West Seattle, Washington
Thanks to David for the photo and alert about that beached pallet on Alki. He writes, “Thought you might want to know a very large, approximately 4×6 ft pallet is along our shoreline … I especially wanted to reach out and let the swimming community know about this. It’s a hidden hazard to many, regardless; I estimate it weighs just under 200 lbs.” This gives us a reason to remind you about something we learned about while covering the creosote removal from Fauntleroy two months ago – the MyCoast app, which even has a specific reporting category “large marine debris.”
If you were among the many people walking, running, riding, driving on Alki late this morning – you might have seen the signs for the Alki Beach restroom-replacement open house. Maybe you even stopped to find out more.
If you didn’t – Seattle Parks promises the graphics shown today will be online Monday. As we reported earlier this month, the project replacing the little brick “comfort station” at 57th/Alki is planned for next year. Restroom renovations geared toward accessibility are also planned elsewhere in the city, including Lincoln Park.
Imagine Lowman Beach Park with a stretch of currently undergrounded Pelly Creek running through it to meet the Sound. That’s part of the preliminary-design plan shown at last week’s community meeting about the park’s seawall-free future. In case you couldn’t be there, we recorded video:
They recapped the problem – the remaining seawall on the north side of Lowman Beach Park is sliding; it started failing in 2015. The south seawall failed in the mid-’90s. At the 2017 meeting, three possibilities for the beach’s future were detailed, and they are moving ahead with the one that involves removing the remaining seawall and restoring the beach to more of a natural state.
More controversial is the plan to also remove the asphalt tennis court that’s just behind the seawall. Graves acknowledged that it’s much-loved and well-used. He said they’re looking at the possibility of “restoring the tennis function” elsewhere in the park, perhaps its open area toward the southeast side – the top right of this rendering:
Or, suggested one team member, pieces of the old court could be repurposed as a memorial of sorts.
They won’t have more details until the plan reaches the 60-percent-design milestone. But Graves and the designers/consultants stressed how rare this is, to have a stretch of beach that is eligible for this type of restoration: “There’s a unique opportunity here, nowhere else in West Seattle … when this is done, you’ll be able to put a blanket on the grass and watch your kids play on the sand.” One attendee later wondered aloud whether driftwood was likely to eventually get in the way of that, as had happened on the south side of the beach, and Graves acknowledged that was possible. Still, the project team rhapsodized about how good this could be for salmon habitat – connecting that to endangered orca whales’ need for more food – and how it would even position the shoreline to be able to better handle future expected sea-level rise.
This area was identified as a priority for restoration more than a decade ago, Graves added, so it’s likely to get the grant funding that will be needed for the project.
Other questions and concerns beyond the tennis court involved the absence of a restroom in the plan – talking about families coming to picnic, it was suggested, made no sense if there wasn’t going to be one – plus fears that removing the seawall would lead to further compromising of the bulkheads protecting waterfront homes to the north, as also aired at the 2017 meeting.
One person asked about the park’s swing set. It’s staying, said Graves, and they’re also mulling whether the play area could be expanded.
WHAT’S NEXT: The 60-percent-design milestone is expected as soon as next month, and 100 percent design by year’s end. Project construction would happen next year, assuming the funding is found, and would last three to six months.
Two weeks ago, we reported on a state Department of Natural Resources-contracted crew removing creosote-contaminated logs from the Fauntleroy shore, one of many cleanups they do on shorelines around the state each year, with hopes of doing more. Resident Mike Dey (who also leads the Fauntleroy Commmunity Association) shares word of the final total – “45,960 pounds of contaminated logs from Fauntleroy Cove and another 16,580 pounds from Lincoln Park for a total of 62,540 pounds of creosote laden logs from the beach. (The DNR) said this may be the largest collection they have ever had from a continuous private beach. Quite a haul.”
2:07 PM: Delayed two weeks by snow, the Special Olympics of Washington “Big Plunge” on Alki was greeted by a bit of ice. Just as the first wave of plungers was set to venture into the chilly waters of Puget Sound, the light rain turned to hail/graupel/sleet/ice pellets.
The hardy plungers were undaunted. This is a signature event for Special Olympics support from law enforcement, and they have to weather challenging conditions day in and day out anyway.
We even spotted Seattle’s top cop, Chief Carmen Best, apparently on shore-support detail:
Providing support offshore, vessels including this one from the King County Sheriff’s Office:
Though the plunging’s over, the event is also a midwinter festival of sorts, with a dozen or so food trucks parked near the Alki Bathhouse.
