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Environmental Planning

Environmental Planning

September 7, 2018

The Tribe’s Environmental Planning program plays a fundamental role in our efforts to restore and protect our important cultural and natural resources. By conducting a range of planning activities across our watersheds, and coordinating with the Habitat Restoration Program, we are able to work at solving problems at the ecosystem level. Our efforts focus on the following topics and tools: watershed planning, water quantity, water quality, environmental education, environmental assessments, and GIS. These activities are described below.

Watershed Planning

We target our Watershed Planning activities within watersheds where we own land or have an active interest in fish and shellfish resources. These areas include the Dungeness Watershed (from Morse Creek east to Bell Creek) and the Sequim Bay Watershed. We have also helped in other nearby watersheds as needed, such as Discovery Bay and Oak Bay. Plans target water quality, water quantity and habitat issues.

Along with Clallam County, the Tribe co-leads the Dungeness River Management Team (DRMT), whose members have defined problems, identified data gaps, and supported related projects in these watersheds for over 20 years. Although the Team originally came together in 1980 to begin exploring problems in the watershed, the DRMT was officially reinstated in 1995 upon the recommendation of several earlier management plans, such as the Dungeness-Quilcene (DQ) Water Resources Management Plan (1994) (unavailable electronically), on which the Tribe was lead. DRMT now serves as the “watershed council” for East WRIA 18, and continues to meet monthly to address a broad range of watershed issues.

The most recent planning effort by the DRMT responds to the 1998 Watershed Planning Act of Washington State. The Tribe contributed many natural resources staff hours over several years to help develop the final product, the Elwha-Dungeness Watershed Plan (May 2005)

Building on the earlier DQ Plan, which had more of an emphasis on water quantity issues; the new Plan includes background information and provides recommendations on these important and inter-related topics: water quantity, water quality, in-stream flows and salmon recovery. Further in-stream flow and implementation planning will start this spring (2006).

More recently, several DRMT members were interviewed for a Dungeness Watershed outreach film produced by the Tribe. The film highlights efforts to restore the Dungeness over the past 25 years, and points out some of the issues threatening watershed health and salmon abundance, while emphasizing positive outcomes achieved so far. Cooperation and partnerships have been instrumental to those achievements, and we hope this production will inspire even further collaboration. Check it out:

VIDEO-Restoring the Dungeness

The Sequim Bay Watershed, on which resides the Tribe’s administrative buildings and Tribal Center, was designated by Washington State as an Early Action Watershed, with a stake-holder based plan (Sequim Bay Watershed Management Plan) addressing non-point pollution completed in 1989. A non-point pollution Watershed Plan for the Dungeness (Dungeness Watershed Management Plan) was completed in 1992.

The Tribe has also contributed extensively to riparian land and other critical areas protection in its watershed planning efforts. See the Natural Resources Restoration section.

Other local planning processes or related groups in which the Tribe participates are Clallam County Marine Resources Committee , Clean Water Work Group, Dungeness River Restoration Work Group, North Olympic Peninsula Lead Entity, Shared Strategy for Puget Sound (Salmon Recovery Council subcommittee) and the Jimmycomelately Work Group.

Water Quantity

One of the main problems in the Dungeness Watershed, both for fish and humans, is low flows; especially in late summer when the highest demand for irrigation water coincides with peak Chinook spawning. The Tribe has worked for many years with the irrigation community, as well as the Clallam Conservation District and WA Department of Ecology, to reduce the impacts of irrigation by implementing water conservation projects and improving the efficiency of the area’s extensive irrigation system. Over the past 10 years, with the development and implementation of the Water Conservation Plan, the irrigators have reduced their withdrawals by over 45%.

Progress has been made, but Dungeness flows are still inadequate for sustaining ESA-listed salmon species. The Tribe participated on the advisory group for the Water Users Association in their development of a Comprehensive Irrigation District Management Plan (CIDMP). The plan, currently under review, builds on the original Water Conservation Plan and includes further measures to reduce impacts to both water quantity and water quality. If NOAA Fisheries is able to approve the CIDMP, it will bring the irrigators into compliance with both the Endangered Species and the Clean Water Acts. We are hopeful that the irrigators will commit to further reductions in irrigation diversions.

Although the irrigators are currently the largest water users in the watershed, streamflow is also being affected by land use changes in the watershed, such as increasing residential and commercial development. The Tribe helped provide recommendations within the Elwha-Dungeness Watershed Plan to help prevent or reduce such impacts. The Tribe also provide comments and recommendations on any developments proposed near rivers, streams, or ditches within the watershed.

Related Plans: DQ Plan, Sequim-Dungeness Valley Water Users Association Water Conservation Plan, FEIS, CIDMP.

Water Quality

We monitor water quality in our focus watersheds, to insure that water meets standards for fish and for human contact. The Tribe and the WA State Department of Health cooperate to monitor water quality for fecal coliform bacteria in Dungeness, Sequim, and Discovery Bays. In 1997, bacterial contamination in Dungeness Bay led to the closure of an area of the Bay near the mouth of the Dungeness River to shellfish harvesting. Since then, the Tribe and other partners have joined together to identify where the bacterial contamination is coming from, and implemented projects to prevent pollution. From what we know, the contamination is coming from a variety of small sources throughout the landscape. The WA State Department of Ecology conducted two TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) studies to identify pollution sources and calculate loading: Dungeness Watershed TMDL (2002) and Dungeness Bay TMDL (2004). The Tribe and other local entities helped conduct these TMDLs, and formed the Clean Water Work Group to continue with planning, monitoring and clean up of the watershed. A Clean Water Strategy and Detailed Implementation Plan for both watershed and bay were completed in October 2004. Commonly suspected sources of bacterial pollution are farm animals with direct contact to streams, domestic pets, wild animals and birds, and failing septic systems. Pollutants on the land get carried by stormwater into open stormwater and irrigation ditches, and thus get transported to other water bodies (Dungeness River, river tributaries, streams, ponds and other ditches) in the watershed.

