Five, broad benchmarks for action guide our work and the efforts of our parent organization, the Northwest Straits Commission (NWSC). We align our projects with these five benchmarks as reflected in the navigation sidebar at left: Marine Habitats, Marine Life, Marine Water Quality, Science, and Education & Outreach.
How we address these benchmarks is described in our Strategic Plan and in a workplan we develop each year.
Two principal flagship projects lead our current work. The Cornet Bay Restoration project is designed to improve nearshore marine habitat on a major salmon migration corridor just five miles from the mouths of both forks of the salmon-rich Skagit River. The Ebey's Prairie Bioswale project is designed to improve marine water quality in Penn Cove and Saratoga Passage by diverting storm water and sewer water away from the shore, treating it biologically and using it on Ebey's Prairie for much-needed agricultural irrigation and aquifer recharge.
Mindful that it is easier and more cost-effective to protect a healthy ecosystem than to restore a damaged one, we work hard to assess the condition of our nearshore and identify healthy-functioning habitats of especially high value to marine life. The key to all our projects is to collect good data so we can know what is working, what we need to protect, and develop good baseline information with which to make such assessments and measure changes.
In our first five years, from 1999-2004, we focused primarily on gathering this baseline scientific data. We mapped our shoreline for forage fish spawning beaches, eelgrass beds, shoreline hardening and feeder bluffs. To this in 2006 we added an ongoing survey of the breeding success of the Pigeon Guillemot, an indicator species of nearshore health and the marine food web. We also partnered with WSU Beach Watchers in a juvenile salmon seining study to track how salmon use our nearshore and pocket estuaries.
In 2003 we launched an ambitious communication initiative to raise public awareness of shoreline conditions and best practices. We established marine stewardship areas and a Shore Stewards program for shoreline property owners. We began deploying marine interpretive signage at parks, waysides and other publicly-accesible sites on the shoreline of Whidbey and Camano islands. We also published a best-selling stewardship and access guide to the shoreline, Getting to the Water's Edge, and joined in the NWSC's derelict gear and creosote debris removal efforts.
Most recently we have embarked on a project to archive all our nearshore data in a single online system, the SoundIQ Data System, so the public and government entities may more easily view and use it. Working in partnership with the Northwest Straits Commission and City of Bellingham, we believe we have found the long-sought solution to our search for a user-friendly online system to make this data readily accessible.