Friday, April 24, 2015

King County LiDAR/Aerial Swipe Images

EM alerted me to this great swipe image images between LiDAR and aerial views the King County has put up:

Fun to play around with. The LiDAR imagery at closer range breaks down a bit compared to cleaner imagery one can also get from King County but still a great demonstration that captures why Dave Montgomery says it is like getting a new pair of glasses.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Siren Call: Sea Lions at Craven Rock

When I fist saw this glacial erratic off the east shore of Marrowstone Island I thought it might be a layered sandstone. However, before I got close enough to see it better I could hear it. The slopes of the giant boulder are just right for hauling out and enjoying some sunshine. 

Craven Rock with bluffs of the west shore of Whidbey Island and Mount Baker

The erratic is at least 40 feet across based on high resolution aerial photographs. The rock is about 400 feet off shore. As such this rock has posed a navigation hazard.

Sinking SS North Pacific after hitting Craven Rock (Puget Sound Maritime Historic Society)

SS Pacific 1880 (Puget Sound Maritime Historic Society)

The rock is named after a lieutenant in the Wilkes Expedition. Wilkes originally named Marrowstone Island after Craven, but the original name by Vancouver was the one that stuck for the island with Craven being left the honor of the large erratic. 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Hill Road South of Coupeville

On returning from ventures on the Olympic Peninsula via the Port Townsend to Keystone Ferry I often take a slight detour from the more direct route. I turn off of the main road, Engle Road, onto Hill Road. Hill Road turns into a narrow lane that follows the top edge of the shoreline bluff through wind blown old Douglas firs. 

The views open up to the west as well as curving coast line.

The road follows the coastal curve and then descends to the beach.

The beach has a parking area and trails or a beach walk can be taken to continue along the coast. The sandy prairie slope has cactus. The combination of exposure, low rain and exceeding well drained soils has evolved into a mini ecosystem.

The road switches back up to the top of the bluff and heads through perhaps the oldest farmland in Washington State.  Deep black silty soils that formed initially as a tidal bay with glacial ice just to the north during the last glacial period retreat.

First Nations peoples utilized this rick soil for camas production. Evdence of burning to maintain the prairie suggests farm land use for over 2,000 years. Early Euro Americans began farming these fields very early in the American settlement of the area.  

Friday, April 17, 2015

Pacific Orangetip and other notes

In my past I used to hunt butterflies. Some of my old skills and instincts still kick in when a butterfly flutters by. I did not do very well getting a picture of this Anthocharis sara  Pacific orangetip (see 

Anthocharis sara  Pacific orangetip 

This butterfly caught my attention mostly because it is indicative of open meadow habitat. I observed this butterfly on a southwest facing slope, with loose outwash sand soil, and in the rain shadow of the Olympics. A sort of mini terrain of central California coastal habitat that brought back my butterfly instinctive reactions.

I failed to get a picture of the orangetip on a flower, but it was on this flower that appears to be a brassicaceae (I am pushing my plant skills):

Down the slope I came across a flower I did recognize, but not the same as the above:

Brassica rapa

Brassica rapa

Brassica rapa is a prevalent spring flower of California; however, it is not native in North America, but is now firmly established. It is listed as a noxious weed on some lists. The NRCS does not have it in Jefferson County where I saw it, but someone working on removing noxious weeds at the base of the slope was including it in weeds to be pulled along with poison hemlock.

Landslide Setbacks Perspective

In doing some work related research associated with some policy/policy implementation I came across an email within a public document from Jon Koloski. I have been working to purge the concept of standard buffers from landslide hazard regulations or what I prefer to call setbacks so as not to confuse landslides with wetland buffers. It was nice to see another like minded geologist on the matter.

