First Day of Spring Sunset

    Yesterday, everywhere on our planet, the sun set was due west.  If you were standing on the equator yesterday the sun would have been directly overhead at noon and then gone straight down in the west.  In Ridgefield yesterday, the sun at noon would have been about 45 degrees above the horizon in the south and it would have gone down at a 45 degree angle and set due west.  On the first day of summer the sun here will be at 68 degrees above the horizon at noon(45 + 23 degrees) and would set at 23 degrees to the north of due west.   At the equator on the first day of summer, you would see the sun at 67 degrees above the horizon but in the north(90 – 23).  Sunset at the equator would be 23 degrees to the north of west.  Even though the earth turns once a day and half the earth is in sun and half in shadow, the tilt of the earth makes for a 16 hour day in summer instead of just a 12 hour day.  In the summer the northern hemisphere is very productive for growth of plants because of the long day and  the tilt of the earth give us.  Can you dig it?

~ Contributed by Paul Snoey

First Day of Spring

 

 

This  Anna’s hummingbird was photographed feeding on a red flowering current bush this morning.  Spring will arrive at 9:15 AM today. We know the earth is tilted 23.4 degrees and that is the cause of the seasons.  The change at our latitude, about half way between the equator and the north pole, is dramatic.  The grasses are turning green and growing.  Trees are blooming and beginning to turn green, and insects are beginning to appear.  Flowering plants are emerging,  people are mowing their lawns, and thinking about planting gardens.

So, what would our world be like if the earth was not tilted?  It would mean the sun would be over the equator, like today, everyday of the year. There would only be one season everywhere. The equatorial zone would be extremely hot  and stormy and only gradually cooling away from the equator. No seasons would mean no timing for plant growth or dormancy. It would be a world much different from this one.  It’s hard to imagine no seasons.

What if our world was tilted  90 degrees instead of just 23 degrees?  It would mean spring and fall would be much like ours, but it would mean that on the first day of summer the sun would be right over the north pole and would stay there for some time. No night or day just extreme sunshine. Six months later our North pole would be in a deep freeze. It would be a hellish planet switching with violent extremes of freezing to baking.  What kind of life would even exist on such a world?

But here we are with our spring and the earth’s gentle tilt and the transition from spring to summer will be just a little bit more  each day.  Although it can be a bit too cold in the winter and too hot at times in the summer, the changes in the seasons are better than the alternatives.

 

 

 

Planting on Gee Creek Trail

The Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership sponsored a tree and bush planting Saturday for the new section of the Gee Creek Trail between Abrams Park and Heron Ridge Drive. McKenzie Miller, Senior Environmental Educator for the partnership, lead the group of 40 volunteers for planting.   On Friday  the locations of where  the different trees and plants were to go was flagged by   Samantha Dumont the Volunteer Coordinator for the Estuary Partnership.   Some of the volunteers were Cub Scout Pack 303 of Ridgefield.  This is the first all girls group in the scouts now that boy scouts can have girls.  Instead of the usual March rain, it was nice and sunny.    Among the trees and plants  put in the ground were Hooker’s willow, Douglas Fir, Big Leaf Maple, and Red Alder.  Several tall Oregon grape plants were put in the ground as well.

The next planting event with LCEP will be having students from Union Ridge Elementary plant the remaining trees and  plants later this month.  To fully restore this area will take a lot more work and commitment.

Coho Eggs Hatching

The Incubator on Riemann Road is in it’s third year. This year we were given 60,000 eggs, the most we’ve been given.  So the incubator is pretty crowded.  The photo was taken March 3rd and by today they were mostly hatched.  They will stay in the incubator for several weeks.  They look like little fish glued to orange jellybeans.  They won’t eat as they are sustained by the yolk sac.  They decide when to leave the incubator by swimming out the overflow.  Conditions on Gee Creek are very good right now and we are getting past the point of having big winter storms.  If things go well there should be thousands of fry distributed from Pioneer Street into the refuge.  There were some problems with erosion control failures on Gee Creek in October of 2016 and September of 2017 that had a bad impact on Gee Creek.  Part of the solution is making sure that going into the fall,  areas of disturbed ground  have good erosion control measures in place.

