Friends of the San Juans

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)

read more
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

read more
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!

read more
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.




read more
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.

read more
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 (!

read more
Friends of the San JuansWatch: Stuart Island Youth Exploration

Action Alert: A Simple Way To Fight the Oil Industry!

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

We need your help to take a stand against the oil industry. Stand Up To Oil , a coalition of regional environmental groups (including Friends of the San Juans), has been selected to receive up to $100,000 from CREDO Donations — but the amount of funding they receive depends on you.

Each month, our friends at CREDO donate a portion of their revenue to progressive causes-and August is our month! By voting for Stand Up To Oil you are helping us raise the funds we need to take on the most powerful industry in the world.

We need your vote! Click here to vote for Stand Up To Oil. (It only takes about a minute.)

Out of state oil companies keep trying to turn the Pacific Northwest into their doormat. But, we are fighting back, and winning! In just the last few years alone, we have stopped a new oil refinery, several crude oil-by-rail projects, and a refinery expansion project. Our work isn’t over though. We are expecting a big decision on the largest crude oil-by-rail project in North America sometime this fall.

The more votes Stand Up To Oil receives, the more money we receive from CREDO. Please vote and share this link with three of your friends (by email or social media) and help us protect the Northwest from the oil industry’s dirty and dangerous plan:

We can, and will fight back but we need the resources to make it happen. Stand Up To Oil is very excited about this opportunity to receive funding through CREDO.

Thank you for your vote and support!

read more
Friends of the San JuansAction Alert: A Simple Way To Fight the Oil Industry!

Comment by August 9: Anchorages in Our Preserves Need Environmental Review

by Friends of the San Juans on August 2, 2017 No comments
The USCG has received 70 comments on their anchorages rulemaking so far. Thank you to everyone who has made a comment! If you haven’t please do so ASAP and help us get to 100 comments before 8:59 p.m. tonight (8/9/2017)!
The San Juan County Council just sent in a comment letter! Click here to read it. 
We have until 8:59 p.m. tonight to send comments via this portal:
Your comment can be as simple as:
  • I’m commenting for the orcas and support the San Juan County Council’s comment letter.
  • Please conduct an EIS.
Thank you for speaking up on behalf of our Southern Resident Killer Whales, our environment, and our economy! Please see the original action alert below for more information.
Here’s another opportunity to speak up for our orca whales and against impacts to their critical habitat.
Many of us sent letters last May to the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) regarding their rulemaking to establish anchorage areas on the eastern edge of our island archipelago. We asked for a full environmental review to be included.
The good news: the comment deadline has been extended. The bad news: the USCG’s new “Record of Environmental Consideration” still concludes that there will be no environmental impacts. Why? The USCG claims that because these anchorage areas are already in use, there will be no changes or impacts and that no Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is needed.
Future use of these anchorage areas will include larger ships, increases in vessel traffic, and associated increased oil spill risk. The USCG claims there will be no impacts to our waters, the orca whales, and the neighboring federal, state, and locally protected areas. We disagree and are asking for a full environmental review.
These proposed anchorage areas are next to protected areas of natural beauty and environmental significance. These protected areas have “special designation” and are “Environmentally Sensitive Areas” according to the USCG. Vendovi Island Preserve and Jack Island Preserve were made possible thanks to the San Juan Preservation Trust and all their members. Other protected areas are the San Juan Islands National Monument, San Juan Islands National Wildlife Refuge, the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Washington State Marine Protected Areas, the San Juan Islands Marine Preserve Area, and the San Juan County Marine Biological Preserve.
The Tesoro Refinery is on track for approval to manufacture and export xylene, a highly toxic petrochemical. More ships with new cargos in these proposed anchorage areas could have significant environmental and human health and safety impacts.
More and/or bigger ships demand more bunkering at the proposed anchorage areas which increases the risk of oil spills.
Our ports are gearing up for “ultra-large” container ships that will also use these anchorage areas. Ultra-large ships will cause ultra-large noise impacts to our federally listed as endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales. The rulemaking states that the “USCG finds that the proposed action would have No Effect on endangered marine mammals or marine mammal critical habitat.” We must tell them we disagree.
Implement this rulemaking with a full assessment of all impacts to the quality of the human environment and environmental impacts, to ensure that all the US anchorage areas in use in the Salish Sea (including Puget Sound) are codified and regulated to include all appropriate environmental impact and accident risk and oil spill risk mitigation measures with monitoring for effectiveness.
Conduct an EIS that addresses all reasonably foreseeable future uses of the proposed anchorage areas (vessel numbers, sizes, cargos, and bunkering operations).
Mitigate impacts by prohibiting bunkering at the proposed anchorage areas at the Vendovi and Jack Island Preserves and at William Point on Samish Island.
Prohibit deep-draft vessels from anchoring outside of designated and codified anchorage areas.
[NOTE: This is a mouthful, but it’s lingo the USCG understands, so feel free to cut and paste this into your personal letter.]
Online and email comments must be submitted by August 9 @ 9:00pm PST.  Mail must be postmarked by August 9, 2017.
Mail: Commander, USCG Sector Puget Sound, Attn: Waterways Management / USCG-2016-0916,
1519 Alaskan Way S, Seattle, WA 98134
For more information: Mr. Laird Hail, U.S. Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound; telephone 206-217-6051; email

About Ship Noise and Killer Whales

read more
Friends of the San JuansComment by August 9: Anchorages in Our Preserves Need Environmental Review