They’re scheduled to be here until about 3 pm, same end time for a benefit beer garden. Supporting Special Olympics of Washington, by the way, supports a wide variety of programs – including the Unified Sports with which local schools are involved.
3:11 PM: Wrapping up – we’ll watch for word on the fundraising total. Participants came from far and wide, including this group from Edmonds:
Almost time! The South County Copsicles are about the take #TheBigPlunge for @SO_Washington! The wind is chilly, the water colder but we are on fire to raise $$$ for Special Olympics! pic.twitter.com/2rxDkYtAr7
— Edmonds Police (@EdmondsPolice) February 23, 2019
This was the first Special Olympics-benefiting plunge at Alki since 2011 – the organization has continued hosting plunges, but at other beaches.
ADDED LATE SATURDAY NIGHT: Thanks for sharing photos! This one’s from Mike Livdahl:
And three from Andrew Malinak, taken from a boat:
A crew working for the state Department of Natural Resources is back out on West Seattle beaches this week, cleaning up creosote – a toxic threat you might not even recognize as you walk along beaches strewn with old pilings containing literally tons of the substance long used as a wood preservative.
We were invited to photograph a cleanup site just north of the Fauntleroy ferry dock on Wednesday when state Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz was visiting the crew. While the beachfront property there is privately owned, part of the tidelands belong to the state, which obtained access agreements with dozens of property owners to facilitate this part of the cleanup.
Crew members are cutting up creosote-contaminated wood and loading it on board this vessel:
From there it’s taken across Puget Sound to Manchester in Kitsap County, and transported from there to a landfill. Before our visit, they had already removed 20 tons of contaminated wood – DNR’s aquatics restoration manager Christopher Robertson explained that every linear foot of a log like this could contain a gallon of liquid creosote, which he described as “very nasty stuff.”
You’ve heard that toxins in the water is one of the biggest threats to Puget Sound orcas. That makes this removal a boon to them, as well as to the salmon they need to survive. Part of Commissioner Franz’s reason for visiting is to highlight her budget request for the coming year, to better fund this and other projects vital to protecting the state’s environment.
Franz would like to double the amount of creosote that the state can remove. Right now, this project only has access to one six-person crew, two weeks a month; ideally, Robertson and fellow aquatics restoration manager Monica Shoemaker told us, they could keep half a dozen crews and a fleet of boats busy.
By the way, while on the beach, we learned about a new app that you can use to help if you spot debris on the beach – like this damaged float that had appeared sometime within the previous day:
It’s a threat to marine wildlife and birds because it contains styrofoam that looks to them like yummy fish eggs:
You can report something like this via the MyCoast app, in which our state is a participant – find out about it here. Besides “large marine debris,” derelict vessels are another category of reporting for which you can use MyCoast. Back to the creosote removal:
This isn’t new – the state’s been doing it for more than a decade. But unfortunately it’s the kind of work that has to be repeated – there’s so much creosote out there, any beach is vulnerable to something more washing up. Fauntleroy is just one of many beaches where the state is doing this work.
The city says it has a preliminary design for Lowman Beach Park‘s future, minus the failed seawall – and it will mean removal of the park’s tennis court. The design will be shown at a community meeting just announced for February 28th. The announcement from Seattle Parks today:
The Lowman Beach Park seawall is failing and needs to be removed. As visitors to the park have seen, the existing seawall is slowly falling over/sliding toward the water. It is Seattle Parks and Recreation’s goal to remove the remaining seawall and continue the shoreline restoration work that began when the south half of the seawall failed in the mid 1990s.
In May 2017, together with our design consultant Environmental Science Associates (ESA), we presented design options. We hired ESA as a design consultant in 2018 to continue the design process that began with the feasibility study, listed below. The design will take into consideration both the habitat benefits of the seawall removal and the coastal engineering ramifications of that seawall removal. Given the design constraints of the project, the existing tennis court will be removed. A remnant of Pelly Creek that currently flows under the seawall will be daylighted as part of the project.
The last community meeting was May 31, 2017; here’s our coverage. Documents from that meeting, and a feasibility study made public in December 2017 (covered here the following month), are also available via the project website. The February 28th meeting will be at The Kenney (7125 Fauntleroy Way SW; WSB sponsor) at 6:30 pm.
As noted here previously, the next two mornings bring winter’s highest high tides, aka “king tides” – 13.1 feet both days (7:04 am tomorrow, 7:43 am Thursday). Though no major problems are anticipated, the National Weather Service nonetheless has issued a Coastal Flood Advisory for 5 am to 10 am, advising, “The combination of high astronomical tides, low atmospheric pressure and waves from onshore winds will result in minor coastal flooding Wednesday morning.” If you’re out at that early hour, let us know what you see (photos to 206-293-6302 or firstname.lastname@example.org) – thanks!
