Author Archives: Connie Clark

Highlight – Whidbey Earth and Ocean Month

April is Whidbey Earth & Ocean Month – see for full information. ECO Network members are sponsoring several of the events. (download poster) . Many Earth and Ocean Month events have been included in our calendar.


March 2015 Spotlight – Island County Environmental Health

Island County Environmental Health monitors many essential services on Whidbey and Camano Islands. We inspect schools, pools, restaurants and recycling centers. 

Maribeth Crandell collecting samples of toxic algae.

Maribeth Crandell collecting samples of toxic algae.

We are members of ECO-Net because we also care about water quality, from drinking water, to salmon restoration projects.  We take water samples for testing at popular swimming beaches, test shellfish and work with State and local agencies to monitor them for toxic algae blooms, paralytic shellfish poisoning, fecal coliform or other health hazards.  Our outreach efforts help prevent any public safety or health problems.

schematic diagram of relationship of house, septic system, well, and groundwater

From what goes down the drain inside, to protecting the drain field outside, Home Owner Septic Training will help you live well with your septic system and learn how to avoid costly repairs or replacement.

A number of our staff work with home owners on septic system issues. In Island County, roughly 70% of homes depend upon septic systems for waste water treatment and 70% are dependent on ground water for drinking.  Many people have moved to the Islands from urban areas where they were on a city sewer system.  Septic systems can be very different. In order to protect our water and public health we offer educational programs for home owners with septic systems.   

Septic 101 is offered for free to teach people how to live with their septic system in a way that helps that system work well and last as long as possible.  Septic 201 classes teach people how to inspect their system.  If you have a conventional gravity or pressure system, and pay $28, you could get certified to inspect your own system.  Both of these classes are taught both online and in person.

For those with an alternative system like a mound, sand filter or aerobic treatment unit, you can attend our new free Alternative Septic System Class taught in partnership with the Whidbey Island Conservation District.  (This class is offered for education, not certification.)  Alternative Systems require a licensed Maintenance Service Provider to inspect the system annually.

Inspections, like a tune-up for your car, help catch any problems before they become expensive repairs or failure. Inspections are required by local and state laws every 1-3 years depending on the type of system you have. If, during your inspection you discover the system has problems, we have financial assistance available for repairs or replacement. 

If you live in the Penn Cove Watershed, we have a Rebate Program that will probably cover the cost of your inspection.  It is available while supplies last for 2015 inspections in the Penn Cove Watershed. Those who are up-to-date with their inspections will get a PC sticker for their car.

For a list of Septic System professionals, and a link to registration for our online or in person Septic classes, information on our financial assistance or Rebate Programs visit: or call 360-679-7350.

Volunteers make it happen!

At our January 2015 Econet meeting, two attendees were applauded for the eight thousand hours they each have volunteered here on Whidbey Island.

photo of Jill Hein, Barbara Bennett, Connie Clark

Jill Hein, BW coordinator Barbara Bennett, Connie Clark

Jill Hein was in the Beach Watchers class of 2005, and is very active in Audubon, Orcanet, and Beach Watchers (where she supports the training program, Sound Waters, and just about everything else!).  In 2014, she was named “Jan Holmes Coastal Volunteer of the Year“.

Connie Clark joined Beach Watchers in 2007, and works quietly behind the scenes to make sure that all teams and events work effectively.  She uses her  expertise in all-things-web for the benefit of Beach Watchers (Sound Waters, website, tracking volunteers, classes in creative problem solving) and was instrumental in setting up this Whidbey Econet website.  She loves taking complex information and making it accessible – an early project was her EZID game – for exploring the intertidal fauna and flora of the Salish Sea.

January 2015 Spotlight – WSU Island County Beach Watchers

UPDATE: Beach Watchers will become an independent non-profit organization effective January 1, 2016. Their new name is Sound Water Stewards of Island County.

Island County Beach Watchers are trained volunteers dedicated to protecting and preserving the marine environment of Puget Sound and the greater Salish Sea through citizen science/research, education, outreach and stewardship. Beach Watchers is a program of Washington State University Extension, connecting the resources of the University with the unique marine-focused needs and opportunities of local communities.

As Beach Watchers enters its 25th year, more than 500 local residents have completed training and dedicate thousands of hours annually to enhance marine awareness, research and stewardship in Island County.