Les Greear was a teacher at Ridgefield High several decades ago.  He said  that students took the netting from the baseball field and used it to catch Coho.   According to a state fisheries biologist, there are still a few spawning adults in Gee Creek.  It is unlikely the large runs of Coho, cutthroat trout, and steelhead will ever  be anything  like they were in the past.  However, if some improvements can be made,   we can increase the populations of Coho and cutthroat trout. Two improvements that need to be made by the city  are better erosion control measures and building treatment facilities for  untreated storm water.  Trout and salmon are fish that require cold clean streams.  As such, they are indicators of the condition of the water shed.

Erosion Control Project Continues

The Erosion Control Project for Gee Creek has begun with root wads beginning to be placed in the creek. This is the first erosion control project for the creek.  It’s success or failure could determine how other projects are done since there are several more areas that have problems.  The main questions are:

Will this work? The goal here is to stop the  erosion that been eating several feet of stream bank each year.

How expensive is it?   The cost of this project is important since there are other areas nearby with problems as well.

What will the creek look like and what more can be done here after the project has been finished?  We all want the trail along the creek to look natural and pleasant.  So what can be done when the project is completed to  further enhance the area?

Hazel Nut Trees

If you are driving into town on Pioneer you may  have noticed the bright yellow catkins on the many hazelnut trees at the east end of Abrams Park and in many other areas.  These hazelnuts, also called filberts,  are the wild cousin of the European tree imported for producing hazelnuts.  It is our earliest flowering tree.  These trees and other members of the birch family, such as alders, do not depend on insects for pollination.  They put out so much pollen that some will  reach the female catkins.  There are few insect pollinators in the middle of winter and  these trees not needing insects, can bloom in midwinter. Unfortunately, hazelnut pollen  is a strong allergen.    Those suffering the symptoms of allergies these days can guess that it is because of the hazelnut pollen.

 

The photo above shows a close-up of a branch.  The elongated catkin produces the pollen.  The female catkin can  be seen as small buds with small red octopus like pollen collecting structures.  The developing hazel nut will grow from these buds.  Hazelnuts and walnuts are the main reason that Ridgefield supports such a large population of squirrels. Late summer and fall is a time of frenetic activity as squirrels are so busy harvesting and  burying nuts.  The relationship between nut bearing trees and squirrels is mutually beneficial.  Squirrels get a good food source and  nut trees get their seeds carried a great distance from the tree and  even buried.  Enough nuts are not recovered by squirrels so that Ridgefield is full of hazel nut and walnut trees.

stream bank erosion control project begun

 

 

 

The city has obtained an emergency hydraulic permit for the stream bank erosion problem on the new section of the Gee Creek Trail between Division Street and Heron Ridge Drive. Several large root wads have been placed beside the trail. Later, these root wads will be placed in the stream along the badly eroded sections. People in the area should be careful to stay behind the yellow caution tape and not go near the edge of the crumbling stream bank

Salmon Eggs are in the Incubator

On Wednesday, January 10th I went to the Lewis River Hatchery and was given the salmon eggs for this year and  I put them in the incubator below Rieman Road. This is the third year we’ve had this site. The first year was initially a great success with many Juvenile Coho well distributed downstream. Coho fry stay in the area for about a year before heading to the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean.  In October of 2016 there was a large erosion control failure near South 45th Avenue and Royle Road. Then, there was a series of major storm events. In spring of 2017 there should have been a combination of the fish from the year before and  new fingerlings but fewer were seen.
Last fall and this winter so far there have been a series of erosion control failures on several projects. This year is different in that there has been much less rain and no major storm events. Gee Creek is becoming very turbid with as much as just a half an inch if rain.   In March of this year these fish will begin leaving the incubator and move into Gee Creek.  Having all these projects secured for the winter will be a great help.  Going into next fall, erosion control efforts on projects need to be improved if we are to be successful in restoring runs of Coho and cutthroat.

