By Barbara Owens, Pollution Prevention Program Manager

Does it feel like you’ve been in hibernation, just waiting for spring to start?  Or maybe you migrated south?  I know this to be the preferred response to winter for a few of our dedicated volunteers. So this had me wondering, just how many of you are reading this newsletter from warmer climes?

Resisting hibernation, the Pollution Prevention team has been plowing through a busy winter- certifying 3 new Clean Marinas, scheduling cleanup events for spring and ramping up for an even more successful year of public engagement, for which we recently earned an award from the Puget Sound Partnership.

Puget Sound Champion Award

Puget Sound Champions

In January, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance received a Puget Sound Champion award for Pollution Prevention program work focused on public engagement in the Snohomish and Stillaguamish watersheds.  Award recipients are chosen by their peers and the awards are presented by the Puget Sound Partnership’s Leadership Council.  The awards serve “to recognize outstanding local partners for their contributions to the ecosystem recovery effort” and Soundkeeper is very pleased to be among the numerous other Champions honored in 2012.


Part of what makes Soundkeeper strong is our partnerships in working with other non-profits.  Through these relationships we learn from others and apply those lessons to our own work.  For example, we work regularly with the Nature Consortium and the Environmental Coalition of South Seattle on the bi-annual Duwamish Alive event.   During planning meetings I noticed they had very capable, intelligent, young volunteers serving with them on a full-time basis through the AmeriCorps program.    AmeriCorps is a program of the federal government that engages adults in service to their community; it is often compared to the Peace Corps, but is distinguished by taking place on U.S. soil.  AmeriCorps has a wide variety of programs; Soundkeeper is participating in what is called the Individual Placement program for young adults (applicants must be under 25).  AmeriCorps, in my mind, truly creates a win-win situation.  A young person is able to gain valuable experience and develop skills and contacts to help them find employment in the future and the agency they serve with benefits from the numerous hours they spend on their service project.  Other benefits to members include a monetary education award at the completion of their term.

americorpsKathryn Davis, our first-ever AmeriCorps member, is now halfway through her 10.5 month term.  The focus of her project has been expanding volunteer recruitment, coordination and recognition.  Thanks to Kathryn, our new website now includes detailed and informative descriptions of our volunteer opportunities and a new volunteer interest form to help us learn more about potential volunteers.  She has also been working on a weather-resistant storybook about the history of the Duwamish River to help educate volunteers on boat patrols about the evolution of Seattle’s only river.  Kathryn is gaining valuable exposure to our many agency and non-profit partners and hones her public speaking skills at various events.  Skipper Paul has especially appreciated Kathryn’s help coordinating volunteers for our weekly kayak and boat patrols.  Next up, Kathryn will be developing exciting, interactive and fun activities and games to deepen the connection we make with volunteers during our cleanup events.  These activities will allow us to engage on a more personal level with event attendees, educate them about environmental issues in an enjoyable way and will result in a more lasting impression.  Keep an eye out for these new items at our upcoming spring cleanup events.

You can see Kathryn in action during a recent kayak patrol on Lake Union in this short video  our new Communication Coordinator, Laura James, created.  To learn more about Kathryn’s experience as an AmeriCorps member and her service time at Soundkeeper please read her recent blog entry  and share it with anyone you know that may be interested in AmeriCorps or volunteering with Soundkeeper.


Itching to get outside and do some good for the Sound?  We have plenty of opportunities for you and your family, friends and neighbors to volunteer a few hours to help improve Puget Sound.  Mark your calendars now and please visit the Events page on our website for all the details and to register for these events:

April 20th- Duwamish Alive! and Earth Day Festival
Join us at Duwamish Waterway Park in the South Park neighborhood of Seattle where we’ll be picking up marine debris from the river via kayaks.  This event will be followed by an Earth Day Festival at the Duwamish Longhouse where you can learn more about the upcoming Superfund cleanup.

April 27th – Earth Day at Everett’s Union Slough
Soundkeeper will be partnering with the People For Puget Sound program of EarthCorps to work on habitat restoration and cleaning up marine debris from Union Slough in Everett.

May 11th – Port of Everett Cleanup
This annual event takes place at the Port of Everett where volunteers can hop on a boat for a free ride out to nearby Jetty Island to pick up marine debris.  A BBQ lunch celebration is provided to volunteers.

May 11th – Puget Sound Starts Here (PSSH) night at the Mariners
PSSH campaign volunteers will be sharing Puget Sound information as fans make their way into the stadium and during the game Puget Sound trivia will be played on the big screen.  Each person who purchases a ticket through the promotion will receive a PSSH and Mariners limited edition hat. Ticket prices are $15 for view tickets and $29 for field level tickets.  Go to and use the promo code “salmon”.

May 18th – Sweep
This Soundkeeper signature event is in its eleventh year!  More than 200 volunteers will hit the water in kayaks, canoes, rowboats and motorized support boats to clean up marine debris from Lake Union, Portage Bay and Union Bay.  Or stay on dry land and pickup debris from the park and neighborhood.  Volunteers receive an event shirt and lunch provided by sponsors.


Looking for the correct answer to our trivia question?  Here it is, from the NOAA Marine Debris Program: “The Japanese government estimated that the tsunami swept about 5 million tons of debris into the ocean, but that 70 percent sank off shore, leaving 1.5 million tons floating. There is no estimate of how much of that debris is still floating, now that it has been at sea for more than a year. We do know that the debris is no longer in a mass. Rather, many items are scattered across an area of the North Pacific that is roughly three times the size of the continental United States.”  And it is already washing ashore on Washington beaches.