Our Water Ways

Photographic portrait of Chris Dunagan

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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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 get the whales more food. And yet it appears that nobody has figured out a way to help the whales by reducing salmon fishing. Annual negotiations to establish seasons and quotas for commercial, tribal and […]
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 for shoreline construction below the high-tide line. The previous line of jurisdiction was lower on the beach, effectively exempting most shoreline armoring from federal permits. One of the key results of the policy change is […]
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 considered various strategies for increasing the number of Chinook salmon. Declining numbers of Chinook — a primary prey of the endangered orcas — is considered a leading cause of the dwindling population of southern resident […]
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 titled “Shifting Snowlines and Shorelines” by the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington. The report is designed to bring a clear message to leaders and citizens of Washington state regarding where we have […]
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 — would grow to become a large, powerful whale, living up to his name by fathering at least 20 offspring of his own. Designated L41, Mega was around throughout Ken’s career at the Center for […]
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 toxic chemicals dropping out of the sky. Until recently, I never gave much thought to the chemicals riding on air currents, secretly falling to the ground, especially during rainstorms. I began to look at the […]
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 Sound be restored by 2020.” The Partnership then proceeded to establish “Vital Signs indicators” to measure progress along the path to restoration, along with “targets” that describe the conditions that should be observed by 2020. […]
Sharing info, as changes in ocean chemistry affect Northwest waters at alarming pace (1/13/2020) - It was fairly alarming, even to scientists, to hear the latest research regarding ocean acidification — a powerful change in ocean chemistry that results from excess carbon dioxide passing from the atmosphere into the oceans of the world. One of the most alarming reports came from Richard Feely, senior scientist at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle. Dick talked about how changes in ocean chemistry will soon accelerate, with damaging consequences, as the ocean’s buffering capacity begins to break down. It’s all a bit technical, but I worked carefully […]
Welcome to ‘Our Water Ways,’ a blog about Puget Sound and all things water-related (1/7/2020) - Welcome to “Our Water Ways,” a new blog I’m writing for the Puget Sound Institute with a name that will sound familiar to some. For the past 12 years, I’ve been writing a blog called “Watching Our Water Ways” for the Kitsap Sun. Now, my blogging efforts will have a new home. I’ve outlined the reasons for the move in a farewell blog post on the “Watching Our Water Ways” website. It makes sense to publish my blog on the PSI website, where I have been writing in-depth stories about […]

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