Friends of the San Juans

Lovel Pratt Joins Friends of the San Juans!

by Friends of the San Juans on January 3, 2018 No comments

We’re excited to announce that Lovel Pratt has joined our team as the Director of Friends’ Marine Protection Program!

Lovel comes to Friends from Mulno Cove Consulting, where her work focused on safe shipping advocacy, reducing vessel traffic impacts, and oil spill prevention. She is a founding member of San Juan Islanders for Safe Shipping. While serving as a consultant for Friends and other environmental and governmental organizations, Pratt developed, facilitated and presented at a regional vessel traffic workshop; has prepared several comments on new and expanding terminal project applications and environmental reviews; and participated in numerous commercial shipping related rulemakings, committees, taskforces, workshops, and conferences.

“Lovel is a regional leader on marine policy issues and represents our community on critical issues. We are fortunate to have her join Friends of the San Juans with over two decades of experience and expertise at the local, state, and federal levels,” said Friends President Sanford Olson.

Pratt has over 25 years of experience working and volunteering in local county government, agriculture, affordable housing, and education. Pratt served for ten years on the SJC Planning Commission. In 2003, the Journal of the San Juan Islands named Pratt ‘Citizen of the Year’ for her leadership in the development of affordable housing. In 2008 she was elected to San Juan County Council where she served for one term.

While on the San Juan County Council, Pratt worked on commercial vessel traffic issues. She was appointed by the Washington State Association of Counties to several vessel traffic oil spill prevention, risk assessment, and rulemaking committees.

“Ensuring safe shipping through the San Juan Islands’ waterways is critical to maintaining our local and regional economy, culture, and environment. The addition of Lovel to our staff will ensure that decisions impacting the San Juans will be heard in Washington State, Washington DC, and British Columbia. The efforts to improve safe shipping; increase marine protections for orca, fish and wildlife; increase oil spill prevention and spill response capacity and safety; and improve transboundary coordination will benefit from the effective advocacy that Lovel will provide,” stated Friends Executive Director Stephanie Buffum.

Pratt moved to San Juan Island in 1991 and lives with her husband Boyd Pratt. They have raised three children and operated a small, diversified farm for 17 years. Lovel continues to work with Boyd Pratt on his local history research and writing projects, and is an active member of the San Juan Island Women’s Group.

Lovel can be reached at  or 360-378-2319.

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Friends of the San JuansLovel Pratt Joins Friends of the San Juans!

Friends Appeals San Juan County’s Shoreline Master Program

by Friends of the San Juans on January 3, 2018 No comments

Friends of the San Juans Appeals the San Juan County Shoreline Master Program for Failure to Protect Orca, Salmon, Forage Fish and Beaches

On December 22, the Friends of the San Juans (Friends) appealed San Juan County’s recently updated Shoreline Master Program (“SMP”) to the Washington Growth Management Hearings Board. The SMP is the primary tool for protecting the fragile marine ecosystem that depends on the health of that narrow band of shoreline where the water meets the land. In October, San Juan County and the Washington Department of Ecology rejected requests by many public commenters and adopted an SMP that Friends believes rolls back important protections for natural beach building, fish spawning beaches, and shoreline views.

Of greatest concern to the Friends are the likely indirect impacts that occur on the dwindling population of Southern Resident Killer Whales (“orca”) who frequent San Juan Islands waters every summer in search of their favorite food, Chinook salmon. The population has plummeted to 76 members and could fall still further if nothing is done to counteract their decline.  Particularly worrisome are adverse impacts to our forage fish spawning beaches and the threatened juvenile Chinook salmon that rear along our shorelines— and by extension to endangered orca higher up the food chain.

“Our County has said that protecting orca and helping recover Chinook salmon is a priority, yet this SMP failed to designate protections for the vast majority of forage fish spawning beaches and the bluffs that supply sand to many of those beaches,” stated Friends of the San Juans Executive Director, Stephanie Buffum. “And it went a step further and removed clauses that prevented development that disturbed spawning areas and allowed bulkheading that would seriously disrupt the creation of beaches from bluff erosion. The SMP essentially ignored the past 20 years of science that located important areas and identified the types of development that impacts them the most. We have to get this right, our orca depend on the San Juans,” added Buffum.