CHRISTMAS EVE SNOW

It is  rare to have a white Christmas in Ridgefield.  Even rarer, when it is not expected.  Early this morning, it was just above freezing and there was some light rain.  Then, a bit of freezing rain followed by sleet, then finally snow.  The temperature dropped  below freezing by several degrees at sunset with a little freezing rain.  The National Weather Service states it may be tomorrow before it gets above freezing.

The Ridgefield Curves on Pioneer Street  climbing up from Gee Creek are always problematic.  The police were warning vehicles of the hazards of driving east on Pioneer and trying to control the traffic  Some four wheel drive vehicles were good Samaritans, hooking up straps and cables, and pulling vehicles up the slope.  Some  drivers were trying to turn around.  Public Works crews were out plowing the streets and spreading rock.

Pioneer Street going west into town wasn’t much better with traffic crawling.  A few cars were stranded and at least one driver was chaining up.  Because snow and ice is rare here,  many drivers were  not prepared.  Some people standing outside their cars were clearly frustrated and not at all happy with the situation.

 

Taking another photo of the sculpture in Overlook Park with snow was irresistible.  Although the snow is beautiful it could not have come at a worst time for many people. It means a hazardous journey for many and others have decided to stay put.

Winter Solstice

The winter Solstice occurs today(Thursday) at 8:35 AM.   Sunrise will be at 7:49 AM and Sunset will be at 4:30 PM today making it the shortest day of the year.  For those of us who like days that are longer, brighter, and warmer, it means the worst is over and days will began to get longer.  Since the sun is low just after 4 PM these days, it lights up the new Wings sculpture in Overlook Park nicely.

 

 

USPS CELEBRATING POLLINATORS

 

This sheet of postage stamps was recently released by the USPS.  If celebrates the beauty of both flowers and their insect pollinators. The twenty sheet stamp has Monarch butterflies on 12 stamps and honey bees on the other 8.  The choice of these two insects is appropriate because both insects are in decline.  Many other insect populations are in decline also.  Because of the lack of insects some bird populations, which are dependent on insects, are down too . Each stamp states:  “protect pollinators”    Providing forage for pollinating insects free of pesticides can  help.  In the past two years I’ve given away a few hundred seed packets and plants of narrow leafed milkweed.  These milkweeds provide food for Monarch caterpillars and the flowers of milkweeds are great for many pollinating insects.  Next spring I should have another batch of plants to give away.  People with milkweed plants that grew and flowered should find they will  do even  better next year.  The Ridgefield Post Office is sold out of these pretty stamps but have more ordered.

 

Stream Bank Erosion by Gee Creek Trail

                         The stream bank has receded in several places and threatens the new trail

The stream bank along sections of the new trail from Division Street to Heron Ridge Drive has areas that are eroding badly.  In mid- October the section in the photo had only one small section that had collapsed next to the silt fence.  Last weekend things began to get much worse, and on Tuesday, many sections of stream bank began to collapse in several places over a distance of 400 feet or so.  Gee Creek has not had high flows yet so that is not the cause of the sudden collapses.  We had a severe drought last summer that dried the soils here, and we’ve had enough rain to finally wet the soil.  This may be making it heavier and softer and is exacerbating the stream bank collapse from the stream undercutting the bank.   Public Works Director Bryan Kast indicated yesterday that a hydrologist consultant is working on getting some stream bank stabilization done here before the end of the year.

