Category Archives: General

From the Board President PaulBen McElwain

I’d like to contribute just a couple of short notes this month for my view from the Board.

First, Getting To The Water’s Edge project teams are moving toward the release of the 2019 revised edition. The Production Team is pulling together the many tasks of completing the book, including writing some final sections and indexing in hopes of getting it to the printer sometime during the Fall.  The Distribution and Marketing team is organizing for the long term work of promotion and distribution. Both teams are excellent examples of volunteer teams coming together to get done something worth doing — what we as a larger organization are all about.

The second note is about the larger picture of our information technology (IT) systems. With the passing of Connie Clark, we have started two project efforts of looking at our IT infrastructure and support. The first is focused on support to our 2020 Sound Waters University (SWU) event and the second on our longer-term computing and web support to the overall organization. Things are looking better than I had hoped for SWU and I am confident that we can continue for this year with our current IT system that Connie left us for SWU 2020.  Time will tell what the second project comes up with to recommend for our future. In the meantime, both efforts will be working in parallel.

Meanwhile, we seem to be doing well at being a successful organization of volunteers, by volunteers, for volunteers — pursuing the mission we hold in common. Keep up the good work, and remember to have fun!

PaulBen McElwain, President of the Board, Sound Water Stewards

From Whidbey Coordinator Allie Hudec

I hope you have all had a wonderful summer so far! I would like to give you all a quick update on the Coupeville Wharf project. First and foremost, I will start by saying that the team who conceptualized, planned and created the wharf display did a wonderful job and it is a beautifully effective draw for visitors. I personally LOVE the wharf and have taken over 100 people there for field trips, Navy tours, historic walks for ELNHR, and Road Scholar trips. I am flattered to be asked to help with its maintenance and growth and I hope to honor the original vision with anything we do. The project itself has to do with funds that we were granted from the Town of Coupeville, they have requested the following items as part of that grant. (I have simplified them here, but I would be happy to send you a copy of the full grant if you would like to see it, just send me an email and I can get it to you.) Here is what we are currently working on:

1. Create a new panel for the back wall with info on Penn Cove Mussels

2. Update the poster for the shore display to draw people to the wharf

3. Create a passport book to help families to explore the area

4. Expand the brochure holder and make it more interactive

5. Have volunteers onsite to interpret during summer weekends and events

 I have met with some of the original trailblazers on this project and they have had some wonderful insights and ideas. I am also beginning to work with a volunteer team to both create content as well as build an interpretive team to be on site at events and busy weekends. If you are interested in being part of this project or any other outreach and education opportunities I would love to hear from you!

Please send me an E-mail at and we will get you plugged in.

Thanks for all you do!


From the Executive Director Nan Maysen

Recently I was asked to contribute a presentation to our neighboring county that provided an overview of Sound Water Stewards organization. I asked for Paul Ben’s assistance, as my involvement is so recent, and as we were working on it, one slide captured one of the most important qualities about Sound Water Stewards: Aside from the financial support and stability provided by LEP (Lighthouse Environmental Programs) and our Sound Waters University, it is the quality and dedication of the volunteers that make our organization successful.  

Whether we look at the efforts of the members and board in 2015 and 2016, when Sound Water Stewards were just becoming itself, or at the current activities that maintain strength and impact in the County and beyond, the high level of skills and commitment that volunteers bring to SWS are what enables our success.  I have been impressed from my start 5 months ago by the talent and variety of backgrounds that all of the volunteers offer, and also that the all-important ability to work together towards a common goal is one of the threads that weaves among every committee and board member.

I have always felt that teamwork is the best approach with a balance of leadership and feedback from the “boots on the ground” – – or in the mud!  The team that Sound Water Stewards is now – with both coordinators and myself settled into our staff roles and having such a strong and impressive Board and committees to support and work with – – it is something all of you can be proud of! Not every organization is so endowed with talent and dedication!