“The decisionmakers will tell you not to worry because the SMP mentions ‘no-net-loss,” according to Friends’ staff attorney, Kyle Loring. “But no-net-loss is just jargon for an experimental program that trades new impacts to sensitive areas for unproven efforts to improve other habitats.” The problem is that the scientific literature uniformly condemns this sort of ‘biodiversity trading’ scheme. “And not everything is exchangeable. Just ask our orcas – they’ll tell you that a Pink salmon is not a Chinook salmon.”

“There isn’t a single issue in our appeal that will come as a surprise,” said Tina Whitman, Science Director of Friends. “Since 2011, Friends of the San Juans and other concerned groups and citizens have been providing detailed comments about the failure of designations to protect the most important places: the ten miles of forage fish spawning beaches, the 30 miles of bluffs that create and feed our beaches.”  The reason we update the SMP is to incorporate new information and make sure our policies reflect community values. “This effort failed on both counts,” Whitman concluded. “This community wants improved protections for salmon and orcas.”

“We have worked tirelessly for over 6 years to avoid having to appeal, but unfortunately, the new SMP just fails our community in too many ways and it sets the stage of the next twenty years of development along our shorelines,” stated Friends’ Board President San Olson. “The whales just don’t have that kind of time left.”

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Friends of the San JuansFriends Appeals San Juan County’s Shoreline Master Program

Look what we all did in 2017!

by Friends of the San Juans on December 21, 2017 No comments

All of us at Friends of the San Juans are very appreciative of our members and partners as we reflect on 2017 – thank you for being part of our community who cares deeply for orca, salmon, clean water free of Atlantic salmon netpens and oilspill free oceans.

We wanted to give you an update on some of the work we’ve accomplished together this year!

2017 highlights…
  • The County-wide plastic bag ban we helped advocate for went into effect on May 1!
  • Our shoreline guide was mailed to all shoreline property owners in San Juan County. As a result, 60 waterfront landowners signed up for site visits that will help them better understand how to steward their property to support our important food webs.
  • We co-hosted the Inter-tribal Canoe Journey at English Camp and Lopez Island in July. This was the largest gathering of northwest tribes on San Juan Island in 150 yearsClick here to see a video.
  • Island youth built 2 cedar strip canoes with a Lummi master carver, participated in climate education programs, and explored the islands with us this year. We’re so inspired by the next generation.
  • Islanders expressed broad support for safer options for cycling and walking in our community. Look for possible legislation in 2019 that could make San Juan County eligible for funding for multi-use paths and shoulders.

Together let’s take bold and effective actions to continue to protect what we love in 2018! We will keep you posted on all the ways you can engage with this important work in the new year. In the meantime, have great holidays!

Thank you for your support!

Katie, Kyle, Tina, Patricia, Shannon, Jana, and Stephanie

P.S. If you have already given to Friends this holiday season – thank you so much! If you haven’t, please help us meet our $50,000 matching gift for all donations received before December 31, 2017. Double your impact with a gift today!

 (Pictured above: Our Washington Conservation Corps partners on Shaw Island in October. This restoration project removed angular rock from a forage fish spawning beach, which will support the salmon, seabirds and marine mammals we all love!)
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Friends of the San JuansLook what we all did in 2017!

Help Us Meet our $50,000 Match!

by Friends of the San Juans on December 6, 2017 No comments

A $50,000 matching gift has been provided by generous members for all donations received before December 31, 2017. Please double your impact with a gift today!

Dear Supporter,

Orcas are the icon of the Salish Sea and they are critically endangered. I remember when there were 98 Southern Resident orca whales in 1995. Now the population has dropped to 76.

Friends of the San Juans works to protect the orcas and we need your help. 

Sometimes the whales’ needs are obvious, and easy to act upon, but many times they are below the surface of the water. Our orcas must consume thousands of salmon every year to survive; in turn salmon must eat thousands of forage fish; and forage fish need natural shorelines on which to lay their eggs.

Friends’ programs help citizens and decision makers better understand these connections with the natural world we all share.

