Environmental change happens one action at a time. For better or worse, individual actions add up to major impacts. Here are some ways you can help Sound Water Stewards accomplish their mission and become “part of the solution” to a healthy Island County environment.
Use Water Wisely
Island County’s drinkable water is recharged only by rain or snow that falls on the soil and works its way down to water-bearing zones. Fix leaky faucets and appliances. Avoid frequent, light watering of yards, especially during the heat of the day. Use mulch to hold moisture in your landscaping. Use native plants that require less care and water.
Maintain Your Septic System
Failed septic systems are a huge personal expense and a major source of shoreline pollution. Inspect your septic system frequently – about once a year – to determine when it should be pumped. The average interval for pumping is about three years.
Limit Use of Pesticides and Fertilizers
Commonly used pesticides are chemicals that may have a harmful impact on non-target plants, household pets, wildlife and humans. Many are slow to break down and may end up contaminating surface water runoff and groundwater. Use fewer chemicals and pesticides. Eliminate their use if possible, and find alternative products and strategies to control unwanted plants or animals.
Manage Upland Water Runoff
Groundwater is simply rainfall or surface water that has infiltrated into the soil. Rainwater can pick up a nasty assortment of pollutants as it flows across the land. To help keep runoff clean, keep your car maintained to prevent leaks. Sweep your driveway or parking areas, rather than run the hose on them. Avoid storing machinery or substances outside in areas where pollutants can leak into the ground.
Where to Wash Your Car
Wash your car at a car wash that treats the water, keeping copper, zinc, other heavy metals, and oils from running off into streams and ultimately into the sea.
Encourage Native Plants and Trees
On shorelines, native plants act as filtration systems by slowing water runoff and trapping pollutants. Keeping one’s property as “natural” as possible has many advantages. Encourage, rather than remove, trees that overhang beaches and provide shade that benefits the survival of baitfish eggs. Native trees, shrubs and plants absorb large quantities of water during rainstorms, helping reduce potentially damaging runoff and landslides.
Know the Permit Procedures for Shoreline Areas
Shoreline resources are finite and must be effectively managed if their many values are to be preserved. Planning under Washington’s Growth Management Act provides a unique opportunity to consider shorelines and their relationship to the community as a whole and to its overall development strategy.
Develop bluffs with care. The coastal bluffs of Island County result from thousands of years of erosion and are an important natural feature of the shoreline. Many of Island County’s beaches “feed” sediments to adjacent beaches and nearby “accretion” beaches, which are typically either low spits of land jutting into the intertidal zone or coves between headlands. It makes sense to work “with” nature, rather than against it.
Shoreline bluffs and beaches are dynamic environments where erosion and storms are the rule, rather than the exception. The shoreline actually depends on continuing erosion to maintain beaches and support nearshore habitat, yet development is often intolerant of even relatively gradual erosion. As an alternative to bulkheads, which “harden” the shoreline, soft-shore alternatives are available.
Respect Intertidal Life
Beach etiquette is important. The creatures that live there have a tough time surviving the difficult conditions that nature throws at them. Make it your goal to minimize the impact you have on the organisms and the habitat in which they live.
Eelgrass is not a seaweed. It is a flowering, perennial plant that grows both by vegetative growth and by seed germination. It needs adequate sunlight and water clarity to grow. Eelgrass has many beneficial effects on the shoreline and provides a diverse habitat for many marine species, as well as protection from predators.
Report Derelict Fishing Gear
Derelict fishing gear can be nets, lines, crab and shrimp traps or other equipment abandoned or lost from fishing vessels and left unattended in the marine environment. It poses a danger to both marine life and humans, especially divers who may encounter it snagged on rocks or the sea floor. To arrange for safe, professional removal, please call the Department of Fish & Wildlife’s toll-free reporting hotline at 1-800-477-6224 or visit the WDFW Derelict Fishing Gear Removal Project page. Additional information is available on the Northwest Straits Commission’s Derelict Fishing Gear Removal Project page.