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PART 2: SAN JUAN COUNTY CHARACTERIZATION REPORT
CHAPTER 6: DESCRIPTIONS OF THE INDIVIDUAL PRIORITY WATERSHEDS
East Sound | Friday Harbor | Westcott/Garrison Bays | Fisherman Bay | Roche Harbor |
Mud/Hunter Bays | West Sound | Deer Harbor | False Bay
The Friday Harbor watershed was ranked second in the 1988 San Juan County Watershed Ranking Report. The watershed includes the Town of Friday Harbor, the only incorporated jurisdiction in the county, and the Port of Friday Harbor. Wetlands constitute over 11 percent of the Friday Harbor watershed, the largest proportion found in the county. Much of the area shown as wetland is currently in agriculture use but some small remnants of natural wetlands remain. Salmon Creek (also known as Beaverton Creek) is the largest creek draining to Friday Harbor and terminates near the UW Marine Labs. Two other small drainages terminate in Friday Harbor including the Spring Street culvert which drains the Town of Friday Harbor and a second short drainage just north of Spring Street. There are no lakes but there are several Class 3 ponds.
The harbor includes River Otter habitat. Some eel grass beds are located in the southeast portion of the harbor. Some Bald Eagle nests are documented. Historically, herring have been harvested from Friday Harbor in commercial quantities but no commercial or recreational fishing occurs now, except some crabbing and shrimp netting off the docks at the Port.
In addition to the Town and Port, the Friday Harbor watershed has five marinas, a haul-out facility, the Washington State Ferry dock, a community dock and several private docks on Brown Island. The harbor is used extensively for boat rendezvous. The Port of Friday Harbor is the largest marina in the San Juan Islands with 464 moorages. Liveaboards are permitted in most of the marinas as well as permanent and transient moorage. Liveaboards also moor in the harbor. A sewage pumpout facility is available at the Port of Friday Harbor. Many tour boat operations utilize the Port facilities as well as seaplane service. Two marinas provide fuel service.
The largest contiguous area of impervious surfaces in the county is in Friday Harbor. Traffic levels in Friday Harbor are very high as all traffic to the island enters at this point. Many walk-on passengers from the ferries, tour boats, and small planes visit the Town, creating strains on the water and waste-water systems. The Town has chosen to limit sewer and water services to customers within its existing boundaries.
Urban, residential, and marina development has occurred along the shoreline of much of the harbor. The UW Marine Labs are located at the northeast corner of the watershed on at the entrance to the harbor.
A gravel pit is located between the south end of Friday Harbor and the north end of Griffin Bay, but closed extraction operations in the spring of 1999. The original contours of the landscape are still shown on the topography layer of the maps, but the hill shown is no longer there.
There are several permitted small hazardous waste generators located within the watershed. The solid waste facility for San Juan Island is located in this watershed.
There are five service stations in town, and the county maintenance shop has a fueling station. Water and oil separators are present in some of the newer storm drain installations, and some stormwater is treated, but most drains to the harbor. The Town of Friday Harbor adopted a Stormwater Management Plan in 1997 and created a stormwater utility district to fund upgrades in the stormwater system. It is currently upgrading portions of its storm sewer system.
An investigation by Department of Ecology in 1983 concluded that fecal coliform concentrations in Friday Harbor marine waters were due to inadequate treatment of sewage discharge and improper boat waste disposal. A follow up report in 1986 cited improvements in the wastewater discharge and pointed to boat waste as a source of contamination.
Agriculture constitutes about 15 percent of the land use and is primarily pasture and hay land. Most of the lands in agriculture are located in or adjacent to wetlands. There is some harvestable timber in the watershed, mostly in the uplands. There are clearcut and thinned patches of forest evident.
Animals have access to the creek drainage at some locations. During a survey in the winter of 1997-98, animals observed were cattle, sheep, and some horses at densities of between one and four animals per acre. Ponded water was observed on many fields during the rainy season.
Much of the land outside of the Town of Friday Harbor has been designated for a high level of growth with a one-half acre density in the county's 1998 Comprehensive Plan and at this time is not built to development potential. The majority of the watershed is comprised of soils and terrain that have low erosion potential. The Town of Friday Harbor has sewer service, but much of the land with one-half to two acre development potential is not included. These lands occur in areas with poor soils for septic systems.
Water samples were taken near the outlet at Salmon Creek and at the Spring Street culvert in May of 1997. Both samples exceeded State standards for fecal coliforms and the Spring Street culvert exceeded recommended thresholds for nitrate. During subsequent sampling between November 1997 and February 1998, fecal coliform were in excess of 50 colonies/100 mL on all six sampling occasions at the Spring Street culvert. Levels of pH were close to threshold values, between 8.5 and 8.7 on all occasions, and exceeded the State freshwater standard of 8.5 in three out of seven samples. All other parameters were within acceptable ranges.
At Salmon Creek, fecal coliforms thresholds were exceeded in two out of six samples. During December and January, significant amounts of foam were observed at Salmon Creek (more than all other creeks surveyed) to the extent that foam levels reached past the top of the culvert under the road leading to the UW Marine Labs. Recommended thresholds for total suspended solids were exceeded once in Salmon Creek.
The sample site for Salmon Creek is located adjacent to the road to the UW Marine Labs. Land use upstream of the creek is agricultural and residential housing. Town of Friday Harbor provides sewer service to the majority of residential housing immediately upstream. Some older residences are present. A trailer park is located near the creek. Cattle were observed grazing in the pasture lands adjacent to some upstream stretches. This creek drains the extensive wetlands of Beaverton Valley which includes dense peat bogs. (See Chapter 5, Water Quality, for more information about these sample results.)
Landcover Vegetation Current Land Use*
14% Dense Forest
38% Timber Land
11% Sparse Forest
16% Residential parcels (782)
26% Wetlands Town of Friday Harbor
7% Upland freshwater
11% Marine and intertidal
Designated Growth Areas Yes Lakes
Upland Native Ecosystem No Streams
Critical Marine Habitat No Class 3
Surface Water Resource Area No Class 4/5
Research/Education Areas Yes Drainage runoff
*Current land use information is from the County Assessor's records. Does not include commercial. Of the Town's 250 acres, 34% is commercial/industrial and 45% is vacant.
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