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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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Governor’s renewed salmon strategy faces decisive period in the current Legislature (2/16/2022) - State legislation designed to enhance salmon habitat by requiring protective buffers along streams has been set aside pending further discussions over the coming year. Meanwhile, several other salmon-protection measures proposed by the governor could move forward with decisive funding from the Legislature. The buffer bill (HB 1838), named the Lorraine Loomis Act, would prohibit degradation …
North Pacific expedition gets underway aboard four ocean-going research ships (2/3/2022) - A North Pacific research expedition is underway, with projects said to be bigger, bolder and more scientifically sophisticated than cruises in 2019 and 2020. Four research vessels carrying more than 60 scientists from various countries will span out across the Pacific Ocean to increase their understanding of salmon — including migration, environmental stresses, availability of …
Scientists look for answers in methane bubbles rising from bottom of Puget Sound (1/21/2022) - In 2011, sonar operators aboard the ocean-going Research Vessel Thomas G. Thompson inadvertently recorded a surprising natural phenomenon, as the 274-foot ship traversed through Puget Sound while returning to port at the University of Washington. At the time, researchers on board were focused on a host of other projects. They might not have known that …
Ecology, EPA now under the gun to adopt new water quality criteria for aquatic creatures (12/31/2021) - Long delays in updating state water-quality standards to protect orcas, fish and other aquatic species appear to have finally caught up with the Washington Department of Ecology and its federal counterpart, the Environmental Protection Agency. In a court ruling this week, U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman of Seattle found that Ecology has “abdicated its duties” …
Understanding the cold-water needs of salmon and helping them to survive (12/20/2021) - Salmon need cold water. This general statement is something I’ve been hearing since I first began reporting on these amazing migrating fish years ago. Cold water is a fact of life for salmon, known for their long travels up and down streams, out to saltwater and back. But colder is not always better. Questions about …
Recovery of Puget Sound species could hinge on better understanding of ecosystems (11/19/2021) - A recent report from the Puget Sound Partnership helps us understand the difficulty of restoring the Puget Sound ecosystem. What caught my attention in the State of the Sound report was that after 20 years of protecting and restoring streams, wetlands, shorelines and estuaries, we have not increased overall fish and wildlife populations, and some …
Puget Sound fish and wildlife populations fall short of 10-year recovery goals (11/3/2021) - A final report on the 2020 ecosystem-recovery goals for Puget Sound outlines habitat improvements for some streams, shorelines and wetlands, but it also describes ongoing declines among fish and wildlife populations that use those habitats. The latest State of the Sound report, released this week by the Puget Sound Partnership, summarizes the status of 52 …
Puget Sound meets 2020 bulkhead-removal goal; new indicators will chart the future (10/28/2021) - In a turnabout that offers hope for Puget Sound’s nearshore ecosystem, old bulkheads are now being removed faster than new bulkheads are being constructed, according to permit figures provided by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. In fact, officials with Puget Sound Partnership recently announced that the agency’s 2020 goal for reducing shoreline armoring …
Orca census shows some improvement, but many whales still die before their time (9/21/2021) - The annual census of the endangered Southern Resident killer whales, submitted yesterday to the federal government, shows three births and one death from mid-2020 to mid-2021. Along with the new census report, Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research sadly confirmed the death of L47, a 47-year-old female named Marina, who has been apparently …
Plunging into a jungle of weather statistics to find the footprints of climate change (9/16/2021) - “Augusts in Seattle are getting hotter, leading to a change of 3.5°F since 1970.” This was the sentence that caught my eye while reading an email from Peter Gerard, director of communications for Climate Central, an organization that prides itself on helping news reporters tell an accurate story of climate change. I wondered immediately: Is …