Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Orcas Landing Feeder Bluff

I visit Orcas Landing on a regular basis as it is the location of the ferry landing for Orcas Island.

For shoreline wonks there is an example of an armored feeder bluff just to the east of the grocery store.

Feeder buffs are eroding shoreline bluffs that provide sediment (feed) to beaches. By lining the feeder bluff with a rockery armor at the top of the beach, erosion of the bluff is stopped. The result is a well vegetated bluff as well as a protected road at the top of the bluff. The unarmored bluff further to the east (right in the picture above) has eroded with the subsequent loss of vegetation. The downside of armoring feeder bluffs is that the beach becomes starved of sediment and non armored areas may see a substantial increase in erosion. The loss of sediment supply from erosion will also lead to the loss of the beach. 

Friday, October 5, 2018

Inkstain and Walla Walla's Mill Creek

J. Fleck at Inkstain revisited Mill Creek in Walla Walla. I am a regular reader of Fleck's blog on western water issues. He is southwest U.S. centric, but his college days were spent in Walla Walla and he began his career there. Mill Creek and the other waters of the Walla Walla Valley fit the typical challenges of western water challenges.

I have a couple of old posts from my own observations of Mill Creek (walla-walla-1931-flood and  mill-creek-and-walla-walla).

Like Fleck, I have my own memories of a younger me associated with Mill Creek and Walla Walla. I clocked my fastest mile time during a race in Walla Walla. I was never able to improve that personal best - maybe it was the water from Mill Creek that made the difference. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Possible Late Ice Age Talus at Palmer Lake Road Cut

My first thought was that this exposure was a mixed up mess of glacial drift - that is a deposit made directly by glacial ice.

However, the light colored, non rocky unit was not compact and readily crumbled in my hand to a loose powder of fine silt.

My take on this road cute was it was a talus deposit from the steep cliffs above overlain by a glacial lake deposit and then capped with yet another talus unit from rock fall from the cliffs above.  

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Talus Slope and High Water Mark at Palmer Lake

Palmer Lake is located in a deep glacial carved valley on the east side of the North Cascades. 

Chopaka and Palmer Between Lightning Strikes by Lisa McShane

A paved county road provides access to the east side of the lake. The road traverses a bit of steep talus at the southeast end of the lake. The road cut into the talus and possibly mining of the talus to build a part of the road has created a bit of an angle of repose problem that periodically needs tending. 

Ravel and sliding of loose talus has progressively expanded up the slope

It appears that periodically a rock from high up the slope has enough momentum and perhaps a few bounces to get across the road.

Rock blocked by guard rail from reaching the lake

The arrow on the above picture is pointing to the 1972 high water level of the lake. During spring floods, the Smilkameen River sends water into Palmer Lake from the north. I suspect that ice blockage on the river could do the same thing on a periodic basis. The May floods this year were not as high as 1972, but did cover the road in several places and left a signature of drifted debris along the edge of the road and did a modest amount of erosion along the road shoulder.

There was some truck traffic. One large orchard is located on the glacial sediments on the east side of the lake and apples were being harvested.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Old Geology Mapping Method

I am in the process of moving which means going through stuff in the closet. In the back corner was a long cardboard tube. Inside were two large mylar sheets. One sheet was a mylar of all or parts of 12 7.5-minute topographic quadrangles. I had cut the original paper maps and spliced them together and then had copy business produce several large mylars from the original. Another mylar sheet was then overlaid on the base mylar map and was notated with geology contacts and measurements. Large paper maps at 1:24,000 scale could then be produced from the original mylars.    

Portion of the mylar overlays (Cascade Pass area) 

My biggest challenge was the size of the map area covered much more than the light table used to mark it up. I recall thinking afterwards it would have been better to have had multiple quad maps that would have been easier to manage.

Obviously a lot has changed in geology map production since the map tube got propped in the back of the closet - mostly for far better products that are much easier to access and read. 

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Similkameen Above Palmer Lake

The geology of the Similkameen valley shaped the early US government policies in Washington State.

View of the Similkameen River and eastern North Cascades

The Similkameen River drains the east slopes of the North Cascades and flows out of British Columbia into Washington State within a very deep glacial carved valley. The rise in elevation from the floor of the valley to the summit ridge on the west side of the valley at Chopaka Mountain is 6,500 feet.

