West Seattle, Washington
Peter sent the photo (thank you!), reporting that the “aluminum fencing is finally coming down today” at the Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook seawall-replacement project site, near Beach Drive/Jaoobsen Road. We reported four weeks ago that contractor Redside Construction was almost done with the 465-foot seawall and pedestrian/landscaping features atop it. The work has taken about half a year, as had been estimated.
We’ve already mentioned two West Seattle events of note for tomorrow’s Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day – here’s another, thanks to a tip from Marlo: Join other community volunteers in a cleanup at Alki Beach, starting at 10:30 am Monday. Details are here. (Anything else? email@example.com – thank you!)
If you’re up early – Wednesday through Friday, the pre-dawn high tides will be the last “king tides” of this winter – 12.8 feet at 6:03 am Wednesday and 6:40 am Thursday, 12.7 feet at 7:15 am Friday. (Here’s the chart.) Too soon to tell if the weather will be stormy enough to push the tides past predicted levels, as happened last Monday.
10:17 AM: Thanks to @i8ipod for tweeting that photo from Alki about an hour ago, as high tide topped the seawall on the promenade. We noted back on Friday that today would bring one of the month’s highest tides, 12.6 feet, but as a texter points out with the screengrab below, atmospheric conditions pushed the actual peak even higher, close to 14 feet:
The highest predicted tides of the month are pre-dawn January 13 and 14, in the 6 am hour, at 12.8 feet.
10:35 AM: Just received Don Armeni Boat Ramp photos from Stewart L.
Note how high the floating dock rose, almost swamping the signage:
We went to Alki around 10 am to check on two polar bear-themed events:
That’s Polar Bear Swim organizer Mark Ufkes, relaxing between countdown requests. As announced earlier this week, no all-at-once plunge this year but he encouraged people to come down in small groups. He said the early going – starting around 9 am – totaled around 100 people, some requesting a countdown, some not. Nobody while we were there but via Twitter, Bill Schrier caught a few:
— Bill Schrier (@billschrier) January 1, 2021
Further west, by Alki Bathhouse, the (unrelated) West Seattle Polar Bear Challenge drop-off food drive was going well:
Earlier this year, we introduced you to Jessica, who was organizing a monthly volunteer cleanup at Alki. She’s renewing her call for volunteers as 2021 starts, with the first cleanup set for this Saturday (January 2nd):
ALKI BEACH AND NEIGHBORHOOD CLEANUP
1st Saturday of every month, 10 AM to 2 PM
Pick sticks and buckets provided – RSVP to reserve one. Feel free to bring your own. Supervised kids welcome. Behaved dogs welcome off beach. We spread out to cover most surface. Stay as long as you desire; go as far as you would like. The goal is to collect the garbage before it enters the beach and ocean. We can gather after for a distancing coffee if time allows. We meet at 10 am outside, between Blue Moon Burgers and 56th on Alki Ave SW
If you can’t make it Saturdays, consider starting your own group that meets another day. Looking forward to meeting you.
To RSVP or ask a question, text Jessica at 206.769.6330.
When late-night work was announced last week for the Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook seawall-replacement project on Beach Drive, some asked about the project’s status. Short answer: Almost done! Longer version, from project spokesperson Andrew Muñoz of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:
The contractor is finishing up final construction items and we expect major construction to be complete in the next two weeks. The site will be handed over to Seattle Parks to finish the project with landscaping. This means construction equipment will be removed but fencing will remain up for the time being.
Contractor Redside Construction started major work on the long-planned project about five months ago. The new $3 million, 465-foot seawall had to be built in front of the failing old one because demolition work would have been a risk to a sewer line running beneath it.
4:48 PM: First, two scenes from West Seattle’s shore:
Thanks to Andrew Murray for that scene from just before sunset. Below, a texter sent this photo from the “king tide” this morning as water slopped over the Alki Beach seawall:
High tide was charted for 12.9 feet just before sunrise; tomorrow morning, it’ll be a little lower, 12.7 feet at 8:22 am.
Meantime, though there’s no official alert, be aware that Friday has more wind in the forecast – similar to last night – with gusts up to 35 mph day time, up to 40 mph Friday night.