Tonight’s almost-full moon reminds us …
(WSB photo from December 17, 2012)
KING TIDES: Without stormier weather, we’re not likely to see a scene like that, but you still might want to know that the highest high tides of winter 2019 are just a few days away. Wednesday (7:01 am) and Thursday (7:43 am) will both bring 13.1-foot “king tides,” a bit lower than last January, which had two days with 13.2 tides. Here’s the full tide chart.
ECLIPSE: The forecast does not look favorable for seeing the Super Blood Moon lunar eclipse Sunday night. But if we get a break – here are the times to look.
Those are a few of the hardy souls – mostly from Seattle PD and other law-enforcement agencies – who are taking twice-hourly “plunges” into Puget Sound all day today outside the Alki Bathhouse. Their mission is twofold: To raise money for Special Olympics of Washington and to raise awareness of The Big Plunge on February 9th (you’re invited to be part of what they hope will be a recordsetting event that day). They’re having fun, too – we stopped by for the eighth plunge at 11:30 am and discovered the group conga’ing from the bathhouse to the water:
Between plunges, they’re staying warm inside the Bathhouse. And you might notice some of their flotation gear outside:
This is set to continue on the hour and half-hour until 5 pm. Meantime, you can register for the February 9th Big Plunge by going here.
15 minutes before hundreds ran in and out of Puget Sound for this year’s Alki Beach New Year’s Day Polar Bear Swim, organizer Mark Ufkes hollered that the water was warmer than the air – 46 degrees and 36 degrees respectively.
Did you notice the fireboat in the background in that clip? Here’s what it did after most were out of the water:
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) January 1, 2019
Of course there were plenty of sights on the beach – hats and masks, for example:
Or declaration of Rose Bowl allegiance:
Organizer Mark sported closer-to-home college gear (plus the pink trunks he explained in his announcement of the event):
He also brought TSA-auction-bought corkscrews again for pink-wearing swimmers:
But for many, it was all about the thrill and the chill …
… with a bonfire awaiting some as a reward.
P.S. This year brings a second “polar” swim to Alki – as we reported last month, the Special Olympics of Washington Polar Plunge fundraiser is returning to West Seattle waters for the first time since 2011. February 9th is the date and they’re hoping for a sizable enough turnout to set a record.
No major problems are expected, but the National Weather Service has a Coastal Flood Advisory in effect this morning, warning of “minor tidal overflow for some areas near the shorelines for a couple of hours around high tide.” This comes as another round of winter “king tides” arrives, with the highest tides each day above 12 feet through New Year’s Eve, peaking with 13-foot high tides on Christmas Day and the day after. (Here’s the chart.) This morning’s high tide is 12.5 feet just before 6 am.
(Photo from the first of two Special Olympics Polar Plunges held at Alki in 2010 & 2011)
For the first time in eight years, Special Olympics of Washington is bringing its Polar Plunge fundraiser back to Alki Beach – and it’s hoping to make a really huge splash. The event set for 1 p.m. Saturday, February 9th, is aimed at setting a world record:
For the Seattle Polar Plunge on Saturday, February 9, polar plungers everywhere are invited to help break the Guinness World Record for the most simultaneous polar plungers. More than 1,800 participants with warm hearts and nerves of steel are needed to crush the current Guinness World Record set in 2015 in Poland.
This will be the biggest one of six Special Olympics-benefiting Polar Plunges around the state in early 2019. It’ll feature police volunteers, as it’s supported by the Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run, but all are welcome to participate – you can register here.
(P.S. This is not related to the New Year’s Day Polar Bear Swim at Alki – still awaiting official word on that!)
(WSB file photo)
If you haven’t already seen the schedule in the WSB West Seattle Holiday Guide – the Argosy Cruises Christmas Ship visits West Seattle and South Park this week! Here’s where and when you can gather on the shore and enjoy being serenaded by seasonal sounds:
Friday, December 7th:
Choir of the Sound will be aboard.
Saturday, December 8th:
Rainier Youth Choirs will be on board.
Each stop usually lasts about 20 minutes.
12:42 PM: While that was the message displayed alongside Mike the inflatable orca outside the Alki Bathhouse, steps away, “Welcome the Orcas” attendees got to put it into action:
The orcas that we mentioned earlier were in sight in the distance. Indoors, you can learn about them – and kids’ activities include ornament-making and face-painting:
ADDED 2:07 PM: A few more scenes from our visit to the celebration. Above, Whale Trail founder/executive director Donna Sandstrom with orca-costumed volunteers. Below, one of the orca-photo signs from the mini-parade:
Inside the bathhouse, all-ages environmental education:
Another of the partner organizations, SR3:
The timing of the celebration is based on the fact that the Southern Resident orcas usually return to Puget Sound in fall to chase salmon runs – the food on which they rely. The endangered whales have been in a brighter spotlight this fall after a task force appointed by the governor – with Sandstrom among its members – released a report with recommendations on how to save them from going extinct.
