela and Vivian involved – their family went to a fall “drumming to call the salmon home” event at her house and asked what they could do to help. They’re also involved with the Salmon in the Schools program at Arbor Heights Elementary, and might present their findings at school as well as to the Watershed Council, which has been tracking this problem since 2004.
So what do they hope to accomplish? Estela says it’s simple – convincing dog owners to pick up after their pets. “We don’t want it to get into the creek … we hope this helps the salmon. And we hope people understand there are things they can do” such as gentle reminders to other parkgoers. The sisters will be doing their part to help – and making a map and list of their findings – through August.
Back in September, we told you about Poogooder, founded by West Seattleite Lori Kothe as a way to tackle the problem so many complain about … dog waste fouling sidewalks, planting strips, etc., and sparking un-neighborly spats. Lori says nearly 80 Poogooder disposal bins – each with its own volunteer steward – are now up in local neighborhoods. But that’s just a start toward ending the problem, so Lori’s announced the Zero Poo Challenge, and you have two ways to be part of it:
The Poogooder Zero Poo Challenge is a free, crowd-sourced education initiative to raise awareness of the social and environmental impacts of wayward dog poo and the small steps we can take to foster a happier, healthier community and planet. It involves 2 main activities open to the public: an all-ages PSA Art & Video Contest and a Wayward Poo Hunt. Participants can win prizes, fame, goodies from local businesses, and even trophies! Deadline to submit or vote for family-friendly PSA creations is June 12. The Wayward Poo Hunt citizen-science research project runs May 23 – June 12 and coincides with PAWSWalk. Poo Hunters will use the Pooper Snooper mobile app to “win” by finding real secret treasure tins hidden throughout West Seattle.
If you are a local business, educator, organization, or individual who would like to be involved in some way and/or donate to the prize packs, please submit a contact form at Poogooder.com. Let’s have fun, get the facts, and inspire change to do some good today. More info, Dog Poo 101 guide, PSA voting gallery, and entry details at zeropoo.com.
11:32 AM: Gov. Inslee is in West Seattle right now during a daylong tour of the metro area, signing bills. He has just arrived at the Duwamish Tribe Longhouse, he is signing the HEAL Act (SB 5141), which he says will “set a course toward a more healthy and equitable future with greater environmental justice for all Washingtonians.” The Longhouse is hosting a celebratory event for the occasion, both inside and outside.TVW plans to stream the signing above; we are at the Longhouse to cover the event, and we’ll add more photos/details later.
11:52 AM: The ceremony has begun with a song of welcome. James Rasmussen of the Duwamish Tribe then speaks.
“My people have been here for over 10,000 years.” The bill the governor will sign today, he says, is “about healing” – not just environmental, but “all kinds.” He also reminds those gathered – and those watching.- that the Duwamish are still seeking federal recognition.
11:59 AM: Now the governor takes the podium. He says this bill addressing systemic racism’s role in environmental injustice has been decades in the making. He hails the work of organizations such as the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, whose executive director Paulina López is among the dozens of people in attendance. While the bill may “sound like process,” the governor insists that it’s “about results.”
Also speaking, the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Rebecca Saldaña. “It is about how we approach all the work we do” – to undo what has led to disparities in “health and opportunity” affecting too many “because of where they live.” Joining her at the podium is Rep. Kirsten Harris-Talley, a new legislator who speaks emotionally about her pride that this was accomplished – “I don’t want one more auntie to die 10 years too early … I don’t want one more child to have asthma” because of pollution.
12:40 PM: And after more speaking and singing, the signing.
The governor declares that the HEAL Act will make environmental justice part of the state’s “core strategy.” He moves on to one more on-location signing in about an hour, three environmental bills he’ll sign in Shoreline, two of them sponsored by West Seattle House Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon. Meantime, the video from this event should be viewable, archived, above, before long. And we’ll add more coverage when we’re back at HQ.
