Gene Woodwick — Early spring palpitations stir beachers’ blood

Ahh … Welcome to the early spring palpitations that will surely stir up the sluggish winter blood of the locals.

It’s time to mark the 50th anniversary of the March 27, 1964, Alaskan earthquake with its magnitude 9.2 quivering that generated a tsunami felt from Alaska to California. The anniversary of this event is being recognized by Washington State Emergency Management and other National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation partners.

The earthquake took the lives of 103 Alaskans, four Oregonians and 12 Californians. While our state escaped deaths, the local area certainly had an exciting time as a result of the accompanying tsunami. The Copalis River bridge was destroyed, the Joe Creek bridge collapsed, a house at Pacific Beach was torn apart, while others there were buried in debris and driftwood.

At Ocean Shores, the waters swept in as far as today’s McDonald’s.

That fateful Friday, a slab of the seafloor larger than human imagination fractured beneath the Alaska Peninsula. In several minutes, thousands of years of potential energy became kinetic with the great earthquake occurring exactly where scientists had predicted it would.

A block of the sea floor created a bulge in the Pacific Ocean that rebounded to Los Angeles. It was the largest earthquake recorded in U.S. history, with damage estimated at $1 billion.

With that in mind, March 26 and 27, two regional tsunami exercises will be held. More information is available at and at Washington State Earthquake/Tsunami program has put together a webpage to commemorate the Alaska event and it’s available at ttp://

Navy bombing back?

It’s back to more hearings on the U.S. Navy conducting sonar and explosive exercises in the nearby Pacific Ocean from Northern California to the Canadian waters — the same waters populated by marine mammals like porpoises, gray whales, fin whales and orcas.

That fact has some folks riled up. The draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) calls for conducting up to 100 mid-range, active sonar tests annually, along with 30 bombing exercises a year.

In previous years, the latter drove beachers nuts. All too often the exercises were too close to shore, shaking houses and rattling windows.

John Mosher, Northwest Environmental program manager for the US Pacific Fleet, says the training range is critical to naval preparedness and has to take place in order to maintain perishable skills. And, the Navy plans to observe mammal activity before and during testing.

The old beachers are inclined to see that as pragmatic, but still dislike the disruption of their quiet lifestyle. New residents tend to see it in a more environmental way and say mitigation measures are inadequate.

The deadline for written comments on the Northwest Training and Testing range EIS is March 25. Mail written comments to: Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Northwest, Attention: Ms. Kimberly Kler - NWTT EIS/OEIS Project Manager, 1101 Tautog Circle, Suite 203 Silverdale, WA 98315-1101

atv’s on local roads?

Another controversial issue affecting the beach is HB 1632 regarding the newly created state law for all-terrain vehicles that would allow local communities to opt-in or opt-out according to local priorities. In communities with less than 15,000 people, the law allows ATVs on roads and highways unless the city specifically bans them.

In past years, dune destruction was a huge problem for the North Beach areas, along with children operating the heavy machines.

The law establishes registration and safety policies and requires supervision from a licensed adult for riders under the age of 16. However, the law guidelines leave a lot of interpretation for local usage and governance. It remains to be seen how much local collective community memory will have on this new twist to beach areas.

Smelt off endangered list

Smelt, love them or not, are finally off the endangered species listing, which is good news. Fishing on the Columbia began at the first of the month with river vendors buying hundreds of pounds from the commercial fishers. They are selling for $4 to $5 a pound at local fish markets, with smoked ones going for $10 a pound.

Since the smelt were listed in 2010, the market has gone down for the fish due to newer restaurateurs’ unfamiliarity with cooking them. With sturgeon fishing closed, the bait market for that species is out the window.

Last year at this time, there were reports of a 20-mile long mass of smelt moving up the Columbia River — the best run in a decade — that led to opening this year’s season on a limited fishery.

While the local Native Americans and Scandinavians have long considered smelt a supreme treat, other beachers saw them as a way to make money and, when times were tough, to put food on the table.

The National Marine Fisheries Service thinks the greatest factor in their decline is climate change. The little fish may have declined a decade ago due to the abundance of sardines. It is thought that smelt may be a species that is counter-cyclic that produces more when other types of fish population are down.

Canadian scallop die-off

Acidic water is being blamed for the scallop die-off in Canadian waters. Ten million have died near Qualicum Beach in a series of die-offs that have affected the West Coast the last 10 years.

According to studies by the University of British Columbia, human-caused dioxin emissions in the atmosphere are being absorbed by the water, pushing a tipping point beyond which shellfish cannot survive.

Measured levels of pH are down to 7.2. The lower the pH, the higher the acidity, which hinders the ability of baby scallops to form shells, making them more vulnerable to predators and disease.

Oyster die-offs in Washington and Oregon date back a decade and have also been linked by NOAA to rising carbon dioxide and acidification levels.

Gray whales ahoy!

Gray whales officially began moving through our off coast waters on their way to the shrimp beds in Puget Sound until May, when they begin their annual cruise to the Chukchi and Bering Seas in Alaska.

What makes it official? John Calambokidis said so and if anyone knows whale habits it’s John, a biologist for the Cascadia Research Collective.

An estimated 22,000 grays cruise the coast with about 200 of them hanging around our area to feed.

The Grays, which are baleen whales, must feed pretty well, because they average 40 tons of weight for their 50-foot length. According to Calambokidis, the Grays off the Washington coast have one of the longest migrations by any mammal as they travel the 5,000 to 6,800 miles between Baja, Calif., and Alaska.

Deer dilemmas

Migration brings to mind animals that don’t — deer. The plethora of deer around Ocean Shores is still a topic of conversation over coffee. Maybe the city should try Finland’s latest attempt to curb road wrecks and deaths of roving deer in town. Anne Ollila of the Finnish Reindeer Herder’s Association says the latest attempt is painting the antlers of a test group of reindeer with various fluorescent dyes to see how the animals react and how the paint resists the climate.

Shoot … maybe the city could try Seahawk colors and get some free publicity. Or, since there is a huge interest in animal welfare in the city, perhaps the city could organize a group to form a volunteer herders association. Well, better think again on that suggestion, because if the Finnish experiment is successful, the animals will be set free to roam Lapland, a vast area where herders tend more than 200,000 reindeer.

New Quinault calendar

For those with memories of the 2013 Paddle to Quinault, the new 36th edition of the Quinault Indian Nation’s annual calendar is a real joy to behold. As usual, Larry Workman’s spectacular photography makes it a true keepsake for North Beach folks. The $7 donation calendar is available from: Calendar: QIN Roundhouse; P.O. Box 189; Taholah, WA 98587.

It is sure to calm the palpitations of late winter on the beach.


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