ADDED 6:21 PM: More photos of those amazing sunset-reflection colors in the east – first, from David Hutchinson, through the Luna Girls on Alki sculpture:
And from Robert Peckyno:
Thanks to Mike Burns for the photo from Alki Beach this morning, when high tide was a “king tide,” charted at 12.9 feet, which will be repeated tomorrow morning at 7:37 am, shortly before dawn. That’ll be a big swing from another late-night low-low tide, -2.9 feet at midnight tonight. The weather likely won’t be terribly conducive to beachgoing, but we wanted to let you know anyway. P.S. If you photograph king tides too, here’s our November story about how your photos can help scientists and planners.
If you travel Beach Drive late tonight and/or tomorrow night, don’t be startled to notice work at Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook. The contractor on the seawall-replacement project, Redside Construction, has a “small crew” scheduled to work at the site during low tide tonight and tomorrow night, according to a project bulletin. It says they will “conduct some minor finishing work on the lower portion of the seawall,” no heavy equipment involved, until 2 am tonight and until 3 am tomorrow night. It’s been five months since major work began. P.S. Low tide tonight is VERY low – -3.4 feet at 11:16 pm.
Quite a show two weeks ago when the first round of “king tides” arrived. Next wave is due in mid-December, and scientists would like your help reporting on them:
King tides, the annual extreme-high tides that occur whenever the moon is closest to Earth, are a dramatic feature of Washington winters – and offer a glimpse of what our future in Western Washington may look like as sea levels rise. This holiday season provides a great opportunity for people to capture these extreme tides and help scientists assemble a preview of shorelines to come. You can find the date and time of the next king tide nearest you by visiting the Washington Sea Great king tides calendar.
It’s simple to get involved during the 2020-2021 Washington king tides season and raise awareness about rising seas, particularly through the MyCoast app that was developed for statewide use: Download the MyCoast app on your smartphone and upload your king tide photographs from any king tide events around the state.
Your photos will help scientists, managers, planners and your own community visualize the changes coming to coastal regions around Western Washington. To find out how much sea levels could rise in your community, check the most current sea level rise projections.
The next king tides are coming in mid-December and January. Keep your phone or camera ready. Please just remember to stay safe by watching out for waves and slippery surfaces!
The King Tides program is a partnership between Washington Sea Grant and Washington Department of Ecology.
(Send us some of your pics too!)
3:23 PM: Just in – video and photos from Alki, where this afternoon’s high tide has swamped the seawall. The video above is from Kersti Muul of Salish Wildlife Watch; below, photos from Stewart L. further east:
That’s Don Armeni Boat Ramp, and here’s Luna/Anchor Park:
Also, another angle of the Alki promenade from Kersti:
Today’s high tide was 12.3 feet at 2:43 pm; tomorrow will be 12.4 at 3:18 pm. Next week the highest high tides will be in the morning; the chart shows 12.6 at 6:52 am Tuesday and 7:48 am Wednesday. These are the so-called “king tides”; they’ll be even higher in a month, with 12.9 high tides in mid-December.
ADDED 7:19 PM: Aimee pointed out via Twitter that atmospheric conditions caused a high tide well above what was predicted:
And we have one more photo – this one from David Hutchinson at Alki:
The photo is from Mandi, who announced two weeks ago that she was organizing weekly post-weekend community cleanups at Alki Beach, and welcoming assistance. Today was the second cleanup, she reports. “We are getting lots of support and interest. My goal is to start with cleanup and see what else we can do to keep Alki Beach beautiful.” Interested in helping? You can join Mandi at 9 am Mondays – email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mandi is organizing weekly post-weekend community cleanups at Alki Beach and invites you to join her if you can: 9 am every Monday morning. Anyone interested in helping can meet her at Alki Beach Bathhouse (60th/Alki). Questions? Email Mandi at email@example.com.
P.S. Bring your own supplies (bag, grabber) if you can!
