West Seattle, Washington
Two West Seattle shore sights to mention:
NEW BROWNISH BLOOM: A week ago, the reddish-orange Noctiluca bloom startled water-watchers along the West Seattle shore. Today, we got questions about a brownish-green bloom, and this photo from Manuel:
Yes, it looks like a spill. But it’s not, as explained here. Biologists say these blooms are largely nontoxic – but swallowing or inhaling them isn’t recommended.
LOW-LOW TIDE: The next round of low-low tides is on the way. Saturday at 11:02 am, it’ll be out to -2.6 feet, and then for the next four days, the lowest tides will be out past -3 feet – here’s the chart. If you head out on the beach and tread lightly, you might see sights like the ones Rosalie Miller photographed during the last round of low-low tides:
That’s an urchin with a painted anemone and sea star. If you want help identifying what you’re seeing, Seattle Aquarium volunteer beach naturalists will be out at Constellation Park (63rd/Beach) and Lincoln Park (8011 Fauntleroy Way SW) during the lowest tides the next five days, starting with 9:30 am-12:30 pm tomorrow – see the full schedule here.
Thanks to David Hutchinson for the photo. Seattle Parks is bringing fire rings back to Alki Beach today, just before the official start of summer season. Saturday is the first day fires will be allowed, according to Parks’ recent early-closure announcement. (For a recap of beach-fire rules, go here.)
That photo texted from The Arroyos in southwesternmost West Seattle is first word we got today of that alarming-looking but relatively common phenomenon. It’s not “red tide” but rather a bloom of microorganisms called Noctiluca – explained here by the state Ecology Department, which says that “sunshine, nutrients, and warm temperatures contribute to large seasonal blooms.” Experts say it’s not toxic but it is a sign of environmental imbalance, as noted here.
If you’re going to the beach this weekend – watch out for tiny, spiny larval crabs. We’ve heard from two readers today reporting they’re back on Alki, and one reported a painful encounter. The other, Kaitlin, emailed to say:
As people hit the beach this weekend, just wanted to let neighbors know that there are large bands of crab larvae washed up on the beach. These spiny little friends are uncomfortable to walk on, so make sure to bring water shoes.
They’re called zoae and we published this reader report about them last year. That report noted, “It feels like glass or an itchy pinch” if you encounter them with bare hands/feet (etc.). This state Ecology Department page has more about them. Kaitlin reports seeing them just east of Alki Bathhouse.
That’s what we saw at Lincoln Park this afternoon, right as the low tide was receding to -2.6 feet before 1 pm. Saturday, it was almost that low, with a Seattle Parks tidepooling event at Charles Richey Viewpoint/Constellation Park (as featured in our daily list) – Ann Anderson sent photos and a recap:
Over 60 people turned out Saturday at Charles Richey Sr. Viewpoint’s Marine Reserve during a super low (-2.1) tide, to admire intertidal sea life along with Parks Dept staff and volunteers. A wide array of marine flora and fauna normally surrounded by 6-10 feet of water, was left exposed for viewing both on the beach and in-between the jetty rocks. Giovannina Souers, Environmental Education Program Supervisor at Camp Long (foreground in blue jacket), was helping people ID animals, answering a barrage of questions, and simultaneously helping to train new Urban Naturalists about tidepool life for the Parks Dept. Also on hand for the event were countless sea stars, as were Glaucous-winged Gulls who showed up to eat them for lunch.
If you can get out to a beach either or both of the next two afternoons, you can see afternoon low tides that will be even further out – -2.8 feet at 1:30 pm Monday, -2.7 feet at 2:18 pm Tuesday (here’s the chart). And the low tides will be even more impressive later in the spring/summer, including a -4.0 on the 4th of July.
That was the scene on Alki, looking east from just past the Bathhouse, not long before sunset. First almost-summer night of the year; the restaurants were hopping, too. Tomorrow will likely be the same, with the temp due back in the 70s, before a cloudy cooldown on Sunday.
Those floats off Seacrest were not marking a routine Sunday dive. Today, 20 divers were signed up for an underwater cleanup led by Seattle Dive Tours and SR3. As of our visit to the dock just before noon, they had already hauled up 316 pounds of debris – and that weight doesn’t count perhaps the biggest item, a scooter:
The running total did include a wide variety of smaller items, even a video monitor:
Not available for photography: Divers also found a gun. It had been turned over to Seattle Police by the time we stopped by to check on the cleanup, which should be wrapping up about now. Scott Flaherty from Seattle Dive Tours – which is based in Admiral – says this is the first time they were able to plan this cleanup since 2019 – the West Seattle Water Taxi‘s weekend break made it possible. Along with the diving volunteers, he said more than three dozen people were signed up to clean up on shore, including Girl Scouts!
Thanks to Brandy DeWeese for sharing photos of wildlife seen during low tide this afternoon at Lincoln Park. We’re not in a super-low-tide phase, but low enough to make shore exploration worthwhile.
The tide was out to -1.2 feet this afternoon and will be lower, -1.4 feet, at 2:39 pm tomorrow.
Brandy noted that the beach was relatively deserted on this drippy afternoon.
If you’re interested in guided exploration, Seattle Parks has a guided beach exploration for the April 22 low tide (register here), and Seattle Aquarium volunteer beach naturalists start their season in early June.
(Alki Beach, photographed this week by James Bratsanos)
The state Ecology Department has published its BEACH report for last summer’s swimming season – and all the local beaches where water quality was tested had a perfect summer, except one (you can probably guess which one). The Beach Environmental Assessment, Communication and Health program does regular bacterial testing at 59 beaches around Puget Sound and the ocean coast. Overall, the new report says 2022 was much better than 2021, when the late June/early July heat wave factored into many advisories and closures. This past summer, not so much. But let’s get to the local results. King County’s beach scorecard is here; testing was done regularly at Alki Beach Park, Lincoln Park, and Richey Viewpoint (Constellation Park). The first two “had excellent water quality and met swimming standards during all periods sampled,” according to the report. The third “had good water quality, meeting swimming standards during all periods sampled,” but, the report adds, “This beach was preemptively closed due to a sewage spill from a nearby condominium complex between July 5 and July 25.” (Here’s our initial coverage of that situation; the closure lasted four weeks at Cormorant Cove, which is outside the testing area.) The report says this year’s testing will start the week of May 22, and they’ll be updating their map weekly between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Thanks to the texter who sent the photo of Alki Beach’s newest tree – another palm, at 59th/Alki. It’s been nine years since Seattle Parks‘ planting of palms on Alki drew a lot of attention; our subsequent followup included Parks’ explanation that they were planted in a spirit of “beach-y whimsy.” Parks also noted at the time that these aren’t tropical: “They are a temperate species called Windmill Palm trees, and come from a region of China that gets colder than Seattle.”
As shown here last night, Seattle Aquarium beach naturalists were out at Constellation Park, helping people explore responsibly at low-low tide. Tonight we have photos of some of the wildlife they saw – the first three photos are from Rosalie Miller: Above, a painted anemone; below, northern kelp crabs:
And a rough piddock:
We don’t have the ID on this one, but Molly Al-Jawad sent the photo:
Tonight’s low-low tide, -2.5 feet at 10:18 pm, will be just as low as the one that brought explorers out last night. Meantime, you can watch this page later this year to see when the beach naturalists will be out during the summer daytime low-low tides.
As mentioned in our Event Calendar and daily preview list, Seattle Aquarium volunteer beach naturalists are out at Constellation Park right now, helping people explore what’s in view because of the nighttime low-low-tide. Thanks to Sara for sending photos!
They’re scheduled to be out until 10 pm – just look for the canopy, and the people on the beach, at 60th and Beach Drive.
But tread lightly – low tides like this one expose sealife that’s usually submerged.
P.S. The naturalists won’t be out, but tomorrow night the tide will be just as low at 10:18 pm, -2.5 feet.
9:09 AM: The King County Wastewater Treatment Division says Monday night’s thunderstorms led to a “power interruption” that resulted in a “brief overflow” from Barton Pump Station on the north side of the Fauntleroy ferry dock. They aren’t saying yet how long it lasted or how much wastewater overflowed, but they’ve closed the beaches at Lincoln and Cove Parks “until water quality testing confirms the water is safe.”
2:07 PM: KCWTD has answered our followup questions. First – the overflow volume is estimated at more than 101,000 gallons. KCWTD spokesperson Doug Williams says it was actually two overflows:
The station experienced a power bump (poor power quality that was not consistent) at 7:12 p.m. that triggered a fault in the pump. The standby operator was dispatched to the pump station to reset the pumps. There were two short overflow events, one for 12 minutes and the other for 11 minutes.
We also asked how and when the KCWTD crew was notified and when they arrived:
The pump sent an alarm, which was received by Main Control at West Point Treatment Plant, and a standby operator was immediately dispatched. The operator arrived at the pump station at 7:47 p.m. The pumps were reset by 7:48 p.m. The operator left, having fixed the problem, but returned at 8:30 p.m. after another power bump caused an alarm at 8:08 p.m.
