West Seattle, Washington
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:
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.
The so-called “king tides” of fall/winter make their first appearance starting on Thanksgiving Day. The morning high tide hits 12 feet at 5:36 am that day, and keeps climbing from there – 12.4 feet at 6:26 am Friday, November 25 and peaking at 12.6 feet at 7:17 am Saturday, November 26, with the highest high tide staying at 12 feet or above for the rest of the month and on to December 3rd. High tides reach 12 feet and over again December 8-12, with the highest tides of December peaking during Christmas/Hanukkah, 13 feet on December 25-26. Winter’s highest high tides are about a month after that, 13.1 feet on January 24-25. The high tides themselves aren’t always problematic unless weather conditions compound them, as was the case in early January this year (photo above).
At today’s celebration of the shoreline-restoration project at Lowman Beach Park, Duwamish Tribe member Ken Workman shared the area’s historic name: gWal, or “capsize.” That certainly was once a risk for the at-times-controversial project, which took years of building public support and seeking grant funding to become reality. The project was originally centered on removing the crumbling north seawall at Lowman, but expanded to removing its beloved waterfront tennis court and daylighting the end of Pelly Creek.
The creek end won’t really come into its own until the fall/winter rains. But the expanded shore that replaced all but a small northern stub of seawall has been a joy for park visitors since the project’s completion earlier this summer:
Before this morning’s ribboncutting, there were speeches, emceed by Deb Barker, president of the Morgan Community Association, which hosted many community discussions about Lowman – as she observed, “This kind of project isn’t supposed to happen,” and yet it beat the odds:
Other speakers in our video were Workman, deputy mayor Greg Wong, who marveled at Lowman’s natural beauty, longtime acting Parks superintendent (and former West Seattleite) Christopher Williams, and Kathryn Gardow, representing the state agency that provided some of the funding. They were all joined in the ribbon-cutting by two local students, Ken from Explorer West Middle School (WSB sponsor) and Ezra from Gatewood Elementary. The celebration also featured The Whale Trail – Lowman is a great spot for shore-based whale-watching – and Alki Kayak Tours/Mountain to Sound Outfitters (WSB sponsor) with stand-up paddleboarding demos. Williams also acknowledged the community:
Not only did nearby residents endure months of work on this project, but as Williams observed, they also had been through years of work on King County’s Murray Wet Weather Facility across the street (dedicated in 2017). His acknowledgment also included the Parks managers who made the project happen – David Graves shepherded it for years, including seeking grants:
And Janice Liang managed the project through its construction:
P.S. Looking into our archives for this story, we found this 2010 WSB clip with a 360-degree view of what Lowman Beach Park used to look like (not only before this project, but before the overflow facility across the street, which replaced a block of residences).
That’s one of two seals that Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network dealt with on West Seattle beaches this past week. Seal Sitters MMSN’s David Hutchinson sent the photo and updates, with a reminder for beachgoers:
So far this has been a slow season for Seal Sitters, however the coming fall months typically can be a busy time of year. Young newly weaned harbor seal pups are heading out on their own and will even haul out to rest on our heavily used urban beaches.
This past weekend, Seal Sitters responded to a report of a dead harbor seal at Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook. With the assistance of staff and interns from our partner SR3 (SeaLife Response, Rehabilitation and Research), the 4-foot-long carcass was recovered and transported to their facility in Des Moines. A necropsy confirmed that this animal was the victim of a boat strike.
On a happier note, on Monday Seal Sitter volunteers watched over a young harbor seal pup on a beach along Harbor Avenue. This pup, shown in the photo, was able to rest for a few hours before returning to the water due to a rising tide.
As always, if you come across a live or dead marine mammal on West Seattle beaches, please contact Seal Sitters’ hotline at 206-905-7325.
(WSB photo, this morning)
We’ve had a few-details mention of this in the WSB West Seattle Event Calendar for a while but now the city has just sent the full announcement:
Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) and the Morgan Junction Community Association invite the community to celebrate the renovation of Lowman Beach Park! Please join us on Saturday, September 24, 2022 from 10 a.m. to noon at 7017 Beach Dr. SW. The morning will be fun and filled with opportunities to learn more about the beach restoration and the animals that depend on it.
