Brian Atwater and the Orphan Tsunami of 1700

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Katsushika Hokusai’s Iconic 1830’s Painting, “The Great Wave Off Kanagawa”

The Tillamook Bay Watershed Council (TBWC) and Pelican Brewing Company are pleased to announce the return of world-renowned geologist Brian Atwater to Tillamook County for a special event next Monday evening at the Bay City Arts Center. Atwater is best known for discovering geologic evidence of past subduction-zone earthquakes, and for connecting that evidence to historical records of trans-Pacific tsunamis in Japan. He co-authored a professional paper in 2005 that told the story of the “Orphan Tsunami of 1700,” connecting his scientific work in North America with accounts written by Samurai, merchants and villagers in 18th-century Japan. It’s a gripping detective story, and one that has major relevance to the people of Tillamook County. Atwater’s work has contributed significantly to our understanding of subduction-zone quakes and the resulting tsunamis, and has influenced policy and emergency preparedness strategies.

 

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Geologist Brian Atwater in the tidal wetlands where evidence of earthquakes and resulting tsunamis has been uncovered. Courtesy of Brian Atwater, USGS.

 

            Join the TBWC next Monday, June 12th, from 6:30PM to 8:00PM at the Bay City Arts Center to hear the whole story and to understand how these important discoveries affect all of us who live on the Oregon Coast. Pelican Brewing will provide beer, and the TBWC will serve light refreshments. Admission is free and open to the public, but donations will be gladly accepted.

            The Tillamook Bay Watershed Council is a local not-for-profit organization building collaborative, voluntary partnerships with communities and landowners. Its mission is to protect, maintain and improve the health of our watershed through on-the-ground restoration projects, educational outreach programs, and other community-engagement activities. This event represents a new partnership with Pelican Brewing to offer a series of public events that promote awareness of watershed issues.

 

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This picture map from 1687, with a symmetrical Mount Fuji, shows a pine-covered spit where a tsunami was noted in January 1700, but with no apparent earthquake. Courtesy of the East Asia Collection, University of California, Berkeley.

 

Wetland Recovery and Salmon Population Resilience

Tillamook has been an epicenter of salmon habitat restoration efforts over the last two years. In fact, we are currently hosting the largest wetland-restoration project in Oregon’s history. Tillamook County’s Southern Flow Corridor Landowner Preferred Alternative project–usually referred to as “Southern Flow” for the sake of brevity–is reconnecting 520 acres of tidal wetlands in the Wilson-Trask Delta. The summer of 2015 saw The Nature Conservancy’s reconnection of Stasek Slough to the Kilchis River, and the excavation of miles of tidal channels, nearly doubling the available wetland habitat in the Kilchis Delta. And going back a few years earlier, the Miami Wetlands project restored tidal wetlands at the mouth of the Miami River. Collectively, these projects add up to over 650 acres of restored habitat for juvenile salmon, and they represent a major pendulum swing in local land use, from dairy farming to the natural production of salmon.

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This photo shows the 520-acre area being reconnected through the Southern Flow Corridor project in the Wilson-Trask delta. By 2017 this area will be available to juvenile salmon.

In the Tillamook, roughly 85% of tidal wetlands were reclaimed as farmland from the late 1800s through the 1970s. That meant the clearing of Sitka spruce forests and swamps and the diking of large areas to prevent tidal influence and saltwater intrusion. With the dikes came tidegates which were designed to allow water to flow off the land, but to prevent water from flowing in. This massive loss of juvenile rearing habitat is now recognized as one of the  primary limiting factors for Tillamook’s coho and Chinook salmon populations, which today are roughly 10% to 30%  of their historic abundance, depending on the species.

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Young Chinook salmon like these rely on tidal wetlands to grow big and strong.

With so many major restoration projects rolling out in the Tillamook, the big question is How will the fish respond? For the answer to that question, we’ll have to be patient, but we do have a very good case study just two watersheds to the south which points to a hopeful outcome. The Salmon River estuary, just north of Lincoln City, was the scene of intensive restoration of wetlands from 1978 to 2011, resulting in over 400 acres of reconnected salmon habitat. NOAA scientist Daniel Bottom, along with a team of fisheries scientists, studied the response of coho and Chinook salmon populations during the same period. They also looked at how the wetlands performed as rearing habitat for young salmon and how the fish used the habitat. Bottom and his team found that the diversity of coho and Chinook life-history strategies expanded dramatically with the increased rearing opportunity. And they estimated an increase of 20% to 40% of returning adult salmon as a result of the restored habitats. It was the first local study to quantify the benefits of wetland restoration to salmon, and to clearly demonstrate the connection between wetlands habitats and life-history diversity. In the years since the Salmon River studies, Bottom and others have gone on to suggest that life-history diversity among salmon is likely the key to survival in a changing world. And since wetland restoration has been shown to restore that diversity, it follows that wetland restoration is critical to the adaptation and survival of salmon populations as climate changes and sea levels rise.

