2015 - 11

Partnerships in a Disaster

-Craig Nelson, Okanogan CD

Okanogan County, like many other areas of Washington State, was hit with major fires during the summer of 2015. Still reeling from the 2014 Carlton Fire (Washington’s largest single fire in recorded history, at 256,000 acres) Okanogan County was hit this summer with three major fires and numerous smaller fires that totaled more than 500,000 acres. With that level of devastation, and many communities, farmers, businesses, and individuals directly impacted, the Okanogan Conservation District staff were back on the front lines, assisting many people with recovery and restoration needs. So we did what we know how to do; we reached out to our fellow conservation districts for assistance.

First, we put together an Interagency Burned Area Emergency Response (I-BAER) Team to evaluate the burn severity and identify values at risk to post fire events, such as flooding and debris flows. This team was co-lead by Leslie Michel, Okanogan CD Soil Scientist, and Katherine Rowden, National Weather Service Hydrologist. The team also included employees from the Spokane, Whatcom, Skagit, Cascadia, and Thurston Conservation Districts, along with employees from the Army Corps of Engineers, Colville Confederated Tribes Fish and Wildlife Department, Washington Department of Natural Resources, and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

We also asked for assistance from Districts to help us with site visits and data management. We were blessed to have employees from Snohomish, Whidbey Island, