Sunday, December 27, 2009

Cold Weather, Followed By A Good Rain

Earlier this month we had record-breaking cold temperatures. Near the end of that cold spell I happened to notice something I had never seen on the stream before - ice on the surface. It was just a small patch along the edge of the stream, but surprising nonetheless.

Here's a closer shot -

The stream looked like it was steaming on those really cold days, which was amazing to see. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to capture that well in a picture.

I was quite surprised to see that the water level of the stream was down as far as it ever gets in the summer. Can you see the patch of pebbles in the stream bed that were dry? I don't think that this low water level was caused by a lack of rain, I think it was because the ground was frozen. It had been seriously cold for a while by then.

Several days after I took those pictures we had a downpour. Here's the stream in the beginning -

And here are shots from several hours later -

Yuck! It is amazing how dirty that runoff water is. One of these days I'll take a walk upstream with my camera and see what the quality is like at different points along the way when we have a good, strong rain. I suspect that runoff from surface of 80th NE causes a lot of this, since the stream takes the runoff from a good stretch of it, but I could be wrong.... One good thing about the Brightwater project near our house being at a standstill for a while is that there haven't been dump trucks dripping mud all the way up 80th as they head to the freeway with dirt from the tunneling project.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Large Bird Sightings

Can you find the beautiful bird in this photo? It caught my eye yesterday as it was hanging out on the side of the stream behind our fence...

Give up? It's in the center of the picture, above the roof of the woodshed. Here is a closer shot. A beautiful Great Blue Heron -

It seemed to be nervous about me being out on the deck. Contrary to what a city council member once told me when they were discussing removing the 50-foot Heron Habitat Buffer from Little Swamp Creek, I have found the heron to be very shy and very cautious of people. At least the herons that visit our yard are.

When we first moved into this house 11 years ago, we saw herons on a regular basis in our own yard and behind the fence. Now we rarely do. Luckily we still see them return to the rookery down by the Park and Ride every spring, so I know they are still living in the area.

While I was marveling at the heron, something big in a nearby cottonwood caught my eye -

I'm not sure, but I would guess that this is one of our neighborhood Red-tailed Hawks. There is a large nest that they use every spring just a little ways further into the wetland to the southwest of us. It sat there preening for quite a while. I have a feeling it was actually there to eyeball our chickens....

Thursday, December 17, 2009

More Evidence of Beavers in our 'hood

Part of a tree that is behind our back fence blew down a while back. Recently a fresh pile of wood chips on the ground below it caught my eye. I hopped the fence and discovered....

....that a beaver had been working on it.

Here's my hand in the picture for scale.

This piece looks a bit sculptural, with a slightly spiraled look to the core.

Strangely enough, there is a scattering of pieces of small branches approximately one foot long stretching from the downed tree along the side of the stream to that little bridge. But no evidence of a dam built nearby.

I am now seriously keeping my eye out for any beaver damage to other live trees. Luckily so far it has just chewed on this downed tree and taken out my Black Willow bush that is on the stream edge, but I'm slightly nervous about what's next!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

White Rock Experiment Update

I think it's about time for another visual update of my white rock experiment. First a little review...

This is the original circle of white marble chips placed in the stream bed on June 4th of this year. It's about 18" in diameter. My plan was to get this white rock circle set up before we had a good, hard rain. My motive was to be able to show how much silt is carried downstream/deposited in the stream bed by all of the runoff from a good rain. I was also curious to see whether the speed of the increased water flow from a rainstorm would move the white rocks downstream.

18 hours later (My biggest shock of the experiment was how much silt had been deposited on the rocks after 18 hours of just sitting there without the forecasted rainfall)

8 days later

25 days later

3 months later, after a good Fall rain

nearly 6th months later

Here is a close-up of the situation after nearly 6 months. The white rocks have been partly buried by pebbles and sand. The evening of Nov. 25th we had a lot of rain, and the next morning the stream level was as high as I've seen it since last winter. And this afternoon I noticed that some of the white rocks had finally actually been pushed a foot or two downstream. Interesting....

(the stream flows from left to right in this shot. You may barely be able to make out the fact that the white rocks have spread downstream a bit)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving Day Stream Flow Surprise

I was half-aware that the rain really seemed to be really coming down Wednesday evening, but despite that fact, I was very surprised to see how high the stream was flowing on Thanksgiving morning.

Looking downstream from the east side of the stream

Looking upstream. Can't even see the (ahem....inadequately sized...) culvert that carries the stream under the street.

Looking downstream again, this time from the west side of the stream. You can see the live stakes sticking up on the western bank of the stream.

And back to normal on the beautiful, sunny day after Thanksgiving -

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Walking around the yard a week or so ago I was very surprised to see that a critter had been doing a little pruning on a Black Pussy Willow perched on the western bank of the stream. Here is a closer shot of the tooth marks -

Then a couple days ago, I found this -

Mission accomplished, I guess. Unfortunately for the beaver if it was trying to start a dam right here, the heavy flows from all of the rain lately swept the branches that made it into the water downstream.

It was interesting to see that the critter tried to "cut" up this large branch into smaller sections.

This is not the first time that we have suffered some minor damage from a beaver or the like. Several years ago I was shocked to find that something had done a number on some of the Western Red Cedars that are planted in a row outside of our front fence.