(January 2013 “king tide” effects at Alki Statue of Liberty Plaza)
Shore-watchers will note the highest daytime high tides of the year start in just a few days: Monday morning at 7:39 am, 12.4 feet; same thing Tuesday at 8:32 am, as the “king tide” time of year begins. Christmas and the day after will bring 13-foot high tides, and the highest tide of winter is due on January 23-24, 13.1 feet. These tides are not usually a problem unless accompanied by seriously stormy weather; Monday looks to be rainy and breezy, but not predicted to hit alert levels, so far.
Thanks for the tip. Seattle Parks is digging on the shore south/east of Seacrest to bury the latest dead sea lion to wash up. (Here’s our report from Sunday.) This is one of seven recent sea lion deaths now under federal investigation, according to the Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network – which is who to call if you see a sea lion or other marine mammal on a local shore, alive or dead, 206-905-SEAL.
The photo and report are from David Hutchinson of Seal Sitters:
This morning, Seal Sitters responded to a report of a sea-lion carcass floating near the shore in Cove #1 (just north of Salty’s). On examination, it has been determined that this is the same dead animal that was reported to our Hotline back on November 8th. At that time, it floated away before we were able to arrange for retrieval. Due to the current state of decomposition, a necropsy is not planned at this time. The green “W.S.” marking is placed with biodegradable paint so that the carcass can be identified if it happens to float to a different location.
To report any marine mammal, alive or dead, on West Seattle beaches, please call the Seal Sitters’ Hotline at 206-905-7325.
This is one of five dead California sea lions found on area beaches this fall. As reported here, the previous two were necropsied at Don Armeni Boat Ramp on Thursday and both were found to have gunshot wounds. Federal authorities are investigating.
After about a week, a dead California sea lion that had been on the beach at Jack Block Park is gone. David Hutchinson of Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network shares the photo and explains its disposition:
Friday, a team from the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (Marine Mammal Investigations) and SR3 (Sealife Response, Rehabilitation & Research), in cooperation with the Port of Seattle, removed an 8-foot long California sea lion carcass from the public beach at Jack Block Park. Seal Sitters coordinated this response, monitoring the carcass’s condition and location until a permit to tow and sink could be obtained through NOAA from the Environmental Protection Agency. Before removal, a necropsy was performed and samples were taken for further analysis. The remains were then towed and sunk at the designated location.
Seal Sitters is a member of NOAA’s West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network. We respond to reports of live or dead marine mammals on the beaches of West Seattle from Brace point through the Duwamish River including Harbor Island. If you spot a marine mammal on our local beaches, please call Seal Sitters’ Hotline at 206-905-7325.
The photo and announcement are from Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network, sent by Lynn Shimamoto:
Seal Sitters’ “Share the Shore” banners are once again hanging along Alki Avenue. The banners were designed several years ago as a Seal Sitters outreach project with the help of a city grant. They are to remind everyone that this is the start of pupping season, when newly weaned harbor seal pups show up on West Seattle beaches. Indeed, we anticipate “Jam,” the still-nursing pup who has been frequently seen with mom ”Pearl,” will soon be weaned and vulnerable as he/she tries to rest and warm up on the beach. Please, if you see a seal: stay back, keep dogs off the beach, and call Seal Sitters at 206-905-SEAL (206-905-7325).
Seal Sitters is part of NOAA’s West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network. We respond to marine mammals dead or alive in West Seattle from Brace Point to the Duwamish River, including Harbor Island.
Meet Pearl and Jam. David Hutchinson – who photographed them Sunday – reports that Jam was Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network‘s “first new harbor seal pup of the 2018 season,” resting with mom Pearl “on a rock just offshore from one of our local beaches. … If you see them at any of our West Seattle beaches, please keep back, keep people and pets away, and call the Seal Sitters’ Hotline at 206-905-SEAL (7325).” Meantime, he shared this announcement:
SEAL SITTERS’ LAST TRAINING OF THE YEAR – AUGUST 25TH
Seal Sitters is a member of NOAA’s West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network. We are responsible for responding to any marine mammal on West Seattle beaches from Brace Point through the Duwamish River including Harbor Island.