  • bw-logo
    Beach Watchers have worked for 25 years to understand, value and protect Island County's priceless marine environment.
  • Learning to measure beach gradients
    Each year, the new class learns about intertidal monitoring. Here they are learning to measure beach gradients
  • intertidal monitoring at coupeville – 2
    Tracking what's found in the intertidal zone
  • monomfilament recycling tube
    A recycling tube for capturing monofilament fishing line before it entangles wildlife.
  • fishing line ready to be recycled
    Fishing line ready to be recycled.
  • Dragging plastic fishing net off the beach
    Dragging plastic fishing net off the beach
  • microplastics on the beach
    Surveying microplastics that appear on our beaches
  • sound waters logo
    BW's plan and put on Sound Waters - a one day university for all - on all things Puget Sound - always the first Saturday of February
  • surveying eelgrass up close
    'Fun in the Mud' eelgrass team - counting eelgrass shoots
  • eelgrass-boat-1
    BW's getting ready to survey eelgrass beds using underwater video
  • rearticulated porpoise at coupeville wharf
    Rudy, a Dall's porpoise - at the Coupeville Wharf
  • seining
    Seining to count and measure juvenile salmon.
  • langley whale center
    BW's volunteer as docents at the new Langley Whale Center.
  • teaching kids at maxwellton
    Teaching kids about the intertidal zone
  • Digging for dinner
    Teaching families the best (and sustainable) ways to dig for clams
  • pigeon guillemots
    BW's participate in the Pigeon Guillemot Survey
  • necropsy
    BW's assist with necropsies to determine trends and record findings with NOAA
  • crabber hats
    BW's wear funny hats - to help get the message out to crabbers to use biodegradable escape cord - and ensure more crabs for all in future years.

While Beach Watchers spans all of Island County – this article highlights Whidbey Island activities (Camano Island BW’s are associated with the Snohomish-Camano ECONet). We work both independently and in collaboration with many other organizations.

  • Beach Watcher led activities
    • Coupeville Wharf – education and environmental displays
    • Crabber education
    • Digging for Dinner – teaching others to clam
    • Flora/fauna surveys (for 15 years) of the intertidal zone at more than 30 beaches – the results are now being used by UW researchers. Try your hand at the EZ-ID game
    • Monofilament fishing line recycling
    • Plastics surveying and education
    • Sound Waters – a one-day university for all – on all things Puget Sound – held on the first Saturday in February – we expect over 500 people to join us on February 7th at South Whidbey High School for our 20th year. No prior knowledge is required to attend – just an interest in learning about and taking care of this amazing place that we call home.
  • Working with Whidbey Econet Members
    • Deception Pass State Park – tidepool docents
    • Island County Marine Resources Committee – eel grass monitoring, pigeon guillemot study, seining
    • Island County Shore Stewards – sharing knowledge, education, best practices for shoreline living
    • Orca Network – docents at the Langley Whale Center
    • Whidbey Audubon – Christmas bird count
    • Whidbey EcoNet – website
    • Whidbey Watershed Stewards – teaching at the outdoor classroom, wetlands restoration, smolt counts
    • WSU Waste Wise – reduce / reuse / recycle!
  • Working with other Puget Sound organizations
    • COASST – monitoring beaches to collect seabird data for marine conservation
    • Marine Mammal Stranding Network – data collection on’stranded’ mammals, necropsies
    • WA State Parks – interpretive talks at Admiralty Head Lighthouse and Fort Casey

Beach Watchers training is an exceptional opportunity to receive more than 100 hours of university level instruction from experts in diverse fields. The training is a mix of indoor instruction, guided field trips, and learning-while-doing on summer projects. Class topics include watersheds & groundwater, marine biology & oceanography, salmon & near shore habitats, climate change, forestry, waste reduction, recycling, sustainable living, native plants & animals, intertidal beach monitoring, coastal geology, and more.

Each graduate is expected to give back 100 volunteer hours – deciding the particular ways they want to be involved. On average, each graduate contributes over 500 hours back to the local community and has fun while doing so!

If you are interested in becoming a Beach Watcher – applications for the 2015 training must be postmarked by Feb 20. See

December 2014 Spotlight – Gardening at South Whidbey Tilth

The word “tilth” is defined as the quality of cultivated soil. South Whidbey Tilth Association is a diverse network of people working cooperatively within our organization and in the community. Our commitment is to advocate, study and teach agricultural practices consistent with stewardship of the natural world. We promote and demonstrate principles and practices of sustainable agriculture, as well as cultivate a variety of opportunities for local market gardeners and farmers.


The South Whidbey Tilth Sustainability Campus is a community space to demonstrate and practice sustainable agriculture and to support one another’s work to steward the natural world. On over 11 acres, the campus includes a seasonal farmers’ market, community gardens, children’s garden, worm bins, a children’s play house, the forest understory recovery project, a Garry oak meadow, a landscape designed to reduce invasive plants along the State Route 525, and more.