It tore/gnawed the bark off of a couple of the trees, like this -

...and cut off the tree closest to the stream -

This tree is obviously making a valient effort to recover!

I'm not bothered by the "pruning" of the pussy willow. It will recover nicely, I'm sure. And it isn't a native, anyway. I'm just a little nervous about the large trees along the stream in our yard that could be a much more dramatic loss! I know that large trees have been felled by beaver deep in Wetland #3 behind us. I'll definitely post an update if we see more evidence!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Adequate Erosion Control? I Don't Think So...

"Federal, state, and local regulations prohibit sediment-laden water from leaving a construction site or from entering drainage systems, surface water, or ground water"

- from the City of Kenmore "Erosion Control Posting Notice"

It is so frustrating to see a blatant disregard for the erosion control measures that are required on construction sites. There is a perfect example of this right down the street from where Little Swamp Creek passes under 192nd street -

This site does not drain directly into Little Swamp Creek, but it does drain directly into Wetland #3 (the large wetland roughly bordered by 192nd, 73rd, Bothell Way and 80th) which Swamp Creek and Little Swamp Creek run through. And by that I mean that the muddy runoff from this construction site is draining into storm drains in the street that directly connect to the wetland across the street from the site.

At one spot, runoff flows off the front of the site and onto the sidewalk... the sidewalk and into the street to a gutter drain.

At this point I would like to point out that the minimum requirement for mulch is a thickness of 2" at any spot. This site has a ridiculously light sprinkling of straw mulch, as seen in the photo above, and some plastic tarps on dirt piles. The tarps were blown half off the piles by recent winds.

Muddy runoff also flows down the cul de sac road and onto 192nd...

....where it drains right into this storm drain that goes under the street and into the northern boarder of Wetland #3.

To make this situation even more frustrating, this is what it looked like over a year ago. Obviously nothing has improved -

Now, it is not like there aren't regulations in place in the city of Kenmore that are supposed to prevent this situation. Here is a link to a PDF version of Kenmore's regulations - Erosion Control Posting Notice. (In fact, this notice is supposed to be posted at the construction site) This particular construction site is not tucked up some dead-end road somewhere. It is located on a fairly major east-west road in northern Kenmore that I'm sure the city building inspector has to drive down at least occasionally. As further evidence that the inspector must have seen this situation, for a time a red "Stop Work" notice was posted on the single new house that is under construction so far on the site, so obviously the building inspector has visited. I would love to know why in the world does he not enforce the erosion control requirements.

I wonder why there isn't even a white construction notice board on the site?

About a year and a half ago Little Swamp Creek was impacted by inadequate erosion control measures and inadequate storm water collection from a couple of construction sites well upstream, within the city of Bothell. This is what the stream looked like all of the time for days in our yard -

Usually the water is silty after a good rain, but that clears up fairly soon. Not only was the water not clearing up, it was a strange, lighter silty color.

A little detective work led to the discovery of this pipe draining muddy water off of a construction site on 3rd Avenue SE -

There were two large construction sites with large, muddy expanses that (obviously) drain towards Little Swamp Creek.

Evidently the storm water collection vaults were overwhelmed and not functioning properly. Maybe due to the lack of erosion control?!! (This hay had obviously been spread VERY recently) Work was stopped on at least one of the projects and it's vault needed to be pumped out immediately. We were thankful to the City of Bothell for responding to the problem right away.

Here is a recent picture of a very large construction site in Bothell that has been sitting for quite a while without any action. It looks to me like it is a good example of proper mulch application, with a nice thick layer of straw covering all of the dirt. Once again, it looks like the city of Bothell deserves special recognition for actually enforcing the regulations that are in place to protect the quality of our waterways.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Drainage Ditch Contrast

I was walking along 80th today and happened upon an interesting contrast in drainage ditch designs, conveniently located on either side of a fence.

The one on the left side of the fence must have been part of the surface water management plan when this little cul de sac was built. Can you see the mounds of rock placed perpendicularly periodically along the ditch? I would imagine those are for slowing down the flow of the runoff a bit and helping silt to settle out behind the mounds. That ditch also appears to be gravel-lined.

The ditch on the right is an interesting contrast. Just a steep-walled dirt ditch leading out to the ditch in the street.

The differences between these ditches remind me a bit of the stretch of Little Swamp Creek going through our yard. For the most part it is contained in a fairly narrow, deep channel. Over time the base of some of the steep bank areas become eroded enough that chunks fall into the stream, sending more silt downstream. Here's a good example of a chunk of bank that fell after the heavy rains last week -

The bank is only a foot or so high, but still... Ideally, we would love to create a gradually sloping bank along this stretch of the stream (on the side away from our house). The Adopt-A-Stream Foundation came up with a plan and received a permit to do the work, but the grant funding ran out. Stay tuned - I won't give up hope yet. Meanwhile, we have the great large woody debris that was installed this summer with the help of The L.E.A.F. School, which will help stabilize the bank in a few places, slow down the flow a tad and help collect silt and small pebbles. We also have a bunch of live willow and red twig dogwood stakes stuck into the bank in the worst spots. As those grow roots, they will definitely help hold the bank together.