Right now critical connections are threatened by unsustainable shoreline development, by marine shipping that decreases orcas’ ability to find food while also increasing the risk of an oil spill, and by pollution from microplastics and stormwater.

Click here to see how your support will help Friends of the San Juans work to protect this elaborate web of connections—our orcas and salmon, and in turn, our island community, economy, and way of life. 

As Friends of the San Juans’ Executive Director, I have the honor of working with people in our local and global communities who are making a difference. This year almost 1,000 citizens took a stand against fossil fuel exports and supported climate change action at our events, 60 waterfront landowners signed up for site visits that will help them better understand how to steward their shorelines to support our important food webs, and 6 landowners partnered with Friends to restore 1,000 feet of shoreline habitat to support our forage fish, salmon, and orca. Help us continue this momentum.

Because you share our vision of a healthy, connected community—one in which humans, forage fish, salmon, and orcas all prosper together—please click here to make a special gift or renew your membership today. Thank you for your continued support!


Stephanie Buffum

(Photo above by Chris Teren)

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Friends of the San JuansHelp Us Meet our $50,000 Match!

Citizen Scientists Needed! Help us Document King Tides

by Friends of the San Juans on November 30, 2017 No comments

Do you have a digital camera or camera phone? If so, help local and regional researchers capture this year’s King Tides!

Join Friends and king tide volunteers from your community and across the globe to document the year’s highest tides by taking photos of your favorite local shorelines. See below for this season’s King Tides (December 4 – January 7). Images with some recognizable feature such as a road, unique rock or tree, a recognizable public place or building are the most effective (like the one of Crescent Bay Road on Orcas Island above). If possible, take a photo from the same vantage point at an average high tide or even a low tide.

A “King Tide” is the highest predicted high tide of the year at a given coastal location. These highest tides occur naturally when the sun and the moon align, increasing the gravitational pull on the Earth’s oceans. This only happens one to two times per year. Click here to learn more about the science of how the high tides happen and what they show us.

Send your pictures to with information on when and where the picture was taken. By sharing your pictures you will help our community see the future. Visualizing sea level rise can help us understand how to reduce future impacts. Friends will compile and share these pictures as one part of our ongoing efforts to promote habitat friendly sea level rise adaptation projects throughout the islands.

Always remember – your safety is more important than an image, so use caution in high wave or high water events.

2017-18 Winter King Tides:

Date Approximate Time* Predicted High Tide**


December 4, 2017 6:30am 8.5
December 5, 2017 7:00 am 9
December 6, 2017 8:00 am 9
December 7, 2017 9:00 am 9
December 8, 2017 10:00 am 9
December 9, 2017 10:30 am 9
December 10, 2017 11:00 am 8.5
December 21, 2017 8:00 am 8.5
December 22, 2017 9:00 am 8.5
December 23, 2017 9:30 am 8.5
January 3, 2018 7:00 am 9
January 4, 2018 8:00 am 9
January 5, 2018 8:30 am 9
January 6, 2018 9:00 am 9
January 7, 2018 10:00 am 9


*Note: times are approximate for Friday Harbor station, anytime from 1 hour before to 1 hour after approximate time appropriate for field photographs.

**Note: tidal elevations are NOAA predicted (not observed) tides.  Additional factors such as low barometric pressure, wind waves, and/or the shape of a beach can increase tidal elevations above predicted levels.

Additional Resources:

Friends of the San Juans Sea Level Rise Resources

Washington Sea Grant King Tides Site

The WA Dept. of Ecology and WA Sea Grant photo sharing website

Tides, King Tides & Storm Events Article by Jefferson County WSU Extension

International King Tides Site

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Friends of the San JuansCitizen Scientists Needed! Help us Document King Tides

Speak out against Xylene in the Salish Sea – November 2!

by Friends of the San Juans on October 26, 2017 No comments

In May 2017, many of you wrote comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for Tesoro (now re-named Andeavor) Anacortes Refinery’s proposal to manufacture and export xylene to Asia.

Xylene (pronounced ZIE-leen) is a highly volatile, hazardous and toxic petrochemical which has never before been manufactured in our region and transported through our waters. This project will require 120 additional annual tank vessel transits through the Salish Sea, increasing the risk of an oil spill — or worse, a xylene spill — in the waters surrounding our islands.

