Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Duwamish River - On Patrol with the Puget Sound Keepers Alliance

I arrived a bit early at Elliot Bay Marina to Join the Puget sound Keepers for the Duwamish River Patrol. It was a beautiful morning with Mount Rainer out in the background.

Always need to know the tides before heading out in these waters.

Paul, our Skipper for the day outlines the lay of the land and provides some information on what we are about to see and do today on our Patrol of the Duwamish River, a Superfund Cleanup Site

As we exit Elliot Bay Marina the clouds are burning off and Blue Skys roll out.

Just out of the Marina Seattle and the Port of Seattle our destination in the distance.

Now into Elliot Bay we are headed for the West Channel of the Port of Seattle

A Morning pic of the Seattle waterfront and Downtown.

A few Sea Lions still waking up, this mooring is usually full of them but it looks these slept in. 
As we Near the entrance to the Duwamish Jimmy provides additional Historical notes on the Duwamish and efforts to clean up the mess.

Just entering the West Port of Seattle Channel and the entrance to the Duwamish River

These huge Contrainer Crains were the inspiration for George Lucas and the Empire's Weapon Systems seen in some of the Star Wars movies.

I always wondered what these Shed like structures were on some of the smaller container ships, Chris explained to me that they are movable cranes on a track system to load and offload containers at ports where land based cranes are not available.

Nearest the Port of course is a Tug company

We pass under the bridges from Harbor Island and from Downtown Seattle to West Seattle the Lower bridge has a one of a kind engineered opening that I have been wanting to see ni action.

This train bridge is almost always up except for trains carrying containers from the Westside container ship mooring

Old unused moorings now used for Martin bird houses now.

Storm Drain Run Off. Dust from The cities millions of vehicle tires, brakes, and fluids from the cars, fertilizer from yards, and whatever else humans dispose of in the gutters.

The tide is low but that is Kellogg Island

Don't Worry we have "Animal" the long pole net to scoop up trash.

A Juvenile Eagle willing to take a bite out of the Duwamish

These Crane Barges look huge from miles awy and up close they are monster machines!

A look south reveals industry solid on both banks.

A new addition a USCG Building

Easy to fill barges and ships with gravel or whatever product.

Ship bound for Alaska with road building material?

Check out the handy car that can deliver several yards of earthen material waterside.

This is an old unused Ford Warehouse that was used for shipping receiving parts
Here is an example where runoff is collected then filtered before the water goes into the river, that is the two big white tanks and the blue container looking box there. The water running out of the pipe is clean.

A lot of the container barge companies are hauling from Seattle to Alaska

I  have not been close enough to these barges to see that they starp on just about anything to these barges bound for Alaska

Ship your truck and your fishing boat to Alaska.

And you RV

Lots of Refer (refrigerated) containers

This is new to me, I guess the long skegs help stabilize the barges in open ocean waters.

An old funky marina about 3 miles from the Elliot Bay.

A great find, Chris and Christine haul in a big piece  of Styrofoam a huge source of pollution as each of the tiny bubbles of Styrofoam break off and end up in sea life.

The Duwamish tribes Fishing fleet

This huge metal recycling plant is still a big  source of concern as all their operations are still exposed to rain and run off. 

I mentioned to Christine, another volunteer who just happens top be a Marine Biologist that the metal dust flowing up into the air from the chipping up of all the metal is falling right back nto the water and she said "yes and into our lungs as well".

Giant piles of chewed up metal waiting to be hauled away by barge.

This area has been dredged and a gravel cap to mitigate years of toxic sludge built up on the bottom of the Duwamish.

Restoring the banks to natural barriers to run off.

The community of South Park where children have had some serious health issues throughout the years

A new Draw bridge across the Duwamish, South Park will now have a short cut to Seattle

These guys have about a 6 mile trip down the river to get out into Elliot Bay.

Boeing seems to be a big leader in restoration efforts.

King County International Airport has been working with the PSKA but they obviously heve a lot more to do to clean up their runoff, there is a huge murky, yucky cloud around this drainage pipe.

And almost at the very end is a Yacht club. So far they have not been interested in the Help the PSK Association can provide to help them become a clean Marina, they better watch out!

A huge boat yard 

and Yacht builder at the end of it all.

Our location at the end of the Duwamish and any navigable water near where the Green river enters.

The Green river comes in just beyond the bridge at the southern most point of the Duwamish

The Boeing Museum displays the offending artifacts.

Another Lord Nelson Victory Tug!

Paul reminds Jimmy that this is a Tug that was recently partially sunk in the Duwamish, always resulting in fuel spilling

Chris who works on the Alaskan fishing Vessel SQVEREIGHTY to pay off his college loans for his Masters in Aqua Culture was on board to volunteer and Learn about the PSKA.

Marine Biologist christine on the Left who works on Alaskan fishing Vessels to document the catch and take data on the fish and Jimmy on the right a Americorp worker assigned to the PSKA keeps the learning curve on this trip straight up!

