A Citizen's Observations

Thank you so much, JD and Connie, for inviting me along to see your sampling operation that you are doing in Quilcene and Dabob Bays. First of all, it was generous of you to invite me along. Second of all, you fed me VERY healthy food all along the way. I thought I was going along to “help,” but my education and sightseeing trip wasn’t just idle cruising along and putting up the sail. What an eye-opener!

Last month I went to the Port of Port Townsend meeting held in Quilcene when they talked about the Coast Seafood plan to buy or (continue to) lease land at the Port of Quilcene. I didn’t have any background, so had no basis for an opinion one way or another about what the port or Coast should or should not do. From what I heard at the meeting, the pitch was to put money in the Port coffers (would it go to PT or Quil?), that Coast would be doing a good thing by hiring more people, and it’s good for Quilcene’s community to grow businesses.

JD was there and was pretty “polite” in what he had to say. He was mostly listening that day. Connie was committed to a political forum affair, so her voice wasn’t there to be heard.

I am still a “novice” about knowing what is going on in the bay, but JD and Connie educated me during our 7 hour trek around Quilcene Bay and into Dabob Bay. JD and Connie can say it better, but from what I observed, they are spending at least 1-2 days every week taking water readings and samples with the extensive electronic equipment they have purchased “out of pocket” (no grants). Connie was snapping pictures with her various telephoto lens cameras, also purchased “out of pocket.” I was asked to scoop up a water sample at the dock before we got underway, which was likely “algae poop” that was floating all around the boats in the harbor [Actually, it is "oyster poop" consisting mostly of digested algae]. It likely came from Coast’s operation next door. JD will test and analyze it with a new microscope that they just purchased “out of pocket” for their documentation.

Before I took my all-day outing on the Canal, I saw JD and Connie as two politically active Quilcene citizens who have been residents of Quilcene for approximately 30 years. I also saw JD as a writer and have read some of his novels. They also have a non-profit organization they created for small RV evaluations. What I discovered is that their nonprofit organization that they created over the years now helps to fund their personal research of Quilcene and Dabob Bay’s aquatic health.

Now I see them as very selfless patriots of Quilcene who are extremely concerned about what is happening in our bays that don’t flush with the tides to clean out the bays. The south end of Hood Canal is nearly “dead” from lack of flushing with the high population density and it is “contagious,” as JD puts it. In addition, what an irresponsible company is doing to make a living appears to be coming at the expense of the health of these Hood Canal bays. Coast Seafoods has two greenhouses growing algae and you can see liquids running into Quilcene Bay. Coast wants to expand. There are now sprinklers spraying “something” over the oyster beds. That fluid has not yet been identified. Is it fresh water, sea water, algae? They do not know yet.

From JD’s research, Quilcene Bay does not have water flowing in and out of the bay to “wash the bay” of harmful run-off from either commercial operations or from leaking septic tanks. The county does little to monitor the septic systems, but, based on the growing density of larger houses adjacent to the beaches, particularly in Dabob Bay, it’s likely that septics are some part of the problem. The Gallants’ and their organization feel the only way to intelligently assess what is happening is to monitor the oxygen readings, the dying eel grass beds, and the clarity of the water, as well as other tests that they do relentlessly. They have many boats, including “Turtle,” their 40 foot sailboat which is rigged with lines that go as deep as 300 feet down to take oxygen readings with their precise electronic equipment that downloads to computers. They take readings of how far down they can see a disk to determine the “cleanliness” of the Canal and Bay water. They rarely “rest” during their outings. They are constantly working their equipment, taking readings, and documenting their findings with pictures as well.

It doesn’t look good, folks. Going down to 300 feet, the oxygen readings on Saturday were below 50, and sometimes below 40. Plant and fish life cannot survive at these oxygen levels. [Actually, they can survive but are under stress and do not prosper. Life-threatening conditions begin at about 30% Dissolved Oxygen saturation.] For readings at the top shallower areas, the readings were over 120, but sometimes, in the 80s. I haven’t had enough of JD’s schooling in my seven hour working cruise to know exactly what that means, but JD is compiling his data (we took many pages of readings at designated positions on his {also very expensive} GPS & Lowrance systems that are mounted at the helm of Turtle.) He will be issuing a written report with his facts quantified and analyzed through both the computer readings from his electronic equipment, as well as the hand-posted data that he takes numerous times throughout the week. Don’t forget his microscopic assessment of samples he’s taking.

I talked to some other citizens who don’t really know how Coast is affecting this precious Quilcene Bay, reportedly one of the warmest swimming beaches anywhere around. What they don’t realize is that their children and grandchildren are swimming in flotsam that has been tested to be algae poop. This isn’t just “naturally occurring algae feces [Again, it is oyster feces consisting mostly of digested algae]. It’s high levels of it as a result of three [two] greenhouses worth of algae being propagated by Coast to feed to their oyster seedlings.

OK, so we need oysters in our diets for those who love oysters. However, from JD’s research, these oyster seedlings aren’t just for self-sustaining domestic oyster beds. Coast is selling these seedlings all over the world, with China [Asia] as one of their biggest markets. It’s about making money, not just feeding our community and hiring local workers.

So, JD and Connie can correct me if I’ve misunderstood what I saw and heard yesterday. But seeing what I saw is believing! JD had me wear latex gloves to take the first water sample at the harbor. And I wouldn’t have had it any other way. My idle thoughts of swimming at the port boat launch last summer when it was 90+ didn’t seem as attractive anymore—at any temperature! Ick!

Volunteer collecting water sample

See for yourselves. JD and Connie are eager to “educate” more Quilcene folks of their environmental efforts. Also, if you’re not opposed to helping to log their readings, pull on a line, or bring snacks, they’d love to show you what they are doing. They fed me, but it should have been the other way around! They are generous to a fault!

My comments are totally unsolicited, but I was thinking about this all night long after yesterday’s trip, and I couldn’t help but tell you what I saw. Connie and JD drive “older cars.” They live a modest lifestyle. They are putting their very souls (and a ton of their resources) into documenting what they see in Hood Canal. Every family living on E. Quil or Dabob Bay should take notice of what they are doing. Maybe voting with their pocketbooks is good, too. I’m certainly going to ask what I can do to help. Every trip out costs over $50 for fuel, if my calculations are correct. They run twin engine Mercury outboards. And there are no grants being accessed to fund their overhead. They are funding this project selflessly. Go learn what I’m learning. It will make your eyes pop. Hood Canal and the bays may look “pristine,” but you cannot see their dial as it drops to even 10 feet below the surface.

I’m eager for JD to publish his report to get his important information out to the public. Spend a few hours and get educated up close by the Gallants. They do this week in and week out. Then decide what you think about commercial expansion on the shores of Quilcene Bay.

Thank you so much, Connie and JD for what you are doing for this generation and all the generations that follow. This is such important work! I’d vote you in as “Person of the Year” for Quilcene and beyond for the work you are doing. Our Hood Canal treasure is in danger. And you’re documenting these dangers. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Linda Saunders, CFE, CPA/CFF
Certified in Financial Forensics by AICPA
Forensic Accounting Consulting
Quilcene, WA

posted 9/16/12

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