ADDED MONDAY NIGHT: From the legislative news release about the HEAL Act, more explanation:
Senate Bill 5141, the Healthy Environment for All Act (HEAL Act), addresses the disproportionate exposure to environmental hazards suffered by Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color, along with low-income communities in neighborhoods across Washington state, putting them at higher risk of adverse health outcomes. This risk is further amplified for communities with pre-existing economic barriers and environmental risks.
The HEAL Act, sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle), implements recommendations from the Environmental Justice Task Force – established by the Legislature in 2019 – on how state agencies should incorporate environmental justice principles to reduce health disparities when implementing policies and programs. Environmental justice means the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. …
Saldaña’s bill establishes environmental justice requirements for seven state agencies, an interagency workgroup, and a permanent environmental justice council, the makeup of which includes a majority of representatives from impacted communities. It also sets timelines for guidance, recommendations, and implementation of environmental justice assessments, measurements, and public reporting of progress.
The indoor ceremony at the Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center was followed by an outdoor celebration (with food by the Off the Rez truck, funded by Front and Centered Coalition). Speakers included the tribe’s longtime chair Cecile Hansen:
She also reminded those in attendance that the Duwamish battle for recognition is not yet won, and noted what they had given up so long ago – 55,000 acres, while now, they hold only the 2/3 of an acre on which the Longhouse sits. As noted in our recent District 1 Community Network report, you can expect to hear more about the tribe’s renewed quest. Their message is that despite the federal attempt at erasure, “We are still here.”
Two days after Seattle Public Utilities closed the area off Bonair/Alki to “water activities” because of a sewer overflow, it’s open again. SPU spokesperson Sabrina Register tells WSB that the latest water-quality tests show it’s safe. As reported Wednesday, the overflow – approximately 1,655 gallons – is blamed on a century-old sewer line failing. We’re continuing to follow up to see what’s planned for repair/replacement.
The sign’s still up at Bonair/Alki, one day after Seattle Public Utilities reported a sewer overflow into Puget Sound. The warning zone is at the easternmost end of the beach – it covers “water activities” for about 600 feet in either direction. Today SPU spokesoerson Sabrina Register told WSB the amount of spilled sewage is estimated at about 1,655 gallons. And a pump station was not involved, she said – rather, “An initial assessment shows structural failure (a collapsed mainline) on nearly 100-year-old infrastructure.” SPU work crews were seen in the area earlier today:
Thanks to Chas Redmond for that photo. We’ll check on the repair plasn tomorrow; SPU has said the warning signage will remain in place until water sampling shows it’s safe.
6:01 PM: From Seattle Public Utilities:
Shortly after 12 pm today, Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) responded to a sewer overflow, caused by a blockage, into Puget Sound along Alki Beach and Bonair Dr. SW. Out of an abundance of caution, staff have posted signs alerting that the beach surrounding this area is closed to water activities at this time.
Staff will sample the water and work with Public Health-Seattle & King County to determine when the area can be safely reopened. SPU will update you when we have more information.
If you find flooding or sewer backups, please report them to the SPU 24/7 Operations Response Center at (206) 386-1800.
We are checking on the extent of the closure.
7:35 PM: No estimate yet of how much spilled. But the posted zone, SPU tells us, extends 600 feet in both directions from Bonair/Alki.
WEDNESDAY MORNING UPDATE: SPU says the overflow is estimated at 1,655 gallons.
When you can spare five minutes, watch that video – a big winner at last week’s annual Environmental Slam. Its creator was among students from three local schools whose work was honored at the event. Here’s a report by two educators whose students were among them, Stacia Bell of Madison Middle School and Tim Owens of Explorer West Middle School (WSB sponsor):
West Seattle students from area schools had a big night at the city-wide Environmental Slam, sponsored by the Washington Foundation for the Environment (WFFE). Due to the pandemic, this year’s Slam was conducted virtually using Zoom and pre-recorded entries. The Environmental Slam is an annual event that encourages middle- and high-school students to prepare 5-minute presentations on any local environmental issue. Winners are recognized and donations from WFFE will be made to the students’ chosen environmental non-profit organization that works specifically with the environmental issue that students focused on.