The tide is up so on the way back we go on the back side of Kellogg Island.

These Floating logs are everywhere in Puget Sound, just then I look straight down in the water and I see a log the same size floating Horizontally about 3' below the surface of the water!

Huge spill booms stand in the ready.

Paul announces that a loud noise just came from the Hull, we are only moving about 4-5 knots, I tell him about the log I saw just below the surface and he thanks we must have hit it! 

Super tall power lines over the Duwamish allow really tall structures to enter

A cement plant right next to Harbor Island Marina, NO thanks!

Wow, I look back as we are leaving the Duwamish and the bridge is opening for no apparent reason.

Check this out, both sides rotate like a big T turning to allow ships to pass. Very cool engineering!

The largest Dry docks on the West coast, and some say in the US!

They easily hold the big ferries

And big War ships!

I asked Chris why this barge had stilts for the containers, but no one on board knew why, now I think they must  have either some really tall docks to off load onto or allow for huge tidal differences at the dock?
This ie the East Channel, we did not venture down on this trip, mabey the next one.

A fuel barge re-fueling a container ship, they always surround the barge with spill booms just in case.

Paul takes us on a Tour of Bell Harbor on the way back, couldn't have done better myself!

Bell Harbor would be a great Marina to have a boat or just to stay in for a few nights.

These 225 meter Grain ships are even larger from the water.

Chris said this vessel is a sister vessel to the ship he works on.

They can Haul several thousand tons at a time in their nets and it can take anywhere from a hour to 10 or more hours to fill those nets.

The Duwamish River - On Patrol with the Puget Sound Keepers Alliance

This is the trip I have been trying to find a way to do for several months. Thanks to Phil (a fellow CWB volunteer sailing Instructor and Retired from the area EPA Regional Administration), who hooked me up with the PSKA. My second trip out on their Patrol Boat not only put me on the Duwamish but I got the best education anyone could get regarding the history of the river and the current efforts to cleanup a waterway which was completely sacrificed to literally build Seattle and support the 6 miles of industry lined banks, both sides!
The Original Duwamish was dredged and the bends and curves straightened to allow big ships and barges up about 6 miles. The Green River was rerouted years ago when they created the Washington Ship Canal that connects Puget Sound, Lake Union and Lake Washington so it was diverted away from Lake Washington to the Duwamish. At the mouth of the Duwamish site the largest Man made Island in the US built for the Port of Seattle and the West Channel of the Harbor is where the Duwamish empties into to Elliot Bay and South Puget Sound. Salmon still use the Duwamish River to get to their spawning grounds in the Green River. Some claim the salmon that travel the Duwamish are OK since they are just traveling through to get to the Spawning grounds but NO Thank YOU!
Our Leaders for the day are Skipper Paul and Jimmy who point out sources of pollution and the efforts that are going on to mitigate and correct 100+ years of abuse and those who still need to clean up their act. The Stake Holders include companies like Boeing Aircraft, Local government like The City of Seattle, and Non Profit agencies like the PSKA.The federal government and the EPA provide logistical support but little money since the Super Fund is dry as a bone long used up by other major messes around the US. It is easy to find the clean up sites in YOUR back yard just go to and click on the map to fine why the babies in your neighborhood act funny or not. Basically the major problem is Run off from these industrial sites including the storm drains around the city. Then of course there were years of ignorant and negligent dumping of toxic waste, and lastly there is the inadvertent and/or unintended toxins that are released into the air including things like the dust from industrial activities that eventually end up in the water.
It is a huge job but already they have made an impact, it will not be done though for another 40-50 years though to get the water back to the satis faction of all the stakeholders. There are already technologies up and operating in some areas that collect run off and filter out the toxins before the cleaned water runs into the river. Some areas of the Duwamish have been dredged to remove the toxic sludge and a cap of some type of gravel to prevent residual toxins from leaching into the flowing river. A lot of these dredged sites are near the Boeing Aircraft  that has used the river for over 50 years for it's business. I'm guessing a lot of the money is coming from Boeing so they are cleaning up their image first.
A side Benefit for volunteering your time for these endeavors are meeting  like minded people who come from completely different angles. Christine the Marine biologist from the Seattle area and Chris from Wisconsin  the Aquaiculturist who is working on a large Alaskan fishing Vessel to pay off college debt met in Alaska had joined us on this trip as volunteers. They met in Alaska and have become more than close friends. Each of them were another source of very interesting information regarding Alaska, the Alaskan Fishing Fleet which Seattle is the home Port for and everything related to their work in the Pacific Northwest in General. There was just not enough time to ask them all  the questions I have about what they do so I made sure they had my boat card and I invited them out for a Sail at a later date on Puget Sound so we could continue the conversation. For more information just Google Duwamish River on Youtube and there are several very interesting video's about all the above and more. And for your personal fun here is a litttle video of us cruising back to Elliot Bay Marina along the Seattle Water Front:

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