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Our Water Ways

Puget Sound Institute senior writer Christopher Dunagan discusses the challenges of protecting Puget Sound and all things water-related. As the very first environmental reporter for the Kitsap Sun, he has been a respected voice in the region for more than 25 years. He has been covering science-related stories for the Puget Sound Institute since 2015.


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Sewer operators worry that toilet paper shortage will lead to more nasty clogs (3/19/2020) - With a multitude of people scrambling to buy toilet paper, and some going without, sewer utility officials across the country are worried about the possible repercussions of the TP shortage — such as clogged sewer lines. Toilet paper and wipes of all kinds have become the subject of a complex, wide-ranging and controversial debate. The …
Second Pacific salmon expedition gets a chance to see the effects of cooler water (3/11/2020) - A second research cruise to study the winter travels of salmon in the Pacific Ocean got underway today, when 12 scientists from three countries left Victoria, B.C., aboard the trawler Pacific Legacy. Researchers say they have learned a great deal from the first salmon cruise a year ago, when 21 scientists from five countries ventured …
Virus related to measles could push Puget Sound orcas to extinction, study says (3/9/2020) - Researchers studying the killer whales that frequent Puget Sound are growing increasingly concerned that a dangerous virus or other disease-causing organism could spread through the population and hasten extinction of these critically endangered southern resident orcas. Without dramatic changes to their environment, extinction is already considered the likely future for the southern residents, as they …
Harvest managers setting this year’s salmon seasons struggle to find ways to help orcas (3/7/2020) - As state, tribal and federal salmon managers work together to establish this year’s fishing seasons, they have not forgotten about the needs of Puget Sound’s endangered killer whales. In fact, new documents related to the southern resident orcas describe an investigation looking to find ways to reduce fisheries at certain times and locations that might …
Shoreline armoring in Puget Sound gets new scrutiny from the Army Corps of Engineers (2/25/2020) - Shoreline bulkheads, which can damage beaches and destroy fish habitat, could come under more extensive review and permitting as the result of a revised shoreline policy announced last week by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The revised policy (PDF 163 kb), which resulted from a federal lawsuit, now requires a Corps of Engineers permit …
New fishing rules increase limits on warm-water fish to indirectly help orcas (2/20/2020) - In an effort to protect young salmon from predation, new fishing rules will allow anglers to double their catch of some warm-water predatory fish found in 77 lakes across Washington state. Reducing the population of salmon-eating bass, catfish and walleye is one of many ideas promoted by the governor’s Southern Resident Orca Task Force, which …
New report describes anticipated climate-change effects in Washington state (2/6/2020) - Early effects of a warming Earth have reached Washington state, as we can see from actual measurements. Annual snowpack is declining in the mountains; ancient glaciers are shrinking; sea levels are rising; and coastal waters are becoming less hospitable to sea life. These are some of the changes outlined in a new easy-to-read briefing report …
Missing orca named ‘Mega’ lived a long, productive life, says Ken Balcomb (1/30/2020) - A 43-year-old male orca named Mega, now missing and presumed dead, was one of the first new calves that researcher Ken Balcomb spotted when he began his extensive census of Southern Resident killer whales back in 1976. Ken didn’t know it at the time, but the baby orca — one of nine born in 1977 …
How air pollution becomes water pollution with long-term effects on Puget Sound (1/29/2020) - When thinking of air pollution, I used to think only of breathing toxic chemicals into our lungs, with uncertain health effects. That’s bad enough, but air pollution — which is everywhere — is also getting into our waterways and penetrating deep into our food webs. Rivers, lakes and Puget Sound, no body of water escapes …
Partnership explores revised measures of Puget Sound health, as 2020 deadline arrives (1/22/2020) - It is the year 2020. You could say that the time has run out for restoring Puget Sound to a healthy condition. But time marches on. When the Legislature created the Puget Sound Partnership in 2007, lawmakers included this sentence in state law: “It is the goal of the state that the health of Puget …