Madison MS 8th grader Aria Erickson won both the Judges’ Choice 1st-place award (with a perfect score for the first time ever in Slam history) and the Audience Choice award. Her presentation, titled A Single Fish (video above), was about the pain plastic inflicts on marine life in Puget Sound. Aria won $1,000 and will be donating it to the local environmental organization, the Washington Environmental Council. When asked what she loved about the event, Aria said, “Watching the other presentations, I not only was made aware of the dangers facing the Earth, I could also feel in each the passion and dedication of my fellow youth environmentalists. This was incredibly encouraging, and I am so honored to have been a part of it.”
Teams from West Seattle High School and Explorer West Middle School had a three-way tie for 2nd place. West Seattle High School 9th grader Tim Deppe won with his presentation about the effects of consumerism on our environment. One Explorer West team – made up of sixth graders Diane Heckman, Sylvie Kaufman, and Ali Lazar – focused on fertilizer runoff and dead zones in Puget Sound. The final 2nd=place winners, Delia Hutchinson and Sarah Deppe, focused on how contaminants reach Puget Sound, having a drastic effect on salmon. These students will be donating their winnings to Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, the Surfrider Foundation, and 350 Seattle.
If you haven’t had a chance to attend an Environmental Slam, it happens each year in April around Earth Day and is a city-wide event designed to amplify young people’s voices on environmental issues. This year’s event had 10 participating teams from Seattle area middle and high schools, including Madison MS, West Seattle HS, McClure MS, Whitman MS, Explorer West MS, and SAAS. The Slam will be back next year, and without a doubt, you will walk away from this event inspired by the passion of these young activists, as they speak their truth for the environment!
After an initial rush – 100 visitors in the first half-hour – we got to the Fauntleroy Church Recycle Roundup during a semi-break in the action, Organizers told us people were already waiting before it began at 9 am!
Here’s the list of what they will and won’t accept this time. They do the unloading, but please wear your mask while there; church volunteers are there to direct traffic and answer questions (and accept donations if interested). The Recycle Roundup usually happens twice a year, spring and fall, but not last year because of the pandemic; it continues today until 3 pm.
Puget Park got some TLC on this soggy Saturday – and you can help next time. The photos and report are from Matthew J. Clark (thank you!):
Amidst the towering cedars, hemlock, and alder, with a slight drizzle, a small group of volunteers worked in Puget Park today clearing brush and invasive species to make way for a new trail. The Forest Steward for Puget Park, Christine Clark (below right), led the group as they methodically worked through the process of clipping, digging, pulling, and cutting debris.
The goal of today’s work is to reroute the existing trail to avoid a muddy section. Clark was happily surprised by the turnout. “I was worried that the little bit of rain would scare people away from showing up.” But eight volunteers did show up, and the group made quick work of clearing over 140’ of new trail.
The trail improvements in Puget Park have been on going for the last 4-5 years. Through volunteer work, partnerships with Green Seattle and guidance by Seattle Parks, the trail has taken shape to be a draw for the neighborhood and the broader West Seattle Community affording a great path for walking and running.
The Puget Park trail connects with trails between Pathfinder K-8 to the north and Highland Park to the south. You can easily stitch together an 8-mile round-trip walk in the woods and never cross a road.
What are the next steps for the Puget Park trail? Clark says they’ll work on drainage along the new path, then add a top layer of gravel. There will be work parties throughout the summer.
Check with the Green Seattle website for future volunteer opportunities. “You don’t need any experience or tools,” Clark say. “Just show up and we’ll help you learn the ropes. It is so much fun meeting new people from around the neighborhood and from around the community.”