The Final EIS is now complete and it’s not good news for the health and safety of the island waters in which we, and our orcas, are trying to live. Planning to forge ahead with this project, Tesoro/Andeavor is applying to Skagit County for a Shoreline Substantial Development Permit. The good thing is, Skagit County is inviting the public to weigh in.

Friends of the San Juans and our members have this opportunity to say “NO!” to xylene in our waters and insist that the EIS be amended!

When: Thursday, November 2, 2017

Where: Skagit County Commissioner’s Hearing Room, 1800 Continental Place, Mount Vernon

Time: Speakers’ sign-up begins at 8:30 am. Hearing begins at 9:00 am.

Let’s show our mainland neighbors that we islanders are fierce about protecting our islands!

We will each have 3 minutes to have our say. If you aren’t able to come to the hearing, your written comments can be delivered for you. Please e-mail your comments to me at by Wednesday, November 1. Please address your comments to: Skagit County Planning and Development Services, and include this information: Tesoro Shoreline Substantial Development Permit, FILE #PL15-0392.

If you would like to carpool to the hearing: Please contact Friends of the San Juans: 360-378-2319 or

Let’s urge our Council Members to join us in representing San Juan County at the hearing:

Bill Watson:

Rick Hughes:

Jamie Stephens:

To submit comments on-line:

Scroll to the bottom of the page to: “How to Comment on Permit Applications and Appeals”

Include the Proposal Name or Permit Number: Tesoro Shoreline Substantial Development Permit, FILE #PL15-0392

DEADLINE FOR ON-LINE COMMENTS: Wednesday, November 1 @ 4:30pm

More information and ideas for commenting:


Here’s why:

  • The EIS fails to include reasonable alternatives, including the production of low-sulphur fuels only.
  • The EIS fails to analyze the project’s vessel traffic oil spill risk and marine impacts.
  • The EIS fails to accurately account for all greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The EIS fails to fully address the project’s impacts to the state and federally listed as endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales, including impacts from vessel noise and potential xylene and propulsion fuel spills. The EIS confirms that “increases in vessel traffic could contribute to cumulative impacts.” However, recommended mitigation measures were refuted in the EIS. If the project’s impacts to our orca whales can’t be mitigated, the application should be denied.
  • The EIS fails to require all project-related laden tank vessels of any size to be escorted by tugs to assure safe transit through the Salish Sea.
  • The EIS fails to substantiate the claim that “the potential impacts of a project-related worst-case spill on ferry traffic would be less than significant.” Require confirmation from Washington State Ferries. Ferries are the marine highway and primary transportation route for islanders and island visitors. Grocery stores that receive all their merchandise via ferries have only approximately 2 and 1/2 days’ worth of food in stock. The loss of our ferries, even for a short time, would pose severe risks to both human health and the local economy.
  • The EIS fails to require all vessels associated with the project to be accredited as “quiet” by ship classification societies. Orca whales are impacted by ship noise. At the very least, this project should be required to ensure that ship noise impacts are mitigated.

About Tesoro Xylene:

About the hearing:

Project FAQs:

“Final environmental review of Tesoro xylene project doesn’t address concerns over worker safety, tanker spills, threats to Southern Resident orcas”

“Final study released for Tesoro refinery xylene project”

Sonic Sea, the film:


Thank you to San Juan Islanders for Safe Shipping for putting all this material together!

And thank you for speaking up for a safe Salish Sea!

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Friends of the San JuansSpeak out against Xylene in the Salish Sea – November 2!

“Rocks Off the Beach” Project Completed on Shaw Island!

by Friends of the San Juans on October 25, 2017 No comments

Spawning habitat for the surf smelt, a small fish important in marine food webs, just got a whole lot better at a local beach thanks to the hard, and often muddy, work of public service organizations, contractors, landowners, community members and school kids. Over the past few weeks 600 linear feet of shoreline has been improved along Shaw Island’s Blind Bay, a priority forage fish spawning region in the county. The surf smelt that spawn year round on the beaches of Blind Bay require small gravel and sand to successfully incubate their tiny eggs. Friends of the San Juans led efforts to remove large angular rock that over the decades had fallen from armoring structures and covered large portions of the natural beach.