During the event, Seattle Parks and Recreation Environmental Education Team and the Seattle Aquarium will have naturalists on site to help the community explore the beach. Additional activities include stand-up paddle boards and tips for successful paddling from Alki Kayak Tours and an opportunity to learn from Whale Trail volunteers about the trail and the marine mammals that live along the trail. The celebration will offer an opportunity to meet your neighbors, explore the new beach, enjoy refreshments and West Seattle’s Original Bakery donuts.
This shoreline restoration project work began when the south half of the seawall failed in the mid-1990s. This recent project removed the remainder of the seawall and created an approximately 7000 sq. ft unobstructed shoreline benefitting the natural environment, the park and the visitors who can access the beach in a much easier way. The remnant of Pelly Creek that previously flowed under the seawall was daylighted as part of the project. The completion of this project now offers a shoreline park with a swing set, an open lawn area and a gradual transition a vegetated upland habitat to the nearshore habitat which together restore ecological functions, habitat connections, and allow the beach to develop and move more naturally.
SPR awarded the construction contract to Mike McClung Construction and work began in the fall of 2021. Construction was funded in part with grants from the State of Washington through the Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account and the King County Flood Control District through the Cooperative Watershed Management fund.
The project fences came down, fully reopening the park to the public, in late June.
Just in case you lost track – Labor Day is one week away. And that’s the date announced as the end of a second year of “piloting” early closures at Alki Beach Park (as well as Golden Gardens in the north). So we checked with Seattle Parks today to ask if that’s still the plan. Short answer: Yes. Parks spokesperson Rachel Schulkin confirmed to WSB that the city is “on track” to go back to 11:30 pm closures after Labor Day. The 10 pm closing time has been in place since Memorial Day weekend. Last year, Parks made the change in July after two notable incidents, a deadly shooting and a chaotic social-media-organized gathering that drew thousands. This year has been devoid so far of anything comparable, though ongoing complaints of street racing and other disorder have continued.
P.S. At the start of the season, Parks promised to evaluate the pilot, including community feedback. The survey they opened at the time appears to still be open.
Thanks to Rosalie Miller for sharing three sights from today’s low-low-tide – above, the siphon of a Piddock Clam; below, a Moon Snail:
And an Anemone:
Tomorrow the tide will bottom out at -2.3 feet at 12:27 pm. The Seattle Aquarium volunteer beach naturalists are scheduled to be at Lincoln Park (8011 Fauntleroy Way SW) and Constellation Park (60th SW/Beach Drive SW) for the last time this season, 11 am-1:30 pm.
Low-low tides are back this week – not as low as earlier this summer, but low enough to get out and explore the shore, with some expert help. Seattle Aquarium volunteer beach naturalists were out at Lincoln Park and Constellation Park; the latter is where Susan Romanenghi photographed some of the turnout. For the three wildlife photos below, Michael Ostrogorsky was nearby, in the Alki Point vicinity:
Tomorrow’s low-low tide will be -3.0 feet at 11:41 am; the naturalists will be at Constellation (60th/Beach) and Lincoln (8011 Fauntleroy Way SW) 10:15 am-1:15 pm tomorrow, and 11 am-1:30 pm Saturday – their last scheduled day this summer.
The photo – taken from a distance with a long lens – is from David Hutchinson of Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network, which has a reminder for you:
We are in the middle of harbor seal “pupping season” so it was not surprising that the Seal Sitters’ Hotline received a call last week reporting a seal on the Elliott Bay shoreline. When volunteers arrived, they found an adult harbor seal, which is unusual – pups are much more common. Seals are generally very skittish and return to the water quickly when approached by people. The Hotline report stated that a couple of people were too close, taking photos and trying to feed the animal.
Under the protection of volunteers, this seal was able to spend about 5 hours resting before returning to the water in the early afternoon. Volunteers are always happy to answer your questions about the animals they are watching over.
If you spot any marine mammal on the shore of West Seattle (alive or dead), please keep your distance, keep people and pets away, and call the Seal Sitters’ Hotline at 206-905-7325.
