The Point Williams Buoy

On March 29, the crew of SoundGuardian, King County’s marine research vessel, re-deployed a water quality buoy that got loose earlier in the month at Point Williams, off Lincoln Park in West Seattle. In this video, watch Jim Devereaux, Bob Kruger, Houston Flores, and Christopher Barnes from the King County Environmental Laboratory re-anchor the buoy.

The Point Williams buoy is one of four automated, high-frequency data collection systems used by King County in marine waters and is the only floating platform — with the other three attached to piers or docks at Seattle Aquarium and inner and outer Quartermaster Harbor on Vashon-Maury Island. King County began using automated systems back in 2008 but the Point Williams buoy has been at the current location since 2013.

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Sensors are used to continually collect data that is used to monitor water quality in Puget Sound.

The buoy functions as a platform to suspend multiple instruments into the top of the water column to take measurements that determine water quality in the Central Puget Sound basin.  Automated, water quality data collection allows measurements to be taken every 15 minutes of physical, chemical, and biological parameters. The result is improved information to determine variability on a weekly, even daily,  basis compared to traditional water quality measurements that are typically measured every two to four weeks.

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The sensors are attached to the buoy which acts as a floating platform.

The data are transmitted via a cellular modem to a cloud data collection service, then transferred to the King County mooring data website where it can be viewed or downloaded within 30 minutes of data collection. Data undergo automatic quality checks to assess for issues in real-time as well as semi-annually by a data manager.

The data are used to characterize Puget Sound water conditions on numerous time scales (e.g., daily, seasonal, annual, inter-annual) and used for status and trends analysis, to compare with data from other locations in Puget Sound to assess spatial differences, populate or validate numerical Puget Sound models, and provide data for management decisions. The data from this water quality monitoring system are also sent to Northwest Association of Networked Ocean Observing Systems to be included in a larger marine waters data collection network.

Check out more cool stuff from @KCEnviroLab on Instagram.

New ESJ iMap tool brings together community and capital projects for employees

By Lilia Cabello Drain, Communications Specialist, Department of Executive Services

Back in 2013, the Water and Land Resources Division wanted to find a more efficient way of determining the characteristics and statistics of the populations they serve or would impact when doing capital projects. The information is critical to supporting King County’s equity and social justice goals and better project or program outcomes.

Developed over the last three years through a partnership with King County GIS Center, the Equity and Social Justice (ESJ) iMap application was developed to allow employees to access and view census and demographic data with a geographic context for their projects, programs and reporting.

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A screen shot of the ESJ iMap.

“If employees want to know about capital projects and programs that the Department of Natural Resources and Parks is providing to the public, they can see it here,” said Larry Jones, Senior Water Quality Planner in the Department of Natural Resources and Parks (DNRP).

Using a database called PRISM that draws information uploaded by program managers on Capital Improvement Projects (CIP), the map also shows many relevant spatial data layers about stormwater, flooding, land use, administrative areas and King County demographics data, including age, sex, income, race and language.

While an exciting accomplishment, Larry explains that initially people were unsure how this tool could benefit their work. Therefore, it was necessary to secure employee input and involvement, along with management buy-in, and provide demonstrations of the tool’s ESJ relevance. So in 2016, Harkeerat Kang, GIS Application Developer, and Larry began showcasing the tool.

“We basically just went out on the road and did the ‘circuit’ to sell it,” he said. “We shared it with other teams and groups within DNRP.”

Larry Jones and Harkeerat Kang worked together on the ESJ iMap tool.

Since then, people have recognized the value of the tool and are investing in it by providing project data and identifying relevant information, thus making the ESJ iMap tool more relevant and an evolving mechanism, meaning it could eventually expand to include more data and projects.

“We met with Public Health — Seattle & King County to consider adding their projects into the iMap,” said Larry. “There’s also a big move to reach out to school districts and include their data, but currently the application isn’t designed for that.”

“We still have a lot of homework to do, more people to accommodate and other relationships to pursue, but right now we want to get program managers and employees who do any manner of community outreach using the system,” he adds.