Work occurred at two locations along the bay, with different restoration methods. At one site, which hosted large volumes of rock slated for removal, Friends of the San Juans contracted with Shaner Excavating and Tree Service of Orcas Island to mobilize large equipment and mechanically remove about 120 cubic yards of large rock. A combination of sand and small gravel nourishment material, also known as ‘fish mix,’ was then brought in to restore suitable spawning substrate to the impacted beach.

At a second smaller site, with a much thinner layer of angular rock, Friends worked with a Washington Conservation Corps crew, Shaw School students, and community volunteers to enhance the spawning site. Over 6 cubic yards of rock were removed from the beach surface, unburying the naturally smaller grained beach below. The cleared rock was placed into large bags and will be picked up for upland disposal by Hardy Schmidt Excavation of Shaw Island.

“Participants from the Shaw School and the WA Conservation Corps were so inspiring- they were enthusiastic, really got the connection between beaches and species further up the food chain such as salmon, seabirds and whales, and worked incredibly hard to remove a lot of rock despite a wide range of weather conditions” noted Friends Science Director Tina Whitman.

Friends of the San Juans will continue its work with local students to monitor the site and document potential changes in the distribution, density or success of incubating surf smelt eggs.  Special thanks to all the work crews, project designers at Coastal Geologic Services, and the multiple private landowners who participated in the project.

Funding for the project was provided by the Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Friends members.




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Friends of the San Juans“Rocks Off the Beach” Project Completed on Shaw Island!

Action Alert: Recent Salish Sea Salmon Spill

by Friends of the San Juans on August 30, 2017 No comments

You may already have heard that up to 305,000 Atlantic salmon escaped into the Salish Sea last week when a Cooke Aquaculture fish farm near Cypress Island broke apart. We’re writing to let you know what you can do to prevent this sort of thing in the future and avoid the spread of diseases and parasites to our wild salmon.

Another concern is how this will impact regional fisheries. The Lummi Nation is in a state of emergency following this accident. Lummi Fisheries have been catching thousands of Atlantic salmon alongside wild Pacific salmon, but officials still believe many of the invasive fish are already on their way to spawn in local streams and rivers. As of August 28, tribal fishermen have hauled in at least 200,000 pounds of invasive Atlantic salmon since the emergency declaration.

Click here to read more about the accident from Indian Country Today.

So, what to do?

Ask Washington State to protect our shared waters and resources from risky fish farming! First, thank Governor Inslee for directing the Washington Department of Ecology (“Ecology”) to adopt a moratorium on new permits for net pens. You can find an email portal at: This positive step will give time to determine whether Atlantic salmon net pens can be operated safely in our open, public waters.

Second, contact Governor Inslee and Ecology to let them know that no new net pens should be permitted unless they can be scientifically-guaranteed not to spill non-native species into our waters, spread diseases, parasites or pollution, or otherwise harm our wild Pacific Northwest salmon. Ecology and partner agencies are currently preparing for expanded fish farming in our public waters. At the end of 2016, they began developing recommendations for permitting, siting, monitoring, and regulating net pens in Washington waters. So if you are concerned about future impacts from farmed Atlantic salmon, then write to the Department of Ecology, c/o Cedar Bouta (, and let them know your opinion.

Learn more:

Click here to learn more about net pen issues and other ways to take action from Our Sound, Our Salmon.

Thank you for your voice and support!

Photo above from Vimeo/Wild Fish Conservancy. Still from video showing the broken pens from the fish farm off Cypress Island in the Salish Sea.

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Friends of the San JuansAction Alert: Recent Salish Sea Salmon Spill

Watch: Stuart Island Youth Exploration

by Friends of the San Juans on August 22, 2017 No comments

We had a great time on Stuart Island with local youth in July – check out the video:

We’re always looking for young people to get involved with us! In fact, this video was created by our summer social media intern who is a 12th grader at Spring Street. Get in touch if you’d like to join us (!

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Friends of the San JuansWatch: Stuart Island Youth Exploration