This pump station was “upgraded” in 2015, so we asked why there wasn’t some sort of failsafe or backup to prevent this:
We are still evaluating the incident and pump performance. We suspect that inconsistent power quality shut the pump down, as it is designed to protect the equipment from fluctuating power (much like a surge protector, or tripped breaker in your home). Power monitoring equipment at the station showed that there was no loss of power, so the incident was initiated by poor power quality received at the station. Since there was no loss of power, the onsite generator was not engaged. The power seemed to surge and flicker, causing two different short overflows of 12 and 11 minutes (from 7:36 – 7:48 p.m., and again at 8:19 – 8:30 p.m.).
You’ve heard a lot about the upcoming “king tides,” but the flip side of that is, we’re also in a period with very low low tides too – though this time of year they happen late at night, so they’re not as conducive to exploring. Nonetheless, some people were out last night, including Rosalie Miller, who shared four photos (thank you!) – above, Painted Anemone; below, Mottled Star:
The next two: Monterey Dorid and Gumboot Chiton:
Rosalie summarizes her experience as, “Amazing night at the beach! A gala of marine life and low-tide enthusiasts.” Tonight the low-low tide is even lower than last night – it’ll be out to -3.6 feet at 10:32 pm.
Every year, during multiple low-low-tide events, Seattle Aquarium volunteer beach naturalists help educate explorers. You can train to join them! They’re taking applications now for training that starts in March. Here’s the announcement sent to us:
As a beach naturalist, you’ll learn more about Puget Sound beaches and their inhabitants—and the things we can all do to help protect them.
• Receive training from March through May, then spend three or more days educating beach visitors on low-tide days from June to August.
• Volunteer at Richmond Beach, Carkeek Park, Golden Gardens, Olympic Sculpture Park Beach, Charles Richey Viewpoint, Lincoln Park, Seahurst Park, Des Moines Beach Park, Saltwater State Park, Redondo Beach or Dash Point State Park.
• Join the Seattle Aquarium in Inspiring Conservation of Our Marine Environment!
For more information, visit our webpage, email email@example.com or call (206) 693-6214.
Here’s the form you can use to express interest in volunteering.
P.S. Beach naturalists will be in action this Friday night (January 20th), leading a walk at Constellation Park (61st/Beach Drive), 8-10 pm, when the tide will be out to -3.3 feet!
One week after a private-property sewer overflow closed South Alki beaches, they’ve reopened. We just got that confirmation from Seattle Public Utilities spokesperson Sabrina Register, who says the signage was removed today, after Public Health – Seattle & King County got test results indicating the beach and water are safe. According to SPU, the leak was at Harbor West Condominiums, the over-water complex that has had sewage-leak problems before, including one last summer.
Just announced by Seattle Public Utilities:
On January 10, Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) responded to a sewer overflow due to a broken side sewer located along Beach Dr near Cormorant Cove. As a result, beaches in the area are closed to water activities, including Cormorant Cove as well as beach access between 61st Ave SW and SW Charlestown St.
Staff will sample the water and work with Public Health-Seattle & King County and Seattle Parks Department to determine when the area can be safely reopened. We will provide an update when we have more information.
SPU is working with the property owner, and repair of the side sewer is scheduled for Friday, January 13.
If you find flooding or sewer backups, please report them to the SPU 24/7 Operations Response Center at 206-386-1800.
This area’s had private-property sewage problems before; SPU confirms this is also at the address from which those problems originated, the Harbor West built-over-water condominiums.
Thanks to Elizabeth for the photo and report: “If someone’s missing a set of wooden steps (looks like 11 total and railings) they’ve landed at the pocket beach by La Rustica. Other than having detached and drifted, they seem to be in good shape.” The tide is receding at the moment, headed for low tide at 11:46 pm, so this would be a good time to retrieve them if they’re yours. (The “pocket beach” is Weather Watch Park, 4035 Beach Drive SW.)
Several readers have asked about the dead sea lion most recently washed up at Lowman Beach. It’s been marked with green paint (above is our cropped version of a photo sent by Michael), which means wildlife responders are aware of it. David Hutchinson of Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network confirms their first responders marked the carcass “and have been keeping track of its location.” They’ve been talking with Seattle Parks but: “The large number of washed-up logs have complicated any plans for removal.”