If it’s easier to remember, the number is also 206-905-SEAL.
7:25 PM: The photo is from Caroline, who spotted that on Lowman Beach and wonders what it is: “It’s humongous! And so amazing with the colors and textures.” She and other beachgoers have been keeping it wet while the tide rolls back in, but they’re wondering what it is. We don’t recognize it; tried Google Search By Image, and while it suggests possibly a jellyfish relative, no definitive ID via photos. Do YOU know what it is?
9:22 PM: Consensus in comments seems to be that it’s an upside-down lion’s-mane jellyfish, so we’ve updated the headline.
Four weeks after health/water-quality authorities closed Cormorant Cove Park‘s beach because of water contamination from a private sewer-line link, the beach is finally clear to reopen. Seattle Public Utilities spokesperson Sabrina Register tells WSB the warning signs are being taken down. Cormorant Cove, in the 3700 block of Beach Drive SW, was the last area to reopen; the original closure stretched all the way from Alki Point to the SW Andover beach access, and most of it was cleared to reopen a week and a half ago. At the time, though, SPU said that while the leak at Harbor West had been fixed, unexplained bacterial concerns lingered at Cormorant Cove.
9:43 AM: Thanks to Lorrie for the tip that the work to get that Cessna 150 out of the water off the Alki promenade was under way a little earlier than we expected. It’s been 17 hours since the pilot crash-landed the plane in the water, with no injuries reported A company called AvTech Services is partly dismantling the plane so it can be transported; the US Coast Guard and state Ecology Department are at the scene monitoring the salvage operation (no word of a fuel spill so far).
ADDED 2:20 PM: We went by the beach on our way back from the SDOT director announcement on Beacon Hill and noted as of about an hour ago, everything was over and the plane and truck were gone. As for what caused the crash – a Seattle Police summary says the pilot told them “an oil-pressure malfunction” was to blame. David Hutchinson reports the pilot returned to the scene this morning – he sent photos and info:
Once the plane was towed up on the beach and lifted to the promenade, the fuel was drained from the wing tanks, the wings were removed and the fuselage was lifted by crane onto a flatbed trailer for transport.
As the operation was finishing up, the pilot dropped by to check on things. His t-shirt said “I SURVIVED HAWAII TSUNAMI.”
There was a suggestion made that he get a new one saying “I SURVIVED ALKI BEACH.”
Federal authorities are handling the official investigation.
8:14 PM: FSX Aviation has taken the pilot/air-traffic-control audio from public archives and uploaded it:
ORIGINAL MONDAY REPORT: For the second time this month, Public Health – Seattle & King County has announced that it’s shut down three unlicensed food vendors at Alki Beach for “operating without a valid food business permit.” The announcement says the closures happened Sunday afternoon. The agency also announced previously that it had closed three unlicensed food vendors at Alki on July 1st for the same reason, but doesn’t say whether any or all of the new closures involve the same operators, nor does it name them. We’re following up to see if any of that information is available. (Here’s how to get a permit.)
ADDED TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Here’s how PHSKC answered our followup questions: “Generally speaking, it is difficult to determine a business name when there has been no formal permit application in the first place. Not all food vendors would have a prominent business name displayed on a stand/cart/whatever structure they are vending food from. Of the three unlicensed food carts most recently closed by Public Health, one appears to be the same as a cart previously closed by Public Health on July 1.”
No all-clear yet, more than a week after a private sewer line was discovered to be leaking into Puget Sound from condos south of Alki Point. That’s according to Sabrina Register of Seattle Public Utilities, which is monitoring the situation. We asked her about the action, if any, to be taken against the responsible party. Her reply:
Seattle Public Utilities notifies property owners when their privately owned wastewater lines are broken or malfunctioning, as property owners are responsible for maintaining their lines. Broken or malfunctioning lines can sometimes discharge sewage into water bodies. Staff consult with them on corrective action that needs to be taken to prevent further discharges.
The property owner associated with the sewer discharge on Beach Drive has been issued notice of violations for sewer discharge into Puget Sound, including in 2021.
SPU is planning to issue a notice of violation for this most recent discharge after determining cost recovery needs.
We’ll be following up again next week.