Getting his start in Metro in 1982 before eventually finding his way into the Water and Land Resources Division, Larry works on water quality projects, and coordinates ESJ activities for the Water and Land Division within DNRP. He enjoys his work and sharing the impact of this project with the people around him, looking forward to how King County can continue expanding on its promise to prioritize equity and social justice.

“We don’t know all the opportunities this tool will allow us to pursue, but we can guess some by putting on our residents’ hats,” he said. Currently project managers are using it to assess if certain communities are being inequitably impacted or what languages should information be translated in to better serve all residents.

Harkeerat agrees. Beginning with King County in 1999 as a DNRP intern, she has been in her current role since 2006 and is passionate about working on issues of equity and social justice.

“I love what I do, King County has been very good to me,” she said. “So I get the importance of working on equity because King County has definitely been equitable to me.”

The ESJ iMap tool makes a clear connection between the community and King County employees who use it, providing both a direct link between project management decisions and how they will impact real people, residents and the environment.

It is still in development, with a final rollout intended for later this year or early 2018. As employees use the tool, it will continue to be revised with new features or data to make it more robust, responsive and relative to King County projects and programs. Training will begin in late 2017 with project managers and outreach employees in DNRP initially. Eventually other employees and everyday King County residents will be able to examine or assess who a project will impact, the result of long range project plans, the proximity and type of nearby projects and how best to work with specific communities to successfully complete a project.

King County employees can access the ESJ iMap tool here. For more information about the ESJ iMap project, contact Larry Jones at Larry.Jones@kingcounty.gov or Harkeerat Kang at Harkeerat.Kang@kingcounty.gov.

 

New smolt slide will help salmon navigate aging Locks

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New “smolt slides” will help young salmon get through the Ballard Locks more safely on their way to the ocean

The US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) recently installed a new kind of “smolt slide” to help juvenile salmon pass through Seattle’s Hiram M. Chittenden (Ballard) Locks on their out-migration to the ocean.

Compared to older versions, the new slides are safer for the salmon and safer for staff to install. They also include improved sensors to detect fish passing through the facility, providing data critical to understanding how salmon migrate in and out of WRIA 8 (the Lake Washington/Cedar/ Sammamish Watershed) and what may help their recovery.

The work is part of a Planning Assistance to States Agreement between King County (via WRIA 8) and the Corps that shares costs related to monitoring Chinook salmon migration in the watershed. It includes installing detectors at the Locks, capturing and tagging juvenile Chinook, and determining juvenile salmon survival rates through the Lake Washington system.

Salmon face challenges navigating the 100 year-old Locks on their way out of and back into the watershed and the smolt slides are one step toward an easier passage for these iconic and threatened fish.

More news about the Ballard Locks

Hiram M. Chittenden-Ballard Locks Centennial Celebration
“One hundred years ago, The Locks and Ship Canal were built by Seattle and the Corps of Engineers as a commercial navigation route to develop the City of Seattle. Today the Ballard (Hiram M. Chittenden) Locks are the Nation’s busiest with over 40,000 vessels per year [passing through.] Boats ‘lock thru’ 24 hours a day, except during maintenance. In addition, a significant salmon migration passes through the Locks that can total over 100,000 salmon.”

Economic Impacts of the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks
“The Ballard Locks provide $1.2 billion a year in economic impact to our region according to a recent study by the McDowell Group, funded by maritime and industrial businesses, Port of Seattle, City of Seattle, and King County.  The report describes the benefits of reliable operation of the Locks, the potential losses in the event of a failure, and steps needed to repair the 100-year-old facility.”

“Happy 100th birthday, Ballard Locks. Hope you get the repairs you wished for” – KUOW News [AUDIO], June 27, 2017

“Ballard Locks Repairs” – KIRO7 News [VIDEO], June 27, 2017

Earth Week 2017: Celebrating science!