We are now getting into the wettest time of the year.  With soils saturated and higher stream flows on Gee Creek, it may be very difficult to get any stabilization done.   It’s mid-November and we have several more months of possible wet weather with  higher stream flows.  In several areas the changes to the stream bed are forcing water into and along the stream bank itself.  The best hope is to get through the  wet season and then look to find a way to make a real fix.  Unfortunately, a real fix over such a great distance could be very expensive

Another area of bank collapse:  Note how flow is undercutting bank

Climate Change, The Columbia River, and Ridgefield

The above graphic shows Columbia river predicted flows in the 2050s.  The time of peak flows from spring snow melt is earlier  and summer flows are much less (source UW)

The Columbia River responds to the Pacific Ocean tides all the way to  the Bonneville Dam.  At Ridgefield at midnight Monday night, the high tide is expected to bring the river to 6.56 feet and at 3 AM the low tide is expected to be 3.84 feet.  Its not a great difference but it is enough to reverse flows of Lake River into Vancouver Lake and even Gee Creek into the pond/wetland complex upstream.  In addition to tides, the Columbia is greatly effected by the flow of water coming down the Columbia River.  Last winter and spring, the flows from the heavy rains brought the Columbia River here to  a peak of about 16 feet (flood stage is 17 feet).

The latest climate assessment released Friday by the Trump Administration showed a sea level rise of 1.6 to as much as 8 feet by 2100. NOAA has an interactive site to show the impact of sea level rises for different areas.  To show how it will impact Ridgefield, Lake River, and the refuge click this:  Columbia river sea rise

The site is interactive and set  for 3 feet but it can be changed from none to six feet.  You can also zoom in and out and change location.  At three feet there is a real change is the level of water in both the Carty and River S Units. The Columbia River will rise to 6 feet and more with time.  The only question  is how soon.  Sea level rise will continue for hundreds of years no matter what.  That is because the carbon dioxide already released will  stay with us a very long time.

The Columbia River reverses flow from the ocean to as much as 53 river  miles upstream  and salt water intrusion  is about 23 river miles upstream.  With sea level rise, the flow reversal will increase  carrying  salt water further upstream as well.   The difference between high and low tides will likely increase.  With the loss of snow and ice in the Columbia Mountains and Rockies, the summer flows are projected to decrease by as much as  50 % by the  2050’s .  With lower flows and higher river levels the resident time for water to travel from Bonneville Dam to the ocean will increase.  This may mean a warmer  slower river and could create serious problems such as having  less oxygen and encouraging invasive species.   Having the peak flows as much as a month or more earlier would put the annual crest into the rainy season and thus an increased risk of flooding.  This would certainly be exacerbated by having this on a river higher from sea level rise. It will likely mean that the height of a 100 or a 500 year flood will have to change.   Building in areas above a flood zone may find those zones rising.

The material for this article was gleaned from many different sources.  The impacts of a river higher from sea level rise with changes in seasonal flows will have profound impacts for both communities and natural areas.   What really seems to be missing is a more comprehensive study that better quantifies and qualifies the predicted changes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Fence to Protect Trees Installed

 

In 2005, Fish First donated 50 cedars for stream restoration of Gee Creek.  In addition, the City of Ridgefield provided $250 for purchase of trees. They were planted along the creek just upstream and downstream from the Heron Ridge Bridge. By 2009 all the trees had been cut down by beavers except for 2 cedars they had somehow missed. Many of the cedars and firs that Tevis Laspa planted were also taken by beavers. Many of the ones I planted  have been taken.  We’ve learned that trees need to be placed in cages or behind fences.

Tevis and I  recently installed 450 feet of fence along Gee creek to protect the trees that are going to be planted.  A few areas north of the Heron Ridge Storm Water Facility have been cleared of blackberries and brush in preparation for planting this winter and spring.  Tevis will provide 50 cedars and 50 firs.  I’ve ordered 50 alders, 50 ash, and 25 nine bark bushes.  Along the fence, we intend to saturate the line with willow and cottonwood posts to help with stream bank stabilization.

 

How to Bury a Walnut

Find a good place

Dig a hole

Put in the walnut

Backfill the hole

Carefully arrange the sod to hide the nut.

Last:  Remember where it is buried