"There is not any definitive science that supports a prescriptive buffer of any dimension for separation of development from the edge of a “marine bluff hazard area” or any other type of landslide hazard area. All of the buffers in use today in land use regulatory documents are based strictly on “administrative convenience” and/or on the belief that some measure of a buffer of separation improves safety to the potentially impacted public or to property….T(t)here are myriad factors that influence specific applicable hazard conditions and those vary so much from site to site, that individual investigation is realistically the only way to characterize an appropriate buffer or setback. The County must recognize that generalization simply has to be based on some factor such as administrative convenience". - Koloski, Jon W., LG, LEG, Senior Principal, Co-Founder of GeoEngineers. Email correspondence to Thurston County dated 1/25/2005.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Double Crested Cormorants in the New Anthropocene

Cormorants seem to be being doing well in the Anthropocene taking advantage of structures built by man for habitat. I spotted this cormorant perched on the backside of a bumper at the Anacortes ferry landing.
This cormorant was keeping a sharp eye out for northwest crows seeking untended eggs perhaps. The ferry boat posed no threat nor did the guy in a car with a camera.

Cormorants are also thriving on the manmade islands at the Columbia River estuary. So much so that the Army Corp of Engineers has moved to cull their numbers cormorants/DCCO_EIS_Overview_FS.pdf.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Index Town (climbing) Wall and the Tunnel

The small town of Index has a climbing wall that easily beats out any other climbing walls. 
A portion of the Town Wall viewed from Index

The tall wall consist of diorite, and is part of former large magma chamber. The rock has been  partially scoured by glacial ice leaving a fresh clean surface and is one the premier climbing walls in the state.

I and a couple of companions made our way to the top of the wall via a climbing trail a couple of weeks ago using the trail as a short cut to access our destination. At the base of the wall is a covered tunnel.
The tunnel drilled as a test site for a new drilling machine made by the Robbins Company ( in the early 1980s. The tunnel was later used by the University of Washington physics department. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Duffy Creek

Duffy Creek is on the southeast side of Badger Mountain east of Wenatchee. The sign and the setting is classic BLM land - scrub steppe range land. A common site in the intermountain regions of the western U.S., but not so common in Washington State where the BLM footprint is a relatively small (washington-vs-oregon-and-blm-lands). A tract of land that was never claimed via the Homestead Act or railroad land give-a-ways or other schemes of privatizing land. Perhaps a bit too harsh a climate and isolated. There are extensive dry land wheat farms in the vicinity, but this site is thin on soils.

I have previously read complaints about the poor condition of the access road. The road did prove to be one where clearance was an issue with deep ruts and the road at least this early in the spring has some very wet and soft spots further on that I decided would be best to do on foot. I will say that the complaints were not directed at the BLM, but at Douglas County. The context is that Douglas County receives Federal payments called PILT (payment in lieu of taxes) for the BLM lands within the County, and complaints suggested since this tract of Federal land is one of the reasons for those payments the county ought to fix the road or at least grade it on occasion. I will state I have no opinion on the matter - I just anticipated the road might be a bit rough and was only using it as a short cut to get somewhere else.

The main attraction of Duffy Creek is the lower end of the creek where the creek has incised a canyon and spills over several small waterfalls. A very pleasant out of the way oasis in the desert. The upper valley is within the transition zone from scrub steppe to pine forest and aspen groves.

Ecologically this is edge habitat with pines and fir and aspen and stream meadows surrounded by high elevation scrub steppe.

Geologically and perhaps more importantly geomorphically this is a rather unique bit of terrain that warrants further research and study. The site is just a bit south of the Okanogan Ice Lobe's furthest extent, but is actually higher in elevation. It is also outside of the areas impacted by the ice age floods. But unlike most areas of eastern Washington not scoured by ice or flood waters, the soils are thin and lack the thick mantle of wind blown silts.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Field Logistics: High Tide and "Camping"