The next event on the schedule for the greater Duwamish Greenbelt, which Puget Park is a part of, will be on Sunday, May 2nd. This will be a fun trail-cleanup work party. The group will meet up at 14th Ave SW and SW Holly.
One more reminder – Sunday is the day for Fauntleroy Church‘s first Recycle Roundup since before the pandemic. It’s a drive-up/ride-up, free-of-charge event in the church parking lot – Sunday (April 25th), 9 am-3 pm. 1 Green Planet will be there to accept recyclables as listed here. The church is at 9140 California SW (map). Though you’re asked to stay in your vehicle, please wear a mask.
P.S. This happens rain or shine, so if Sunday’s soggy, don’t worry, this will still happen.
It’s Earth Day! As announced last week, the Care for Creation teams at Holy Rosary and Our Lady of Guadalupe again invited West Seattleites to display signs in honor of the occasion. Here are photos we’ve received so far – above and below, Terry Blumer and grandson Asher carried on their tradition: “We decided to go big this year! Go big or go home, right?”
That’s at Atlantic and 44th in North Admiral. There are also simple signs in yards, like this one put up by Lucy Johnson:
And Vince Stricherz, who sent us the invitation, recycled (of course!) this sign from last year:
ADDED: Debbie texted this photo, reporting it’s on the west side of Hiawatha Playfield:
ADDED: Texted from Sylvan Way:
Anybody else? We’ll add any photos we get – email@example.com or text to 206-293-6302 – thank you!
(WSB file photo, Duwamish River seen from high-rise West Seattle Bridge)
If you have something to say about the Environmental Protection Agency‘s proposal to reduce the Duwamish River cleanup area because of a new health-risk standard for a particular pollutant, time is running out. Last time we reported on the comment period, two weeks ago, it was extended one more time, but that’s not expected to happen again. The Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition has published its comments online here, voicing opposition to the change: “DRCC has concerns about this proposal and is opposed to its execution,” says spokesperson Robin Schwartz. Among its concerns is uncertainty among the scientific community over the actual cancer risk of the pollutant involved in the proposed change, benzo(a)pyrene. The DRCC letter says, “To us, it appears that EPA is taking a large risk that could affect human health in an environmental justice community for such a small change (0.33% or $1,117,000) in the overall cleanup costs.” If you’re interested in signing onto the DRCC letter, you can do that here. If you have a comment of your own, send it to Region10@epa.gov by midnight Wednesday night (April 21st).
P.S. If you missed previous coverage, here’s our report on the EPA’s explanatory meeting in February.
(File photo – honey-bee swarm photographed in Genesee)
Honey bees are vital to our ecosystem. So if you see a swarm, you don’t want to harm them. The Puget Sound Beekeepers Association compiles a list every year of members who volunteer to respond to swarm reports and remove them for free. In sending this year’s list, PSBA explains that when swarms are removed, “They will be relocated to a place where they can continue to provide their valuable contribution to our environment.” Here’s the newest version of the list, with five beekeepers listed for the West Seattle/White Center area. (The list also includes photos so you know what’s a honey bee and what’s not.)
We’re now less than one week away from Fauntleroy Church‘s first Recycle Roundup since pre-pandemic. Here’s a reminder from Judy Pickens:
It’s time to top off your bag, box, or bin of recyclables because we’re less than one week away from the return of the Recycle Roundup at Fauntleroy Church! The building is still closed but the parking lot will be wide open on Sunday, April 25, 9 am-3 pm, for free, responsible recycling by 1 Green Planet. Plan to wear a mask and stay in your vehicle. Donation optional. The updated list of what they will/won’t accept this time is here (PDF). The church is at 9140 California SW (map).
Pre-pandemic, the church hosted these events twice a year; the last one was in September 2019.
That’s one of the signs made by West Seattleites of all ages in honor of Earth Day last year, after an invitation to create and place signs of support in windows or yards. Earth Day is April 22nd – one week from today – and you’re invited to do it again! From Vince Stricherz:
Happy Earth Day!