10:54 PM: Closing time at Alki tonight looked a lot like last night in one way – quiet, no fires, not-so-summery weather. But in another way, it was different: No police. As reported here this morning, red tape strangled the plan for three officers on overtime to help Seattle Parks at closing time Thursdays-Fridays-Saturdays, with Parks covering the cost, after just one night (here’s our Thursday night coverage). Southwest Precinct commander Capt. Kevin Grossman said today, “I learned yesterday that any movement of funds from one city agency (e.g., Parks) to another (e.g., SPD) requires city council approval. So until that issue is resolved, the dedicated Alki emphasis patrols will be paused. This is a disappointing development — both for my officers and for the neighborhood.” So what happens now? We immediately inquired with both Councilmember Lisa Herbold‘s office and Parks. Herbold legislative assistant Newell Aldrich told us in the morning they were “looking into it” and then at day’s end sent this update: “We haven’t got answers from Parks to our questions; they’ve indicated the answers are more complicated than they anticipated. They are working on getting us answers.” So it appears the ball is in Parks’ court right now (we haven’t heard back from them yet at all). Meantime, Capt. Grossman added that he has “directed that our available on-duty resources conduct patrols on Alki when not otherwise committed”; no officers were in sight as we drove the length of Alki, including Don Armeni, before and after the 9:30 pm closing time tonight. There was a Parks vehicle on the promenade, headed west right at 9:30, but it then headed out of the park; by then, light rain was falling.
2:24 AM: Commenters say the fires started later in the night tonight. Here’s a photo sent by a reader:
10:55 PM: We went to Alki to check on the extra police announced for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, starting tonight. They had a quiet, chilly night for their first run backing up Parks crews at the 9:30 pm closing time. We got there around 9:10, when the officers and Parks crews made a sweep to warn the few beachgoers on hand that closing time was approaching.
Though illegal beach fires have been a huge problem for weeks, none were in evidence when we got there. When 9:30 closing time arrived, the two vehicles headed eastbound:
Alki is officially closed. Almost no one here anyway. Sgt. tells us a couple fires were extinguished earlier. pic.twitter.com/wb45u0Oo1V
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) August 7, 2020
We also checked Don Armeni around 9:45, and officers were there too, with a congregation of cars that looked to be gearing up to leave. The extra officers are only slated to be on duty until 11; we’ll be listening to see what happens after that.
ADDED FRIDAY MORNING: Southwest Precinct commander Capt. Kevin Grossman says they’ve run into complications – interagency funding transfers apparently require City Council approval – and will “pause” the new patrol until that’s worked out. We’re following up on this with both council and Parks to see what’s being done about this and how soon.
11:38 AM: Councilmember Herbold’s office tells WSB they’re “looking into it.”
If you see a seal on the beach – keep your distance, for their sake. David Hutchinson of Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network sent this report and photos after another rescue:
Seal Sitters MMSN responded Wednesday to the second orphaned harbor seal pup in the last 2 weeks. This thin pup was first reported in the morning on private property along Beach Drive SW. He returned to the water early in the afternoon and just after 5 PM, Seal Sitters’ Hotline received a call about a pup on Alki Beach at 55th Ave SW. Spot comparison photos confirmed that this was the same animal.
A perimeter was set up to keep people back and First Responders monitored the tiny pup while answering the many questions from folks out enjoying the sunny day. The pup stayed ashore only briefly, but returned to the beach around 7 PM. He was observed at that time to be very lethargic with tremors. Phone calls were placed to NOAA’s regional stranding coordinator to see what options were available to rescue the pup from this dangerous location and stabilize overnight. When the incoming tide began to roll the weakened pup in the surf, he was removed from the water by the Seal Sitters’ First Responder and placed above the high tide line. NOTE: Only authorized members of NOAA’s Marine Mammal Stranding Network are allowed to handle seal pups.
Casey Mclean, SR3 Executive Director and Veterinary Nurse, agreed to come for an evaluation and removal from the beach. The pup weighed 8 kg (17.6 lbs). His glucose level was very low, he was dehydrated and was suffering from hypothermia. A small umbilical stump was noted and age estimated at a week or so. Casey began some preliminary treatment including starting fluids. If this pup survives, it is hoped that he can be transferred to one of the scarce rehabilitation spots that are available.
Harbor seal birthing season is from late June through September in our area of Puget Sound. These pups would normally spend from 4-6 weeks nursing before having to face life on their own. About 50% don’t make it through their first year.
Seal Sitters would like to thank the individuals who reported this struggling animal to our Hotline. We have had to adjust some of our normal procedures because of the COVID-19 restrictions, but will be doing our best to respond to your calls.