Volunteer Memorials

Jan Gross
Died March 31, 2019
Beach Watchers Class of 2008
Written by: Kathy Fritts

I was presented with the honor of saying a few about my friend Jan Gross. As many around Whidbey, I was blessed by her friendship from day one. Jan never met a stranger or let one get away always love at first sight on both sides. The first time I met her was in 2007 when she was active with then Beach Watchers Advisory Council and the Lighthouse Environmental Program where I served on both boards with her. Professionally, Jan was a registered nurse caring for children’s health issues but her caring expanded into every aspect of her life. After semi-retirement from nursing, she became the Goat Goddess at Island County Fair and of course later she was known as Gramma Jamma. The 3 Generations jam business was started by Jan and her daughter Becca Hyman with help from granddaughters, hence the name.

Smiling and chuckling over many memories of Jan and her quirky sense of humor I always come back to how kind, loving and yes, feisty she was. Her great love of family, husband, son, daughter, and grandchildren was beautiful to see.

She lived and loved spreading kindness and laughter to all who were blessed with her presence. I am grateful to have known her and being a part of my life.

God Speed Jan.

Connie Clark
08.01.1946 – 05.17.2019
Written by: Nicole Luce

Remembering Connie Clark who recently passed away from multiple myeloma. Connie and husband Neal joined Beach Watchers in 2007 and Connie happily dove into the BW website which was ready for a facelift. And that springboarded to her developing an online system for tracking BW volunteers and our hours and activities. The ripples from her vision and coding spread far and wide through BW, and then Sound Water Stewards, and to many related Puget Sound organizations as she translated our data and tracking needs into online systems for Sound Waters and SWS Info and for managing our organization.

While Connie quietly applied her genius to user-friendly tools and apps, anyone who sat in a meeting with her knows how her creativity and perspective spotlighted fresh ideas and new ways of approaching a need.  

She was a delight to work and play with! She was always learning, figuring out how to improve something, a lover of flowers, a can-do person, a great friend.

Island County MRC Volunteer Opportunities:

Crabber outreach – a one-time event

  • What: Provide free materials about best practices for crabbing, crab gauges, and rot cord to recreational crabbers.
  • Why: 12,000 crab pots are lost each year in Puget Sound. These derelict pots trap and kill approximately 180,000 crabs.
  • When: Opening day: TBD, likely around July 4
  • Time commitment: 2-4 hours
  • Where: Captain Coupe’s Boat Launch in Coupeville (additional locations may be added based on volunteer capacity)
  • Training/skills required: We will provide training. Volunteers should enjoy interacting with the public.

Contact: Anna Toledo 


If everyone in the U.S. flosses their teeth according to ADA recommendations, every year our empty containers alone would fill a landfill the size of a football field. That’s 6 stories hight-just for the empty floss dispensers! 

The importance of flossing has been well established and tested in dental hygiene literature for over a century (invented in 1898) and twice annual when we visit our dentist. However, the waste generated from plastic floss containers has a significant impact not only on our landfills, our ocean but also on our own health. 

When researching this topic I was startled to discover the U.S. Food and Drug Administration “…classifies dental floss as a Class I device, which means it is deemed to be low risk and subject to the least regulatory controls“. The FDA has little regulator obligation on what comprises floss itself. Historically floss was once made from silk fibers. The FDA states that “…today, floss is usually made from nylon filaments or plastic monofilaments.”

With limited regulation on the makeup of floss, could it have harmful chemicals in it? After digging into the literature to answer this question I came across Boronow et al., 2019 published article:

Half Abstract:
Flossing with Oral-B Glide, having stain-resistant carpet or furniture, and living in a city served by a PFAS-contaminated water supply were also associated with higher levels of some PFASs. Product testing using particle-induced γ-ray emission (PIGE) spectroscopy confirmed that Oral-B Glide and competitor flosses contained detectable fluorine. Despite the delay between blood collection and interview, these results strengthen the evidence for exposure to PFASs from food packaging and implicate exposure from polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE)-based dental floss for the first time.