All new volunteers are required to take a 2-hour training session. Our last training of 2018 will be held in the front meeting room at the Alki UCC, 6115 SW Hinds (MAP), on Saturday, August 25th from 10 AM – Noon. This will be followed by a short Q&A opportunity. Topics covered will include: The Marine Mammal Protection Act, life in a harbor seal rookery, what is Seal Sitters’ role in NOAA’s network, information on the most common marine mammals in our local waters, your role as a volunteer in a challenging urban environment. Also discussed will be volunteer opportunities as a hotline operator, first responder, and scheduler.
IF YOU DON’T LIVE IN WEST SEATTLE – While all the different groups operating in Puget Sound are part of NOAA’s Network, each group functions separately and provides its own training. Our training would only qualify you to volunteer within the area mentioned above.
If you plan on attending, an RSVP is required. Please include in your email the full names of everyone who will be attending. If any of these are minors, include their ages. A parent or guardian must accompany all minors to the training and when they are on the beach. Seating is limited, so be sure to register early to reserve your place.
To RSVP: SealSitters.Outreach@msn.com
SETUP BEGINS: Thanks to David Hutchinson for the photos showing stage setup today on both sides of the Alki Bathhouse. Above, west of the Bathhouse, is the Loser Stage; below, to the east, the Flippity-Flop Stage:
Who’s playing when/where was announced two weeks ago; you can find it all fast on the right side of the main SPF30 webpage.
A VENDOR FIRST: The other two stages are Harsh Realm, at 57th/Alki, and Punky, at Whale Tail Park, where you’ll not only find kid-geared music but also this familiar vendor:
C & P Coffee Company (WSB sponsor) says this will be its first time with a pop-up outside the shop! They’ll be selling cold-brew coffee on Saturday. And another familiar West Seattle company will be nearby – Husky Deli. (We hope to have a full list of vendors for an upcoming update.)
FUNDRAISING GUITAR: Bidding is open online for this one-of-a-kind handmade guitar produced in commemoration of Sub Pop turning 30:
We got a look at it while covering the SPF30 volunteer orientation earlier this week. You can see it on display all week at Thunder Road Guitars (4736 California SW; WSB sponsor) in The Junction. It’s a fundraiser for the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, a beneficiary of SPF30. To bid on it – and to find out more about it – go here.
STREAMING: Can’t (or don’t want to) go on Saturday, but want to catch some of the shows? KEXP has announced a video-streaming schedule, with viewing options including its website and YouTube channel. Go here to see which bands it’s streaming and when.
P.S. In case you missed it – here’s the SPF30 transportation plan (including road closures, parking for motorized and non-motorized vehicles, transit, etc.) as announced Tuesday.
1:47 PM: If you’ve seen the Tribal Journeys canoe arrivals at Alki Beach in years past … this year is bigger than ever. As we’ve been previewing, the arrivals started early this afternoon and are continuing as canoe families arrive from last night’s stop across Puget Sound in Suquamish.
More than 100 canoes were registered to participate this year, and they have supporters here too. There’s even an announcer with a PA system, something we don’t recall seeing/hearing in recent years. And we lost count at more than a dozen charter buses parked along Alki Avenue; the paddlers and their support crews will be transported to Auburn, where the Muckleshoot Tribe will host them tonight. (Muckleshoot security remains at Alki to watch over the canoes.)
We’ll be checking later on the expected morning departure time, for those who would like to come observe then.
Singing as canoes await assistance to be brought ashore (PA announcer just put out a call for help) pic.twitter.com/7cdrWkG681
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) July 26, 2018
More photos/updates to come!
2:47 PM: We just walked to the east end of where the canoes are lined up on the sand – they stretch almost to 58th SW – and counted more than 50. None on the horizon so we don’t know how many are yet to arrive. With each arrival so far, an announcement has been read over the loudspeakers, in Native language as well as English, with the declaration of the tribe’s name, where they’ve come from – some have been journeying for two weeks! – and greetings to the Muckleshoot, as well as a request for permission to come ashore.
Also, a military cargo jet seen flying over West Seattle earlier – low enough to startle people – has just done a flyby over the beach here.
5:13 PM: Went back to Alki to check; the arrivals have concluded.
Security says departures are expected between 7 and 9 tomorrow morning.
ADDED EARLY FRIDAY: Alki photographer David Hutchinson asked about that too and he was told they would depart after a ceremony at 7. He shared this evening photo:
Tomorrow’s stop is Dash Point State Park.
FRIDAY MORNING NOTE: The departures are not happening en masse.
Our photographer was there from 8 am until about 9:30 and reports that two canoes had left by then. We’re going back shortly for an update.