Winter Newsletter 2019
January 2, 2019
December 20th Storm Damage
Throughout the week before Christmas, gale warnings were posted daily, with
storm force winds, gusting above 60mph, occurring December 20. The wind and
fetch coming in from the southwest battered the West Beach and combined with
an 8 foot plus high tide severely eroded the shoreline protecting the concrete
footing for the West Dock and the lower thirty feet of the access road to the barge
landing. The shoreline had previously provided a buffer of four to six feet against
wave action. That buffer has now eroded away. As of now, the dock footing is secure
and the road intact but in their unprotected state further storm action could
compromise their integrity. What protection may entail is currently being
researched by Deborah Helleson who is contacting local engineering firms and
agencies which could be engaged or involved in such a shoreline project. Should you have contacts that may be useful, please let Deborah know.
Eroded bank below West Beach road
West Dock footing exposed by wave action.
There are also two trees, a cedar and smaller fir, just south of the West Dock that were also undermined to the extent that they are in danger of falling. Each is oriented so that it could fall across the West Dock with a potential for damage. The plan is to top the trees so that should they fall would not reach the West Dock pier and to prune out branches, reducing the sail so their chances of a windfall is lessened. The live root will continue to help secure the bank. In addition felling trees so near the shoreline would require a permit.
Biodiversity: Wildlife Management
Recent letters from the Biodiversity Committee comprised of concerned islanders
regarding initiatives to limit deer over-browsing have generated a productive
To frame this discussion, it is well to remember that this committee made up of
neighbors was charged to research the issue by the community via a resolution
at the 2018 Annual Meeting.
At this winter’s lull in island life it may be useful to pause and review where we
are in the process of engaging this issue.
How did we get here?
The discussion opened with a presentation at the 2016 Annual Meeting
demonstrating the effects of overbrowsing on island habitat followed by a more
detailed handout among the materials circulated for the 2017 Annual Meeting.
Damage includes the destruction of ground cover and the devastation to natural
cycles of forest regeneration through browsing on seedlings and the middle
canopy provided by young trees. The stripped habitat cover relative to
unbrowsed islands impacts other wildlife: nesting birds, amphibians, and insects.
A resolution passed at the 2018 Annual Meeting urged community support for
initiatives to reduce deer populations on the island. The aim was to support
research into how to proceed, including amending the covenant, and researching
the means to meet the resolution’s intent. Several islanders at the meeting
volunteered to serve on a Biodiversity Committee toward these ends.
Early in the summer, a group of islanders met on Obstruction with a delegation
from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to explore the
parameters of a hunt. Their input was part of the research toward the
Biodiversity Committee’s discussion. The intent was wholly exploratory with the
understanding that no action would be taken without a vote of the community.
A Fall Newsletter discussing where we were on the issue came out in September and soon afterward a letter from the Biodiversity Committee circulated
--that reviewed their research and suggested ways forward,
--and raised a number of questions concerning a possible hunt that would have to beanswered before we proceed.
Where we are now?
Two background letters from the Biodiversity Committee have been circulated,
letter #1 discussing the history of the discussion and the questions to be resolved
going forward; the second, a letter from Ruth Milner, state biologist, discussing
deer browsing in the larger context of ecological history and damage to the San
Juan and Gulf Islands.
Letter # 3, a detailed analysis of the local ecological impact on plants, animals, birds, and insects, will coming out in a few days.
Where do we go from here?
The Biodiversity Committee will be sending out letters that indicate further steps we could take.
The Olga Post Office
Many islanders have availed themselves of the local postal service, a box at the
Olga Post Office. Recently the building, privately owned but under lease to the
US Postal Service, has been sold with the lease for the post office due to expire
next year. The post office has been looking for a home, considering such possibilities as the basement of the Olga Energetics Club which is the town community center, the Barfoot building nearby, and the Olga Store. Recently a non-profit
formed to support the continuation of an Olga Post Office made an offer for
the Olga Store which had been unoccupied and for sale for several years. Since
the post office itself could occupy only part of that space, the search is on for
another business as a fellow occupant. Should there be sufficient space when
the total occupancy is settled, there has been talk of a dedicated space, a few
tables etc, where folks could gather as a kind of ad hoc community center. This offer is still being negotiated. Anyone wishing to get on the email list for the Olga Post Office initiative should contact Steve Emmes: [email protected]
Welcome to Nathan and Jessica Garretson, son Dylan, and daughter Dakota,
new to Lot 28 on the north end. The Garretsons will be boating between the
island and Anacortes where they live.