Based on the urban location, it is highly likely this newborn seal was abandoned due to human activity. Always stay back when you see a seal pup on the beach and call Seal Sitters’ Hotline at 206-905-7325 (SEAL).
Here’s the report on last month’s rescue.
If you’ve driven, walked, rode, or run past Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook (4503 Beach Drive SW) in the past few weeks, you’ve seen the seawall work – but not from the beach side. Today, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Seattle Parks shared progress photos.
The new $3 million seawall is being built in front of the failing old one.
Building the 465-foot-long seawall will last about half a year, project leaders said at the pre-construction meeting we covered in June.
Before we get back to The News – a bird break! Three beach photos:
The Bald Eagle above was photographed by Raul Baron; the next two photos are by Larry Gilpin – an Osprey:
And a Great Blue Heron:
(Sorry, we don’t know what The Catch Of The Day was!)
That beach-cleaning machine had to be dispatched to Alki this morning, with people continuing to ignore the beach-fire ban, less than a week after Seattle Parks removed the long-locked fire rings people had been damaging. Seattle Fire has been dispatched to Alki five of the six nights since then – three times on Thursday, once on Friday, once on Saturday, three times on Sunday, once last night. We asked Parks spokesperson Rachel Schulkin if anything else is planned. She replied, “I think the next move would be to close the beaches. We are grateful to SFD for their support and grateful that you are covering this and reminding folks that beach fires are not permitted this summer. In case folks wonder why, it’s because beach fires are more often than not used as a place for larger groups to gather. As we are still in Phase 2 and gatherings must be 5 people or less, beach fires are not permitted.”
The photos and report are from David Hutchinson of Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network:
On Wednesday, Seal Sitters’ volunteers responded to the first harbor seal pup in West Seattle this 2020 pupping season. Early in the morning our Hotline received a report of a small pup swimming by the steps along the Alki promenade. The pup, nicknamed “Echo”, finally settled on one of the lower steps.
While Seal Sitters is the official NOAA stranding network for West Seattle, we partner with other groups to provide specialized health evaluations and care. SR3 (headquartered in Des Moines) sent their vet to do a visual assessment. Echo still had an umbilical stump present. This usually dries up and falls off by a week to 10 days after birth, so this was a very young pup. A seal pup’s best chance for survival is always with its mother, so it was decided to monitor Echo throughout the day in hopes that she might reunite with her mother at some point. The chances of a pup being abandoned due to disturbance is much higher in a busy urban environment. After many hours of rest, Echo returned to the water with the rising tide around 5:00 that evening and after a brief detour as far as the Alki Bathhouse, was seen swimming offshore to the west toward the Alki Lighthouse.
On Thursday morning, Echo was reported on a private beach west of the promenade. With the consent of the property owner, Seal Sitters responded and watched over the pup until the arrival of SR3 staff. The pup appeared thinner and there was no evidence of an attending mother. Because of this, it was decided to remove Echo and transport her to PAWS for rehab. Seal Sitters received a report yesterday morning from PAWS – Echo is female, just under 30 inches long and weighs a bit less than 20 pounds. She arrived at their facility thin and dehydrated and the hope is that she will do well in rehab.
Harbor seal pupping season is from late June through September in our area, so you may come across more pups on our West Seattle beaches over the next few months. This is typical behavior as they need to rest and warm up. Please remember to keep back and ask others to do the same. Always keep dogs on a leash and at a distance. As soon as possible, contact Seal Sitters’ Hotline at 206-905-7325.
The request in bold is extremely important – another wildlife advocate told us about Echo just before we heard from Seal Sitters, and noted that spectators were way too close and abundant when she was at the public beach, which could have led to her mother abandoning her.
Thanks for the tips. A Seattle Parks crew has been out on Alki Beach this morning, removing the fire rings and cleaning up the debris/trash left behind. The fire rings have technically been “closed” for months but Seattle Fire crews have been called out many nights because people have set fires on or near them anyway.
And indeed, Parks spokesperson Rachel Schulkin confirmed to WSB after we photographed the ring removal this morning: “Fire rings have been locked all summer to prevent the crowding and congregating that happens with beach fires. Folks were lighting fires on top of the pits, so we are removing them for now.”