Join the Tillamook Bay Watershed Council the evening of October 25th for a special presentation by Daniel Bottom. He will share experiences and revelations from his time on the Salmon River, and he will discuss the potential gains from our local restoration efforts. Don’t miss this rare chance to learn some of the latest findings in fisheries science from one of our area’s leading researchers. The presentation will be held in the Hatfield Room at the Tillamook County Library from 6:30PM to 7:30PM. We hope to see you there!

If you missed Dan’s presentation you can still see his slide deck here, and it’s a big deal: Salmon River Study

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Daniel Bottom, NOAA Researcher and presenter on October 25th, 2016 at the Tillamook County Library, 6:30PM to 7:30PM.

 

 

 

Heroic Efforts at the 2016 Tillamook Bay Cleanup

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Over 100 volunteers filled the Bay City Arts Center on Saturday, April 23rd for the Tillamook Bay Spring Cleanup and after-party. Between 2 and 3 tons of garbage were pulled out of the estuary over the course of five hours. Hundreds of filled trash bags lined highway 101 and the Cape Meares Loop until our crew of drivers rounded them up and piled them at strategic locations around the bay. It was an outpouring of effort and support beyond our wildest dreams, and solid proof of the generosity of the communities surrounding Tillamook Bay. Thank you volunteers and sponsors! And a BIG thanks to Pelican Brewing, Fat Dog Pizza, Pacific Oyster, Hook, Line & Sinker, Barview Jetty Store,  and our musical guests Benny and the Bay City Rockers for making the after-party one to remember! Let’s do it again in 2018…

The Biggest Bay Cleanup in a Decade!

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Tillamook Bay is getting cleaned up this year with the help of volunteers, private landowners, local businesses, SOLVE and local non-profit organizations. The Tillamook Bay Watershed Council, Tillamook Estuaries Partnership and Tillamook County Solid Waste Department are pleased to announce plans for the 2016 Tillamook Bay Cleanup, scheduled for Earth Day, April 23rd from 8:30AM to 2:30PM.

Volunteers will gather at the Bay City Arts Center at 8:30AM for a kick-off meeting with complimentary coffee and snacks. Eight teams will be formed, each with a local team-leader who will assist volunteers, ensure safe handling of hazardous waste, and steer teams away from private property. Garbage will be staged at a number of sites around the bay for pick-up by truck and boat. Cleanup teams will return to the Arts Center at 2:30PM, and the event will culminate in an after-party from 2:30pm to 5:00PM. Locally-made food and drink will be provided by Pacific Seafood, Pelican Brewing, Barview Jetty Store, Fat Dog Pizza and the Hook, Line & Sinker.

The last major cleanup effort on Tillamook Bay was back in 2006, so this event is long overdue. Volunteers can expect large amounts of floating debris including plastic bottles, flip-flops, shotgun shells and styrofoam. A similar effort on the Nehalem Bay in 2015 brought in 2.4 tons of trash, including 915 pounds of recyclable or re-useable material. The Tillamook Bay Cleanup is a family-friendly event, with a number of cleanup routes that will be appropriate for kids who are accompanied by an adult.

Local sponsors for the 2016 Tillamook Bay Cleanup include City Sanitary Service, the Bay City Arts Center, Pacific Seafood, Pelican Brewing, Tillamook County Creamery Association, Blue Heron French Cheese Company, Tillamook Headlight Herald, Tillamook County Pioneer Museum, Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, Barview Jetty Store, Elevate Yoga & Fitness Studio, Five Rivers Coffee Roasting, Garibaldi Charters, Hook Line & Sinker, US Coast Guard, and Tillamook High School. The list of sponsors keeps growing, and more are always welcome.

Volunteers are encouraged to register on the SOLVE website, solveoregon.org or call SOLVE at (503) 844-9751 ext. 321, or 1-800-333-SOLV(7658).

To become a team-leader or sponsor, or for more information please contact: Robert Russell, TBWC Coordinator, 503-322-0002, or via email at tillamookbaywatershedcouncil@gmail.com

Bay Cleanup Map Updated