Lesedi Farm on the Tilth campus

Lesedi Farm on the Tilth campus

Organic soil building is at the heart of what grows healthy plants. Soil with good tilth has a rich, spongy humus that holds moisture. Humus is formed by the decomposition of leaves and other plant material and by soil microorganisms. Soil loses its tilth when the soil is compressed or toxic chemicals are added, causing water, nutrients and soil to run off into waterways and into Puget Sound.

Water Conservation in the Garden workshop instructor Marc Wilson begins an installation in the community garden.

Water Conservation in the Garden workshop instructor Marc Wilson begins an installation in the community garden.

A water metering and irrigation system is being installed in the Tilth Community Garden plots and landscaped areas to monitor the water use from the well. The gardened areas include timers and manifolds for drip irrigation or soaker hoses, allowing water used to go directly into the soil around plants. Funding for the related educational component came through a mini-grant from Puget Sounds Starts Here, via ECO-Net, administered through Science, Education and Adventure (SEA). A Whidbey Island Garden Tour grant funded the materials.

Besides individual garden plots leased annually to individuals and families, the campus hosts special gardens, as well.

Dorcas Young shows off the interior of her high tunnel hoop house during the 2014 Whidbey Island Farm Tour.

Dorcas Young shows off the interior of her high tunnel hoop house during the 2014 Whidbey Island Farm Tour.

Lesedi Farm, an incubator farm uses a quarter acre on Tilth’s Sustainability Campus. Farmer Dorcas Young worked with the Whidbey Island Conservation District to construct a high tunnel hoop house to grow the African crops of her native Botswana. She sells produce fresh and prepared at Whidbey Island Farmers’ Markets. Water-saving irrigation is already installed on the Lesedi parcel.

The Whidbey Veterans Service Corps (WVSC), a project of the Whidbey Island Veterans Resource Center (VRC), has interested military veterans preparing, planting and harvesting two garden plots in the South Whidbey Tilth Community Garden during the growing season. The VSC mission is to provide opportunities, especially to younger vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, to apply military service skills and mission teamwork abilities to service projects for one another, their families and their community by growing some of their own vegetables, as well as providing surplus vegetables for other veterans, their families and the Good Cheer Food Bank.

Calyx students proudly show off their potato harvest

Calyx students proudly show off their potato harvest

The Children’s Garden is cultivated one day each week by the Calyx Community Arts School, where children plant, water and harvest their own food. Their chickens are cooped around the perimeter of the garden plot to keep weeds down, catch insects and provide eggs for lunchtime.

Watch for Tilth’s gardening class series this spring. Learn more at the South Whidbey Tilth website,

September 2014 Spotlight – Whidbey Camano Land Trust

The Whidbey Camano Land Trust (Land Trust) finds great value as a member of the Whidbey Eco Network. This network is a testimony to the benefits of joining into partnership serving the common good, and the Land Trust truly believes that partnerships make it possible!  As a member of Whidbey Eco Network, the Land Trust has an increased understanding of what like-minded groups are accomplishing on the Island, and is able to collaborate with these organizations to cultivate a healthier environment and community for today and future generations.

         Admiralty Inlet Preserve by Mark Sheehan

Admiralty Inlet Preserve – photo by Mark Sheehan

The Land Trust is a nonprofit nature conservancy organization founded by a group of citizens who wanted to save the great beauty and nature of Whidbey and Camano Islands — including working farms, natural habitats for fish and wildlife, undeveloped shoreline, trail and beach access, and scenic vistas. They saw great changes happening and knew that, without decisive action, these extraordinary Islands would be lost forever.

The Land Trust actively involves the community to protect, restore and appreciate the important natural habitats and resource lands that support the diversity of life on our islands and in the waters of Puget Sound.


Engle Farm – protected in 2012

Over the last 30 years, the Land Trust has protected 76 properties totaling over 7,800 acres on Whidbey and Camano Islands. Partnering with landowners, farm families, and the broader community, the Land Trust has expanded state parks, county open spaces and protected working farms and forests, shorelines and lakes, and many natural habitats. With the support of their more than 1,100 member-households, the Land Trust has also restored wetlands, estuaries, forests and prairies improving water quality and habitat for fish and wildlife.

It’s easy to fall in love with Whidbey and Camano Islands. These Islands are truly magical — providing refuge for wildlife and places for people to enjoy the outdoors. The Land Trust believes that love of our Islands is enhanced through positive experiences on the land, and provides opportunities through stewardship work parties, educational tours and special events, for people of all ages and backgrounds to connect with the land.

Hammons Preserve - Work Party Success

Hammons Preserve – Work Party Success

If you enjoy the beautiful, natural surroundings of Whidbey and Camano Islands and want to protect these irreplaceable features for current and future generations, please visit and become a member today.