MRC Projects -
Comprehensive Studies or Reports
The Whatcom County Marine Resources Committee is taking a comprehensive approach towards marine resource revitalization and preservation in Whatcom County. Projects have been undertaken by the Whatcom MRC and Northwest Straits Commission (NWSC) to compile data and comprehensively describe marine resources in this region. These efforts helped characterize the marine attributes in Whatcom County including marine organisms, beach substrate and drift cells, man-made structures and adjacent land uses.
Outreach to Coastal Property Owners in Whatcom County: A Targeted Approach
Coastal Geologic Services, Inc. (CGS)
was contracted by the Whatcom County MRC to augment and prioritize a
list of nearshore restoration opportunities within three target regions
of Whatcom County: Point Roberts, Birch Bay, and Chuckanut Bay. This
restoration prioritization was intended to build on previous work
completed for the County/MRC and to employ similar methods
developed for prioritizing nearshore restoration projects in nearby counties but applied at a finer scale.
This project provides the MRC with a tool to help achieve the MRC mandate to identify and solve problems reagrding local marine resources such as intertidal and estuarine habitat, shellfish beds, and bottomfish. The objective of this study was to develop and apply a straightforward, user-friendly prioritization approach that integrates sustainability, risk, practicality and feasibility with each site’s
ability to support the following three key biological resources: forage fish spawning, juvenile salmonid rearing/migration, and aquatic vegetation.
This analysis characterizes conditions within littoral drift cells (net shore-drift cells) in Whatcom County, in northwest Washington State. The study area for the detailed feeder bluff and accretion shoreform mapping task was the shore from Sandy Point north to Semiahmoo Spit, and at Point Roberts. The study area for feeder bluff and accretion shoreform mapping contains 29 linear miles of shore.
A second task involved characterizing sediment supply in each drift cell throughout Whatcom County. This task included characterizing the pre-development bluff sediment input and the degree of connectivity of bluff sediment sources remaining today. The study area for the entire County drift cell level sediment supply characterization contains approximately 120 linear miles of shore. Out of the county shore, net shore-drift cells were present along approximately 69 liner miles.
These analyses were designed to provide information and data to assess and prioritize potential nearshore conservation and restoration sites for Pacific salmon and other nearshore species. The intent is to provide data that characterizes the shore in the north Whatcom County feeder bluff study area into segments that describe the geomorphic function. These data have been used in other areas to evaluate and prioritize bluff conservation and restoration sites needed to protect or preserve nearshore habitats such as forage fish spawning beaches or spits forming pocket estuaries and to assess the sustainability of specific restoration actions.
This study builds on past work in coastal processes in Whatcom County, including net shore-drift mapping (Schwartz et al. 1991, which included work by Jacobsen (1980), initial drift cell characterization by Wolf Bauer (1974), and several site-specific reports (i.e. Johannessen 2005, Johannessen and Chase 2002). This study is intended to provide shoreline-reach specific information that constitutes “best available science” on current conditions with limited research into pre-development conditions.
The Northwest Straits Commission (NWSC) conducted a regional inventory of nearshore attributes in 2001. The goal of the project was to evaluate nearshore habitat for salmon and forage fish in order to assign priorities for restoration and conservation. Data from the inventory was transferred to habitat characterization maps, which provide a general overview of nearshore habitat conditions. Information such as sub- and intertidal vegetation, shoreline modifications, tributary stream locations, and shellfish, marine mammal, seabird, and fish distributions are interspersed over four maps.
The Marine Resources of Whatcom County report presents a compilation of historical and current data on the marine resources of Whatcom County. Biological data from the Whatcom County shoreline and marine waters are compiled and summarized in this report. The area covered is from the United States-Canada border near Drayton Harbor and Point Roberts to the southern boundary of the county at Governors Point, including Portage, Lummi, and Eliza Islands.
Elements covered in the report include natural area preserves, bathymetry, vegetation, substrate, shellfish, fish, marine mammals, and seabirds. The report is primarily graphical in nature, consisting of Geographical Information System (GIS) maps and written summaries. The written summaries focus on reasonable conclusions that can be drawn from the data available. The data compilation and analysis results presented in this report have been conducted to support planning and decision making efforts along the Whatcom County coastline.
This report is an excellent resource for folks interested in the various marine resources of Whatcom County.
· A PowerPoint presentation describes how the report was developed, the data that is included, how the data was mapped, and protection and preservation recommendations. To view the Marine Resources of Whatcom County PowerPoint presentation click here.
·A series of maps were generated for this report. The maps indicate the location of a variety of marine attributes and species including:
- Shoreline and Natural Area Preserves
- Bathymetry (North and South County)
- Generalized Intertidal Vegetation (North and South County)
- Generalized Substrate (North and South County)
- Shellfish (North and South County)
- Shellfish Certification Areas (North and South County)
- Shrimp and Crab (North and South County)
- Groundfish (North and South County)
- Starry Flounder and English Sole
- Sand Sole, Rock Sole, and Dover Sole
- Forage Fish (North and South County)
- Salmon Fishing Areas (North and South County)
- Marine Mammals (North and South County)
- Sensitive Bird Nesting Areas (North and South County)
- Drift Cells (North and South County)
·The text of the Marine Resources of Whatcom County report is available in PDF format or CD copies are available through the Whatcom County Water Resources Division at 322 N. Commercial, Suite 110, Bellingham, WA 98225.
The Whatcom County Marine Resources Committee worked with RE Sources and People for Puget Sound (two non-profit organizations) to recruit, train, and coordinate volunteers for the Rapid Shoreline Inventory of selected areas of shoreline in Whatcom County. RE Sources and People for Puget Sound held three training sessions for volunteers for the Rapid Shoreline Inventory and implemented a quality assurance plan for the shoreline surveys. The data from the shoreline surveys were developed into GIS data layers. Some maps of the GIS data have been created showing eelgrass, shoreline substrate, and presence of himilayan blackberry in upland areas as examples.
Recruiting and Training Volunteers- Volunteers for the shoreline inventory were recruited through press releases to the media and a flyer. RE Sources and People for Puget Sound held three training sessions for volunteers for the Rapid Shoreline Inventory. The training sessions covered basic beach dynamics (33 volunteers), data collection (28 participants), and on-the-beach training (25 participants). Topics covered in the basic beach dynamics session included nearshore ecology, coastal geology, and local algae and invertebrates. During the data collection session, volunteers were trained to use the enclosed detailed data form. On-the-beach training allowed the volunteers to become familiar with the data collection process before the formal data collection event.
Shoreline Survey- Rapid Shoreline Inventories were conducted on approximately 4 miles of shoreline in Drayton Harbor and 1 mile of shoreline at Birch Bay State Park. The shoreline was surveyed in contiguous 150-foot sections. Shoreline data collected by volunteers was summarized by category as listed on the data collection sheet. The summarized data includes eelgrass coverage, algae coverage, adjacent land use, upper intertidal substrate, lower intertidal substrate, invasive species, overhanging vegetation, and trails and access points. Difficulties arose with getting permission to access and inventory shorelines held in private ownership. Therefore, a limited survey of shoreline at Chuckanut Bay, Point Whitehorn, and Birch Point were conducted by boat using a GPS unit. The location of outfalls and bulkheads were recorded with GPS coordinates and overhanging vegetation was noted.
- People for Puget Sound Presentation
- Eelgrass and Algae
- Overhanging Vegetation
- Intertidal Substrate
- Adjacent Land Uses
- Trails and Access Points
- Invasive Species
Several simple maps have been created illustrating the data collected through the Rapid Shoreline Inventory. Examples of these maps can be found below.