"Summer Recreation and the Nearshore Environment" by Naki Stevens, Executive Policy Advisor on Puget Sound
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"Summer Recreation and the Nearshore Environment" by Naki Stevens, Executive Policy Advisor on Puget Sound 
 


DNR FIELD NOTES

June 3, 2010

Summer Recreation & the Nearshore Environment

By Naki Stevens
Executive Policy Advisor on Puget Sound
Washington State Department of Natural Resources

Eight months out of the year, those of us in Western Washington experience rainy, cold, gray days, which is why we really appreciate our summers. Puget Sound is home to some of the most beautiful lakes, rivers and tidelands in the nation – making summer recreating, like boating and beach walking, so enjoyable.

One of the most important ways to keep our beaches and diverse aquatic habitats healthy and clean is to pay attention to the impacts each of makes on the nearshore environment. The nearshore is the band of land between upland bluffs and deep water – essentially where most of the ecological action is. Migrating fish, such as salmon, use the nearshore for migratory corridors and forage fish use beaches for spawning.

Why should we care? The nearshore houses habitats and species that provide us with economic benefit, environmental sustainability, and recreational opportunities such as, salmon fishing, shellfish harvesting, clam digging, and beach walking, not to mention a diverse ecosystem for us to live in and explore.

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has identified five critical impacts that affect the health of the nearshore environment and what you can do about each one:

Shade – Docks, mooring buoys, marinas, and buildings built over the water can cast large, deep shadows that kill aquatic vegetation and cause migrating fish to swim through deeper water, making them more susceptible to predators.

How you can help:

  • Place over-water structures, such as docks, in deeper water where they will not shade nearshore aquatic vegetation.
  • Modify existing over-water structures in the nearshore so that sunlight can pass through them or under them.

Waves and bulkheads – Many shallow-water ecosystems rely on the movement of sediment in nearshore waters to replenish nutrients, bring in food, and create spawning habitats. Boat wakes can create large and frequent waves that erode sediments from beaches.

How you can help:

  • Post ‘no wake signs’ to direct boaters to reduce wave heights along the shore.
  • Replace hard-surface bulkheads with native aquatic plants that allow sediments to move naturally.
  • Design new docks and over-water structures so that concrete and other hard-surface bulkheads are not necessary.

Crushing sediment habitat – At low tide or during other periods of low water, some floating over-water structures can crush the vegetation and animals that live beneath them.

How you can help:

  • Move structures to deeper water or design them so they cannot “ground out” on the bottom.
  • Use embedded anchors and midline floats to minimize dragging of chains and ropes.
  • Locate boat landings in areas where boats and barges do not run aground, and propellers do not disturb the sediments or aquatic vegetation.

Contamination – Many chemicals, waste products, and even excess nutrients can kill organisms directly, or build up in the ecosystem, causing chronic health problems to wildlife ¬– and potentially us. The effects on the nearshore from spills or outfalls that dump contaminants can be harmful.

How you can help:

  • Limit in-water repairs, and don’t scrape hulls or use any other process underwater to remove paint from a boat hull.
  • Don’t do refinishing work on boats while in the water or on temporary floats unless permitted by a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.
  • Use tarps to prevent dust, drips, and spills from entering the water.
  • Avoid dumping oil or other toxic chemicals down storm drains.

Noise – Loud noises can traumatize fish, birds, amphibians, and orca causing them to leave the area or abandon their nests.

How you can help:

  • Observe the established times in which to minimize noise impacts while species are at vulnerable life stages – see www.wdfw.wa.gov
  • Limit vehicle or foot traffic in shallow water and intertidal areas, and use designated routes.

For more information on how DNR cares for our aquatic lands visit our website – www.dnr.wa.gov

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Media Contact: Abbey Corzine, Communications Specialist, 360-902-1401, abbey.corzine@dnr.wa.gov
Photo of author available upon request.


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