As for whether its cause of death has been investigated, Casey Mclean, executive director of SR3, responded: “The animal was externally examined when it was first reported … Due to the decomposition of the animal, a necropsy (animal autopsy) was not performed; there were also disposal logistics to consider had we decided to necropsy it on a public beach. This means that we do not know the cause of death but the animal did appear to be a healthy body weight. There are a number of things that could be the cause of death, from gunshot to killer-whale attack to some sort of illness or disease, however, without doing a thorough internal exam we cannot rule anything out.” Mclean adds this reminder: “Always report marine mammals to Seal Sitters, dead or alive, they all have something to teach us about the health of our marine waters and Seal Sitters will investigate each report.” But, she adds, you need to be aware that “the marine mammal stranding network is not responsible for disposal of dead marine mammals and often we do not have the funding to make the disposal of large animals happen. Parks may or may not have the resources and choose to remove the animal – it is logistically challenging and expensive.” She has a final note: “Keep pets on a leash since our furry friends will smell and find the carcass long before you do!” (Seal Sitters’ hotline is 206-905-SEAL.)
Though the tide tables showed the 8:40 am “king tide” this morning would be slightly lower than yesterday, with the atmospheric conditions, the tide instead rose higher. The first three photos are from Deb Holbrook – above, the Alki Bathhouse, below, Statue of Liberty Plaza and the completely swamped beach:
(added) Also from Alki, Zach Wolpa‘s photo shows the west end of the promenade:
(added) And one more Alki view, from David Hutchinson, also showing how the water reached to the edge of the trail:
At Fauntleroy, as Elizabeth pointed out in her note with the photo below, this tide is a reminder of why the ferry dock needs to be higher when rebuilt (as is part of Washington State Ferries‘ plan):
She also sent this photo from the mouth of Fauntleroy Creek:
(added) Paulette‘s photo shows a logjam against the south side of the ferry dock:
As shown here, high tide was at least two feet higher than expected.
ADDED 11 AM: Doug Eglington sent this view of Don Armeni Boat Ramp:
Thanks again to everyone who’s sent photos! (firstname.lastname@example.org or text 206-293-6302)
This morning’s burst of wind hit right before something that WAS predicted – the “king tide” peaking at ~13 feet just before 8 am. We went to Alki for a look, and have received others’ photos from West Seattle shores (thank you!). Above and below are our photos from the Alki Bathhouse vicinity – sandbags were out around Alki Statue of Liberty Plaza:
Kelsey Carlson sent video of the water lapping toward the plaza:
Next photo is from Sam Uzwack, at the west end of the Alki promenade:
From around the point at Constellation Park, Betsy Ackerley caught the waves and wind from above:
At ground level, video from Greg Jalbert:
From Lincoln Park, Sydney Hammerquist sent this view:
(added Monday evening) And video from Fred Hammerquist:
Tomorrow morning’s high tide at 8:40 am will be just a bit lower – 12.9 feet – and then in January, 13-foot tides return January 23-24-25.
2:25 PM: That’s Kersti Muul‘s photo of a Trumpeter Swan seen at Alki this morning, showing signs of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, aka “bird flu.” She says it was last seen headed toward Duwamish Head, but wants to remind everyone to keep your distance – and especially to keep dogs leashed (they’re not supposed to be on the beach anyway), as this is a contagious disease for which there is no cure. It’s also a risk to other wild birds and has led to Bald Eagle deaths, as reported here recently. Here’s background on the current nationwide situation.
10:04 PM: As Kersti updated in comments, the bird died. She emailed us to explain, “James Tilley and I hiked up and down Alki until we found it. There’s no way I wanted the eagles or dogs getting into that tomorrow. Looks like some dogs already have at least approached (paw prints in sand). Bird has been double bagged and disposed of and my report to WDFW updated.”
Four days after a sewage leak was detected and repaired at Lincoln Park, testing shows the beaches in the area are safe to use again. That’s the word from the King County Wastewater Treatment Division, which is responsible for the equipment that failed and caused the leak – an air valve in a vault along a “force main” that carries wastewater and stormwater north from the Barton Pump Station north of the Fauntleroy ferry dock. KCWTD spokesperson Marie Fiore says they estimate 13,000 gallons had leaked before th problem was fixed, but they don’t know how much of that got into Puget Sound, as some of it was contained by the vault and pumped out by Seattle Public Utilities before crews zeroed in on the problem and handed it off to the county. Fiore told us earlier this week that the vault is inspected frequently and had gone through an inspection less than two weeks before the valve failure.
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