Thank you. . .to Norton Smallwood, Alan Weldin, and Harvey Smith for
maintaining the water system through a period that required serious maintenance
to Tracie Kempton, Sue Clement, Kellen Maloney, Carsten Stinn, and Catherine
Houck for assuming the burden of exploring the deer overbrowsing issue for the
to Deborah Helleson for taking the lead in checking resources to restore protection for the West Dock footing and access road,
to Tracie and Jamilee Kempton for clearing the access road to the South Dock after the storm.
to Gerard Maloney for clearing the barge landing after the storm.
Obstruction IslandSeptember 10, 2018
It must be Fall. It started raining this weekend after two
absolutely dry and smoky months. We will
still have some good weather (many claim that September and October are the best
months to enjoy the islands). But it was a relief to have a soaker and reduce
the fire danger a notch.
A common remark of those called to the July 4
accident was how difficult it was at night to find their way to the accident
scene even though in this instance a sign identified the lot’s owner and lot
number. The difficulty was that the sign
was not readily visible in the dark. The
Board is looking into the possibility of offering signage to lot owners that
would be reflective but discreet so that in a night emergency first responders,
as well islanders who might volunteer to help, would have quicker access. The
reflective signs would display the 911 number for the lot.
Thanks to Karin Berghoefer for volunteering to
head up emergency response initiatives for the island. Should you have ideas for areas in which the
island could improve its preparedness, you can contact her at [email protected].
Annual Meeting Deer Resolution, Follow-up activitie
At the Annual Meeting 2018 the community voted
to research ways to reduce the number of deer as a way to support reforestation
and regenerate woodland habitat. This
is an area that has generated considerable research and experimentation across the country since
exploding deer populations and their attendant effects—over-browsing and
habitat destruction, tick infestation and tick-borne disease—has become a
national problem. A variety of solutions
have been explored such as birth-control and transportation but with little
success. The consensus is that the only
way to limit the damaging impact of too many deer on habitat is to reduce or
eliminate the deer. The research especially supports this solution for
black-tailed deer, our local species, since they are territorial, live within a
very limited range, and are slow to recolonize an area once cleared.
Reduction of the black-tailed deer population would
involve opening a portion of the island to a hunt. The island’s common lands
(the 60 acre center) and/or individual lots with the owner’s written
permission, could be open to controlled hunting. In order for us to do that would require
amending the covenant #12 that prohibits hunting and the discharge of firearms
on Obstruction Island. A possibility
would be to treat this initiative as a temporary exception, which would still require
the 75% approval by the island community necessary to amend a covenant. A resolution to enable such an exception to
covenant #12 might look something like this:
“Hunting and the discharge of firearms is not permitted on
for the purpose of reducing deer over-browsing and fostering woodland
and habitat regeneration, reservation-based and time-specific hunts to be
scheduled and regulated under the auspices of the state Department of Fish and
Wildlife. This exception shall only be
in effect between [specific dates], unless renewed by a 75% vote of the
This is just a sample and not the specific
wording of a resolution anyone has agreed upon, but it exemplifies key elements
that could be applicable such as terms that would be negotiated with the state
Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW} and a specific time within which this
exception would be permitted.
In early June as a follow-up to the Annual
Meeting resolution, Tracie Kempton hosted a delegation of WDFW personnel,
including Ruth Milner, the regional biologist, and Rob Wingard, the private
lands biologist, for WDFW. Also included
in the group were two enforcement officers and four islanders. During the visit, several key pieces of
information became clear:
--the terms of any hunt (who would participate,
how many days, and where) would be negotiable between WDFW and the island, and
WDFW would tailor the conditions to our demands. For any such plan to go forward would require community approval
through a vote at the Annual Meeting or a mail-in ballot.
