This season Camano Island SWS volunteers monitored 12 beaches. The beaches area equally spaced around the island and are representative of several marine habitats. The physical characteristics, diversity of intertidal organisms, and water chemistry are influenced by the beach type and location of the beach. Beaches on the east side of the island (Iverson, Cavalero, and Tillicum) face Port Susan and the mainland and are influenced by the freshwater coming into Port Susan from the Stillaguamish river. Beaches on the west side (Pebble Beach, Mabana, Elger Bay, Camano Island State Park, Cama Beach State Park, Onamac Point, and Madrona) face Whidbey Island and are influenced by the waters of Saratoga Passage. Beaches on the north end of the island (Utsalady and English Boom) are influenced by waters from the Skagit River.
Rather than go methodically through each beach, below is a summary of key changes noted at several beaches this year and in the past several years. First, English Boom is located at the NE end of the island the English Boom County Park. It is a steep, rocky beach leading to an expansive mudflat. This year Japanese Eelgrass (Zostera japonica) was present for the first time in some years. Pebble Beach and north beach of Cama Beach State Park experienced significant landslides in the past several years to the north of both beaches. Water currents have moved sand south over both beaches creating habitat for the native eelgrass (Zostera marina). Two years ago at the south end of Cama Beach a winter storm altered the outflow of Cranberry Creek, which enters at the south end of the park, so that now freshwater cuts through the permanent profile line in the upper tide zone. This has altered the species composition dramatically in this freshwater area so the beach is much less diverse than previous years, changing to more diverse in the lower tidal areas. There are two profile lines at Onamac Point, which is where the north/south tidal currents change. The profile line to the north west is much less diverse than the profile line to the south. For all beaches with rocky substrates there has been an increase in mussel populations over the past several years. This year, in particular, volunteers found an abundance of very tiny and small-sized mussels.
An important change to the beaches monitored in 2019 will be the elimination of current Mabana beach site to another more easily accessible beach of the same type a half mile to the north. The current beach site is through a gated HMO staircase down a very steep bluff. This has made it very difficult to safely get both people and equipment down to the monitoring site. The beach Captain and the Camano Intertidal Monitoring Committee agree to this change.