News Article:

Boronow, K. E., Brody, J. G., Schaider, L. A., Peaslee, G. F., Havas, L., & Cohn, B. A. (2019). Serum concentrations of PFASs and exposure-related behaviors in African American and non-Hispanic white women. Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology, 29(2), 206-217. doi:10.1038/s41370-018-0109-y

Ocean Policy In The State Legislature:Report From the Seattle Aquarium


(Photo: Rich Yukubousky)

The 2019 legislative session has come to a close here in Washington state more than 2,000 bills were introduced in this Washington state legislative session. 


All four of the key orca recovery bills passed! New laws to help protect our struggling southern resident orcas were a priority for state lawmakers this session. The new laws will:

  • Increase the distance between boats and southern resident orcas, add a go-slow zone around the orcas and create a licensing program for commercial whale-watching operators. These protections from vessel noise and disturbance will make it easier for orcas to forage and find prey.
  • Prevent toxic pollution by working to reduce certain chemicals that could harm sensitive species like orcas and vulnerable populations like kids.
  • Protect habitat for Chinook salmon—the primary food source for orcas—and forage fish by increasing the state’s ability to enforce existing habitat protection laws.
  • Reduce oil spill risk by establishing tug escort requirements for more oil tankers in the waters around the San Juan Islands.

Washington also took a key step toward reducing plastic packaging in our state! A bill passed that requires an assessment of the amount, types, management and disposal of plastic packaging sold into the state. The report must include draft legislation for plastic packaging stewardship. That bill will be in the 2021 session.


The Reusable Bag Bill did not make it to a final vote. There was a lot of positive press and the word got out about the benefits for ocean health that would come from eliminating thin, single-use plastic bags. 

The Healthy Environment for All (HEAL) Act, did not quite make it across the finish line either. There was some funding in the budget for an Environmental Justice Task Force. The Seattle Aquarium will continue to lend our support to the organizations leading these important environmental justice efforts.

Next, the Seattle Aquarium will be turning their attention to federal policy and will participate in Capitol Hill Ocean Week in Washington, DC in June.

From Camano Coordinator Mikaela Montanari


This spring has been very productive and full of wonderful partnerships with many Sound Water Stewards and community members. I’ve just recently wrapped up my official SWS training as of April 25th and am now officially a Steward! The level of detail and topics covered is impressive! Equally impressive are the dedicated folks who keep our Volunteer Education Training going.

Thank you for your dedication and hard work. I have really appreciated the level of detail the facilitators bring to the table. You are in many ways the face of our organization for incoming volunteers. 

Spring Accomplishments:
This winter and spring Suzie Gaffney and I worked with Lincoln Alternative High School students to increase their sense of place as part of the Stillaguamish grant.   Suzie and Janet St. Clair began this project back in 2017 and to date, this will be the second year SWS has provided educational outreach to Lincoln High School. The second goal of this grant is to recruit and train Lincoln High School students to help SWS and Friends of Camano Island State Parks (FOSICP) with Nature Discovery Days (NDD). In order for the high school students to feel knowledgable enough for NDD they received training on coastal geology (taught by Jeff Wheeler), Intertidal Beach Monitoring (taught by Suzie Gaffney, pictured above), ocean acidification (taught by Mikaela Montanari), marine identification (taught by Mikaela Montanari, Suzie Gaffney, Trent Lowe, and Stacey Thompson), tree and plant identification (taught by Dr. Linda Brubaker), and in exchange they would teach Eat with Your Feet (Barnacle game taught by Pat Foss, shown on the right), forest ecology, and beach exploration during NDD. So far both the teacher and the students have enjoyed their SWS partnership!

I’m looking forward to summer activities like Nature Discovery Days May 20th & 21st, Intertidal Beach Monitoring, and Low Tide events!