The logistics of field work and travel has led to two "camping" work trips thus far this year. I put quotations around camping as in both cases I arrived at my night's rest locations at 11:00 pm and simply slept in the car. Perhaps not very luxurious sleeping but very efficient and gave me lots of time to do the work I needed to do. 
One of the logistics of field work sometimes involves tides. This particular camp trip involved wanting to see a high tide and where said high tide was relative to other shore features. A cost effective way of solving a problem without the expense of a survey. But to witness the tide meant getting up early and being at the site before 7:00. Given the location that meant camping nearby.
After enjoying a moon rise the night before, I enjoyed still water in the early morning on Obstruction Pass at the south end of Orcas Island.
Obstruction Pass looking east
Orcas Island on the near left and Obstruction Island on the near right
The bump on the horizon to the right of the rock in the pass is Mount Erie south of Anacortes 

Another not a bad gig job.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Criss-Cross Sediment Deposition at Point Hudson

This post is a rather simple capture of the sediment transport at Point Hudson in Port Townsend. The point is at the corner of the coast from the Strait of Juan de Fuca into Admiralty Inlet and Puget Sound. I noted that there were two sediment trains in the tidal and subtidal area at the northeast corner of the point. Sediment is derived from bluffs to the west and from bluff to the south. 

Oblique view from 2006 (Ecology)

Prominent plume of sediment from the south shore drift

This image captures the east directed drift being the more dominant.

Some shore armoring has taken place along the north side of the point. Sediment sources to the point are not what they were in the past, but still pretty good relative to other coastal sites. Not much loss of sediment source to the west along the Strait. The urban center of Port Townsend may be disrupting some sediment supply from the south, but there are some high eroding bluffs within the city to the south at Morgan Hill that still provide substantial sediment via landslides and bluff retreat.  

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Lone Tree Above Rock Creek

Rock Creek is not a unique name for a creek. This Rock Creek is located southeast of Wenatchee and cuts a deep canyon into the south end of Badger Mountain as it descends down to the Columbia River. For those versed in the ice age floods, Rock Creek is an exception. This canyon was not carved by ice age floods; the flood waters either passed down the Columbia to the west (late floods) or to the east down Moses Coulee (early floods) or further east down Grand Coulee (lots of floods).
DEM of Rock Creek area 
While investigating a slope and soils on the east side of the canyon I enjoyed the view across the canyon with the Columbia below and the Cascades on the horizon. The lone evergreen tree across the canyon was a combination of scenic and intriguing. The tree is on a south facing slope and hence a bit of an outlier. Perhaps some water seeps are present or snow blowing off the uplands above created the moisture needed to support the tree. And further the tree somehow managed not to burn from past fires and was spared being cut down.

I could only speculate about the tree - not even sure if it was a Douglas fir or ponderosa or some other evergreen. The canyon and time did not permit a visit, but I did enjoy admiring its lone stand (it does have a nearby tree a bit up and over the ridge) and the view. The slope it lives on would require another visit. 

I took one last look back at my lone tree as I headed to another site and tried to capture the big landscape setting of the tree. Rock Creek canyon, the Columbia River, the aluminum smelter on the river, Jump Off Ridge across the river and Mission Ridge with snow on the horizon. On and all a splendid morning. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Arsenic Plume in Everett: Don't Fence Me In

Neighborhoods in the north end of Everett have had numerous homes fenced in as part of an arsenic cleanup.

The arsenic was deposited over a wide area from a time when a metal smelter was located at the north end of Everett in the early 1900s.

Approximate boundary of arsenic plume impact in Everett

Washington State Department of Ecology has been conducting residential yard cleanups in north Everett. The project is funded in part by a settlement agreement with the former owner of the smelter combined with a Toxic Cleanup fund from a tax on hazardous chemicals and petroleum.

The approach has been to excavate identified shallow contaminated soils from yard areas and follow up with clean top soil and planting. The fencing was to allow the new vegetation to stabilize before the fences will be removed.  In the future develop projects in the area will require permitting specific to the potential that arsenic contaminated soils will be encountered. On the positive side Ecology review of the permits and any cleanup work will be free of charges or fees and potentially future Ecology funded cleanups will be conducted.

More info

There is another even larger arsenic plume deposition area in Washington associated with former smelter that operated in Tacoma for a much longer period than the Everett facility.