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Join us in celebrating science in the week leading up to Earth Day, April 22. Looking for a way to make a difference or pitch in? Check out our tips, volunteer events and green guidelines at our Earth Week Hub!

King County and its partners have committed to plant one million trees by 2020 as part of our Strategic Climate Action Plan to reduce carbon pollution and prepare for climate impacts. Trees store carbon and contribute to clean air and water, healthy habitat for salmon and other wildlife, and more livable communities. (If you want to help, here’s our video showing how to plant a tree.)

This type of commitment reflects why the Department of Natural Resources and Parks (DNRP) is King County’s first carbon neutral agency — meaning we reduce and remove more greenhouse gas emissions than we generate.

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Science is at the bedrock of what we do here at DNRP. We are specialists in marine biology, nearshore ecology, environmental chemistry, limnology, toxicology, wildlife biology and biodiversity, microbiology, zoology and more. Our employees collect, analyze, model and interpret information that supports dozens of environmental programs, including those that address land use, habitat management, wastewater treatment, salmon and biodiversity, water resources, and surface water management.

To us, every day is Earth Day!

 

Engineering: See It, Solve It!

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Students take a quiz about their knowledge of native plants and noxious weeds, part of the STEM conference on Feb. 9, 2017

“Engineering: See It, Solve It” was the theme of the Feb. 9, Enumclaw STEM Expo. And since Science, technology, engineering and math are the cornerstones of the work done in the Water and Land Resources Division, naturally we were there to spark the interest of the next generation of our workforce.

As seen in this photo, many of the more than 3,000 attendees took the “Noxious or Native Quiz” to see if they could identify plants in their environment.

The Stormwater Services team showed kids how they map King County’s stormwater system digitally and did some hands-on water sampling demos with equipment to show how they manage stormwater and improve water quality.

King County’s Noxious Weed Program and Stormwater Services teams were two of more than 70 exhibitors that included Boeing, Fred Hutchinson Science Education Partnership, Pacific Science Center, Association of Chemical Engineering Graduate Students and the King Conservation District.

See it? Report it! Washington Launches an Updated Invasive Species Reporting App

Reposted from Noxious Weed News

Washington’s invasive species reporting app just got smarter. Now anyone can use their smart phone or other device to easily report sightings of invasive plants, animals and other pesky organisms anywhere in Washington State and be sure that information will go to the right agency.

Download WA Invasives for free at Google Play Store and Apple iTunes App Store.

This app produced for the Washington Invasive Species Council is easy to use and, more importantly, communicates directly with the agencies who are tracking invasive species of all sorts. You don’t have to figure out who to contact when you notice an unusual plant, insect or other organism. Just enter information on what you see and a photo through the app and the report will be made available immediately to the council and its network of experts through an automated alert.

According to Justin Bush, executive coordinator of Washington Invasive Species Council, “This streamlined process will enable invasive species managers in Washington State to more quickly respond to new invasive species sightings. When it comes to successfully eradicating invasive species, early detection and a rapid response is key.”

Recording a new giant hogweed infestation in March the old-fashioned way, with a pen an paper. Now this can be done quickly with the WA Invasives phone app.

Once experts verify a mobile app report, it becomes part of the Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System (EDDMapS), from the University of Georgia’s Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health. EDDMapS is a Web-based mapping system that provides real time tracking of invasive species occurrences, and local and national distribution maps, available for viewing at eddmaps.org. EDDMapS contains more than 3 million invasive species occurrence reports made by 35,000 users across North America. This comprehensive view of invasive species locations helps to guide policy, research and decisions at local and international levels.

According to Chuck Bargeron, associate director for invasive species and information technology at the University of Georgia Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health, “EDDMapS aggregates data from many sources, professional and citizen scientists alike, through bulk data uploads, Web reports and smartphone reports into a database.”

By using the WA Invasives app, we can all do our part to catch new invasive species while we still have a chance to stop them.

This post was based on a press release from Washington Invasive Species Council. For more information on the app or the work of the council, visit the Washington Invasive Species Council website.