--a hunt would be by reservation only. Only licensed hunters would be allowed on the
island who had applied for access, had a reserve time granted and been approved
by WDFW, and would be readily identifiable.
Hunters would be assigned to a specific area within which they would be
required to remain and hunt. Any
activity would be supervised by a huntmaster who would track hunters and keep a
tally of any game taken.
--the island could require that specific days
be set aside for islanders and friends only, though for this also hunters would
have to be licensed, the times reserved, and the hunt supervised by a
--a hunt could be limited in area ( i.e. to the
common lands in the island’s center, and/or private lots with the owner’s
--in accord with San Juan County restrictions: 1)
the hunt would be shotgun only or bow hunt; that is projectiles with a limited
range, and 2) no hunting can occur on private land without written permission
of the owner.
The commentary above and the visit from WDFW
biologist is in the vein of the research called for by the community
resolution, a scan on what would be feasible and its parameters. Any subsequent
action is yet to be determined and will require community approval. At the Annual Meeting several islanders
volunteered to pursue this issue and we will be hearing from them as their
Island Caretaking Tips
Closing or opening cabins for the summer offers
a good time to check fire extinguishers and restore their effectiveness. Left dormant, the dry chemicals, mono
ammonium phosphate or sodium bicarbonate, tend to cake up along the walls or settle
at the bottom rendering the extinguishers less effective if called upon. An annual inspection should include a sharp rapping
along the sides and bottom of the extinguisher with a piece of wood or hammer
to loosen any dry chemical that has settled.
You may have noticed that island water can
stain porcelain, particularly toilet bowls where left standing. Water Master (and chemist) Norton Smallwood
reports the mineral in our hard water as predominately manganese with some
iron, leaving black deposits. Common
applicants, such a white vinegar or vinegar with baking soda, will not touch them. A recommended solution to remove manganese
stain is a half cup of Cream of Tartar made into a paste by adding two
tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide. Cream of Tartar is a potassium compound
readily available on grocery store spice shelves or in bulk, hydrogen peroxide
from your medicine cabinet or pharmacy. Dry the toilet bowl and spread the paste on
the deposits, let sit for fifteen minutes before rinsing. Stubborn stains may require more than one
Long Live the Kings and Glenwood Springs Hatchery
We were lucky to attend a
fundraiser for LLTK where we listened to informative and inspiring speakers at
The Glenwood Springs hatchery on Orcas. Many of you are very familiar
with the efforts of Jim Youngren and others to create a Chinook run from a
small stream on his property – starting back in
1978. We discovered that now, up to 4,000 Chinook return annually to be
harvested in fisheries from Alaska to Northern Puget Sound, and that they help
nourish orca whales. We were able to get a guided tour of the hatchery, ponds,
and fish ladder, where every year they release 750,000 juvenile Chinook.
Amazing, when you get the opportunity you should take it! We are lucky to be a part of this wonderful,caring community! If you want to findout more visit: http://2017ar.lltk.org/ --Carsten Stine and
Note: Thanks to Carsten
and Linda for alerting us to this remarkable success story. When we came to the islands fourteen years
ago Glenwood Springs’ returns were sometimes less than a dozen mature Chinook. Those
of you who follow fisheries are alert to the controversy over hatchery vs. wild
salmon. The Glenwood Springs fry are released into open ponds subject to diving
bird predation and feed predominantly on pond crustaceans and invertebrates
rather than hatchery pellets. The result
is salmon smolt much closer in behavior and chemistry to wild salmon than to hatchery
fish. Each of these 750,000 juveniles is released into Eastsound with an
implanted chip so that US and Canadian fisheries can get an accurate count on
the catch and its origins.
As you drive into
Eastsound you pass the largest of the Glenwood Spring Hatchery ponds on your
right at the bottom of the long hill down from Orcas Highlands. So far as I
know, Glenwood Springs is the only active hatchery in the islands.