Earth Day, that annual celebration of our planet and all the work being done to protect its environment, is fast approaching. Once again, the Care for Creation team from Holy Rosary and Our Lady of Guadalupe parishes is urging people all over West Seattle to place an Earth-related photo or illustration in their windows or a sign in their yards on April 22 to demonstrate our commitment to taking care of this place we call home. One possibility is for kids to make drawings around Earth Day themes, or kids and adults can work together to make displays highlighting the importance of clean water, clean air and healthy soil! You also can download images from the Internet and place them where all who pass by your home can see them. We hope to see lots of images celebrating Earth Day!
As we did last year, we also invite you to send us a photo of your sign/display on Earth Day – firstname.lastname@example.org or text the pic to our 24/7 hotline at 206-293-6302 – thank you!
In case you didn’t see it in our coverage of last month’s HPAC meeting or on the WSB West Seattle Event Calendar – this Saturday morning (April 17th) brings another compost giveaway in the north lot at South Seattle College (6000 16th SW; WSB sponsor). 9 am until it’s gone, bring your own shovel and container(s) for up to a half-yard of compost per household. Masks required.
The twice-annual Duwamish Alive! event is back, and you have two ways to be part of it this Saturday (April 17th):
This Saturday, communities in the Green-Duwamish watershed will be celebrating Earth Month by participating in restoring habitat along the Green-Duwamish River and offering the self guided Green-Duwamish Journey. Several volunteer opportunities are still available, including the Heron’s Nest site:
Volunteer at Heron’s Nest restoration site in West Seattle, stewarded by the Duwamish Tribe and Shared Spaces as they restore native habitat on this site along with additional activities. Volunteers will be weeding, mulching, planting, and helping Seattle Tool Library build needed items. Email: email@example.com
2021 Green-Duwamish Self Guided Journey
Community members are also encouraged to learn more about the Green-Duwamish River by visiting many of its environmental, historical and culturally significant sites on the Green-Duwamish Journey, provided in a booklet with activities families can enjoy while visiting the sites. The booklet can be downloaded from DuwamishAlive.org, with coordinating learning packets from Nature Vision for grades K-12.
If you were on or near the Fauntleroy ferry terminal at mid-afternoon, you might have seen those students sending a message they hope will be heard thousands of miles away. They’re from the Summit Atlas hub of the Sunrise Movement, which organizer Hannah Lindell-Smith describes as “a youth-led organization to stop the climate crisis and create good jobs in the process.” Today, school hubs around the city were holding actions like this to send a message to U.S. Senator Patty Murray, asking her, Hannah says, “to stand up for our generation’s right to good jobs and a livable future and sign onto the Green New Deal and Good Jobs For All Pledge.”
Starbucks, like many coffee purveyors, has not yet resumed accepting personal cups. But for customers uneasy about all the resulting waste, they’ve just launched a pilot program called Borrow A Cup – testing it at five stores, four of them in West Seattle.
At a participating store, you can “borrow” one of these cups for your hot or cold beverage for a one-dollar deposit, which is refunded when you return the cup in one of two ways: Scanning and dropping it in a special box at a participating store, or having door-to-door recycler Ridwell pick it up if you’re a member. Either way, baristas don’t have to handle used cups – they’re collected, cleaned, sanitized, and returned to stores by a company called GO Box. Starbucks says the cups are USA-made “from a very lightweight polypropylene plastic … the same material used in our current cold cups and both our hot and cold cup lids, and is recyclable in Seattle.” Each cup is expected to get about 30 uses The pilot program is running through the end of May; participating stores are at California/ Fauntleroy, California/Alaska, Westwood Village, and Avalon/Fauntleroy. (the fifth is at 4th/Diagonal in SODO).
P.S. The “borrowable” cups are available for 12-, 16-, and 24-ounce drinks, but 31-ounce drinks are still only available in single-use cups.