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Winter Newsletter 2019
Obstruction Island
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. 
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Biodiversity: Wildlife Management
Recent letters from the Biodiversity Committee comprised of concerned islanders regarding initiatives to limit deer over-browsing have generated a productive conversation.

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.
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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]

New Islanders

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 and renewal,
to Tracie Kempton, Sue Clement, Kellen Maloney, Carsten Stinn, and Catherine Houck for assuming the burden of exploring the deer overbrowsing issue for the community,
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.  
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Fall Newsletter

Obstruction Island

September 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.

Emergency Management

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 Obstruction Island,

except,

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 community.”

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 huntmaster.

--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 written permission.)

--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 discussions continue.
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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 application.

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 Linda Furney

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.
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