Murray visits Whidbey beach

"U.S. Senator Patty Murray came to Whidbey Island Aug. 4 to meet on the beach with members of the Island County Marine Resources Committee.Murray, along with U.S. Congressman Jack Metcalf, R-Langley, provided the leadership to bring about local Marine Resource Committees in each county that belongs to the Northwest Straits Commission. That commission was created to focus on the protection and enhancement of the marine resources of northern Puget Sound.Don Meehan, Island County WSU Extension Agent, organized the Marine Resources Committee, which is chaired by Clinton resident Mike Gallion.Meehan said the purpose of Sen. Murray's visit was to update her on activities of the committee. She's real interested in what we're doing, he said last week. We've only been in action for a year, and we've done an awful lot of stuff.As Murray walked along the beach in Coupeville, the tide was low and the rocks were covered with green eelgrass which, not coincidentally, has been a major focus of the Marine Resources Committee.Using grant money, the committee has embarked on a $25,000 study of eelgrass in Island County. It provides critical habitat to many marine species, such as herring and crabs, and is essential to salmon survival.About $4,000 of that grant money was used to send out an eelgrass survey to shoreline property owners. Volunteers from the Beach Watchers group walked miles of beach to inventory eelgrass. Most of the remainder of the grant money will be spent on underwater videography which, when used with the GPS mapping system, will, as Meehan said, tell us exactly where the eelgrass is growing. That survey is scheduled to be conducted this fall.Meehan said Murray seemed quite happy with the committee's progress. We're charging, he said.The committee's goal is to protect important areas of Puget Sound through voluntary action, Meehan stressed. He expects it to stay in action for at least five years.Members include Gallion, Tom Campbell, Jan Holmes, Matt Klope, Meehan, Tom Roehl, Linda Schoenharl, Tom Shaughnessy, Dick Toft and Gary Wood. There is one vacancy that needs to be filled.The next meeting will be Wednesday, Sept. 6 at 4 p.m. at the Monroe Landing Fire Hall on North Whidbey. The meetings are usually educational and are open to the public.BeachWatchers record eelgrassInventorying the eelgrass in Island County has taken many miles of walking by volunteers, many with the BeachWatchers organization.During the extreme summer low tides, for example, Robert Barnes and Karine Johnson-Werner walked the 6.9 miles between East Point (Fox Spit) and Sandy Point.In his written report, Barnes said he was most pleased to report that eelgrass was present over the entire distance except the following:1. About the first 50 feet south of the beacon at East Point.2. About 150 feet opposite the Park Avenue street ending in Langley.3. Immediately next to and under the piers at Nichols Brothers and Langley Marina.4. The Small Boat Harbor in Langley.5. About 700 feet of shoreline extending eastward from a point lying 1,440 feet west of the pier at Sandy Point.6. Immediately next to and under the pier at Sandy Point.7. About 325 feet of shoreline west of the beacon at Sandy Point.This and other similar reports from around Whidbey and Camano islands will help tell the Marine Resources Committee which areas are most in need of protection. "

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