The valley and the mountains around it were briefly part of the short lived Columbia Indian Reservation. Chief Moses traveled to Washington DC in 1879 seeking recognition for his band of Columbia Indians; he and had not signed previous treaties in the 1850s and also refuse to go to the Yakama or Colville Reservations. His initial preference was to have a reservation that encompassed the northwest half of the Columbia Basin. But during his trip to Washington DC a reservation was agreed to that was approximately bound on the east by the Okanogan and Columbia Rivers, on the south by Lake Chelan, on the west by line of longitude that nearly reached the Skagit River and on the north by the Canadian border. President Hayes issued executive orders in 1879 and 1880 that stated that reservation was "withdrawn from sale and settlement and set apart for permanent use and occupation of Chief Moses and his people."

However, the new reservation already had mining claims. In particular, the Smilkameen valley was already an established mining district with several mining claims in the valley. Political pressures were applied by mining interests. 

Mine tailings and old mill at the base of Chopka Mountain

Another executive order was issued in 1883 removing the northern 15 miles of the Columbia Reservation. More mining interests as well as ranching continued to create conflict. In addition, Moses and his band did not move onto the new reservation. Yet another executive order was issued in 1886 erasing the reservation completely. During the negotiation, Moses accepted a yearly stipend and then moved to the Coleville Reservation. 

Similkameen valley south of the Canadian border

Some mining did take place in the Similkameen post reservation era. Placer mining still takes place within the river itself, but the mines never amounted to much. A rail line from Canada was built in the valley by the early 1900s. But the valley is now has very few residences. Much of the valley floor regularly floods. A few hay operations are still present. And Indians are shaping the future of this valley. The Colville Confederated Tribes have purchased several large tracts of land.   

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Slides in Canyon Creek Visit

I had not visited the two large landslides in 4 years (, but thought taking a new look at them was warranted for a project. I have previously posted about Canyon Creek (canyon-creek-another-path-to-reducing-a-geologic-hazard  and earthfix-whatcom-countys-approach-to-landslide risk). 

Geoff prepared a nice lidar view of the Jim Creek and Bald Mountain slides in the watershed using the 2017 DNR lidar - a much better resolution than what was previously available.  

Bald Mountain Slide pushed out over the valley bottom of Canyon Creek 

When discussing these two slides during a policy discussion, I was quoted in the newspaper as stating they "were slicker than snot".  

Our venture to the slide area entailed navigating through the forested surface of the Jim Creek Slide from the Canyon Creek Road. 

One of numerous fractures and slippage blocks on the slide surface

The lower part of the slide drops very steeply down to Canyon Creek.

View of the Jim Creek slide from Canyon Creek

Another section of the slide with a more recent slide shown by lack of vegetation

My last visit to the slide had been in 2014. The lower slope had greened up a bit since then with red alder trees. Prior to 2014 I had visited the slide in 2001 and 1995. In the early 2000s, there was an effort to keep the creek away from the to area of the slide. There was not a lot of that work to be seen except for a few boulders with cables that had been used to tie logs in place.

The view looking up stream shows the two slides on either side.  

The trees that line the stream bank on the right are growing on a boulder levee that appears to have formed along the side of slide scarp to the right

Boulder levee

Narrow boulder levee with very large rocks

Since my initial trips to the slides, the Bald Mountain slide has become more active ravelly material into Canyon Creek. 

Note the large trees beginning to tilt on the slide body above the creek

Toe of the Bald Mountain Slide

Geoff checking out the pulverized rock at base of slide

The Bald Mountain Slide is within bedrock of the Bell Pass Melange. These rocks were highly deformed and sheared during tectonic emplacement. Further faulting has also taken place along a contact zone between the Bell Pass rocks and the Chuckanut Formation.

Portion of Mount Baker 1:100,000 Quadrangle (Tabor and others, 2003)

Sheared bedrock fragment from slide 

Highly sheared bedrock

Both slides are underlain by rocks of the Bell Pass Melange. Tectonic shear zones in the melange are responsible for other large scale slide areas in Whatcom County. 

Some more intact large boulders were present within the sheared up surrounding rock. 