The Clallam Conservation District (CCD) has helped address some of the agricultural-related water quality issues by working with local farmers to fence their field from livestock, plant riparian vegetation, and perform other best management practices to properly manage their land. The CCD also works with the Water Users Association and the Tribe to pipe irrigation ditches, to prevent pollutants from entering the irrigation system and to help the irrigation system run more efficiently.

Clallam County has recently begun an effort, initially funded by a grant from the Tribe and the US Environmental Protection Agency, to inspect septic systems in areas where pollution problems have been identified, and to assist property owners with needed repairs. The County also conducts Homeowner Sewage Management BMP Education and Training (“Septic 101”) and trains septic system industry professionals.

Monitoring and research continues in the watershed. The Tribe recently completed a monthly monitoring program (funded by EPA and WA Department of Ecology) for 52 fresh water sites and 13 marine stations. These stations overlapped with TMDL sites, and were located up- and down-stream of reaches known to have bacterial problems. Parameters monitored include fecal coliform bacteria, nutrients (PO4, SiO, NO2+3, NH4, TNP), flow, and temperature. Some sites also included monitoring of pH, conductivity, Dissolved Oxygen, and turbidity. The Tribe works with water quality partners in monitoring efforts of this type. Monitoring Partners include Clallam County Department of Environmental Health; Streamkeepers of Clallam County, the Clallam Conservation District, and several other volunteers. Following an Effectiveness Monitoring project (paid for by the Tribe’s EPA Targeted Watershed Grant and conducted by Battelle Marine Sciences Laboratory) that analyzed results of the above monitoring, along with the most recent 10 years-worth of data, partners modified the monitoring strategy to include select historical monitoring sites for continual baseline monitoring, and to continue tracking and investigating problem sites as they arise. The final study report can be accessed at: TWG Effectiveness Monitoring Study.

The Tribe conducted research using Microbial Source Tracking (MST), a method for detecting bacterial sources by analyzing the “fingerprint” marker that can be detected in water samples (funded by EPA and WA Department of Ecology). Marine water sample stations in Dungeness Bay and freshwater samples stations were included in the study and the results were recently described in a final report: Microbial Source Tracking in the Dungeness Watershed, Washington.

A demonstration project on the effectiveness of myco-remediation to remove bacteria and excessive nutrients from surface waters was completed (funded by EPA). Native vegetation and local fungi were planted in one plot, while and native vegetation alone was planted in an adjacent plot. Both plots received contaminated water, were monitored before and after, and then compared to each other with regard to the effectiveness of the fungi and vegetation (versus the vegetation alone) at removing the bacteria and nutrients. Results are detailed in a final report prepared by Battelle: Mycoremediation Report.
The above Targeted Watershed projects are summarized with the other grant components in the final grant report: Final Dungeness Targeted Watershed Report. Other water quality monitoring is ongoing for the fresh water streams entering Sequim Bay, especially Jimmycomelately and Dean Creeks. See Habitat Restoration for related activities.

Environmental Education

Because the Tribe has a very small land base, but has fisheries and habitat interests over a large area, we rely on public education and outreach to inform the general public about the importance of protecting and restoring the natural resources of the area. We sponsor workshops, host meetings, publish reports and brochures and speak at various forums. We provide environmental education to the Tribe’s After-School Program. And we have formed a partnership with the River Center Foundation and the Audubon Society local and state chapters to operate at the Rail Road Bridge Park. The River Center provides the general public the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, gain access to the Dungeness River, walk on trails through the riparian forest, and participate in a wide range of programs for adults and children throughout the year. There is a permanent exhibition of the fauna, especially the birds, of the Olympic Peninsula, a library, and a meeting room, all open to the public. The meeting room, an outdoor amphitheater, and a classroom–size picnic shelter are available for rent.

Geographic Information Systems

The Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Specialist works on a variety of Natural Resources and Tribal projects, bringing together people and computer hardware and software to capture, store, update, manipulate, analyze and display all forms of geographically referenced information. For example, a water quality technician could locate sampling sites using a GPS (Global Positioning System) and record data at those locations. This data can be entered into the GIS which will link the data to specific sites. The data can then be analyzed, mapped and displayed to assist managers in making decisions. Here are two examples of data that has been entered into the GIS that can assist in management decisions:

Map #1: JS’KT Transects on the Jimmycomelately Channel

These sites were recorded using the GPS, then mapped in the GIS. All water quality data that is collected at these sites is added to the GIS table and can be displayed and analyzed.

Map #2: Bell Creek Monitoring Sites

These sites were recorded using GPS then entered into the GIS and displayed on a map which will aid biologists as they monitor changes in these sites over the years.

Environmental Assessments

The Tribe’s development plans all need to meet environmental standards set by the Federal government to protect water quality, endangered species and other aspects of the environment. If the land being developed is not in trust or reservation, the project must also meet State and County standards. The Environmental Planners assist other Tribal departments with assessing potential environmental impacts from development projects, and determining how they can be minimized or mitigated.
We assist in obtaining whatever permits a project may require. We also help insure that any house assisted under the NAHASDA program for individual tribal members has no environmental problems, such as a failing septic system or risk of flooding. Our own habitat restoration activities, like the Jimmycomelately project, need many permits to insure that while we are fixing habitat we are not causing other environmental problems. We also review developments proposed by others to make sure that our natural resources are not negatively impacted. See Habitat: Environmental Review.