Bald Mountain Conglomerate

Ribbon Chert of the Elbow Lake Formation - part of the Bell Pass Melange

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Scene of Run Appaloosa Run

The Okanogan valley in north central Washington has been a bit smoke choked from fires in the North Cascades.

The valley has been shaped by glacial ice. The Okanogan ice lobe flowed down this valley to the Columbia Valley where it blocked the Columbia River and covered the northern half of the Waterville Plateau. As the ice retreated, ice margin terraces were formed along the valley sides and have been further enhanced by the erosion from the Okanogan River.

One of the terraces in Omak is used in a horse race. A race that Disney made famous with the movie Run Appaloosa Run. I visited the starting line area of the race that is still run as part of the Omak Stampede.

Start line

View from start

Approaching the edge of the terrace

The plunge to the river

Getting a sense of the steepness of the Suicide Run slope

Galloping a horse down this slope into the river is hard to imagine. But it is an old tradition with deep cultural roots. It takes a special horse that can tolerate a steep run, a swim across a river, and lots of distractions.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Forest Practice and a Deep-seated Glacial Landslide

I reviewed a recent forest practice application at Tala Point in Jefferson County. The initial application map is shown below: 

Red outlines the proposed harvest area.
Trees are left within the semi circular area due to a nest site. 

Based on my geology assessment, I noted that the proposed harvest included areas on the northwest portion of the harvest that are within the groundwater recharge area of a landslide prone area. 

Jefferson County GIS based map of landslide hazards
The slide hazard map is based on mapping by Hansen (1976)

These slide areas are deep-seated slides in that the failure zones are deeper than the tree rooting depths. The slides are in glacial related sediment and thus under forest practice rules should be considered glacial deep-seated landslide areas. The forest practice rules call for the groundwater recharge area to glacial deep-seated landslides to be either avoided or follow a much more detailed application review process. Typically, when what are termed rule identified landforms are recognized, they are not harvested. 

Our report was forwarded to the DNR (Department of Natural Resources) as a public comment on the proposed harvest on July 2. On July 16, the DNR issued the following notice:  

Dear Interested Party,

Thank you all for your comments and phone calls regarding Pope Resources’ harvest proposal under Forest Practice Application/Notification (FPA/N) number 2615518, commonly referred to as Tala Point.  I wanted to take this time to provide an important update on the processing of this application.

After initial remote review of this application and a subsequent July 6th field review of the western half of this proposal with our staff geologist, it was determined that this proposal contains, or is adjacent to, rule defined potentially unstable slope features as described in WAC 222-16-50(1)(d).  As a result we have requested additional information from the landowner in the form of a report from a qualified expert.

As of this morning, the applicant has chosen to withdraw FPA/N 2615518.  Please feel free to share this information with other interested individuals or those I may have inadvertently missed.

Thank you again for your interest in this application,

A new application was submitted July 24. This new application pulled the harvest boundary back away from the slides and excluded the groundwater recharge area. 

The system worked and the timber company and the DNR followed the forest practice rules.  It was good to see geology agreement between the comment, DNR and the applicant as to the landform, type of slide and the recharge are to the slide. 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Long Runout Landslide in Skagit Valley

Perkins, Reid and Schmidt (2017, Geology) compared landslides associated with glacial terraces in three valleys of the Cascade Range, the Cedar, North Fork Stillaguamish and Skagit valleys. Although the terraces have similar topographic appearances, the underlying glacial related sediments at each terrace differed and thus the mechanics and scale of the slides are differed. The terrace reviewed in the Skagit Valley is called Burpee Hill and is located west of Concrete.

Lidar derived figure from Perkins, Reid and Schmidt (2017) of the slides on the south side of Burpee Hill

Oates (2016) investigated the slides at Burpee Hill mapped the geology units and thicknesses of the units. She noted that the run out distances of these slides was truncated by the river. However, the deposit of one of the slides still remains on the opposite bank of the Skagit. 

The slide run out from the upper slopes of the slide area to the distal end of the deposit is over 6,000 feet. The slide deposit is a location of numerous homes in part because the slide deposit has created an elevated area above the flood levels of the Skagit River.

Regardless of the different mechanisms and style of slide initiation, all three terraces reviewed by Perkins, Reid and Schmidt (2017) are capable of generating long run out landslides. The hazard areas posed by these long run outs is a challenging policy issues at many government levels.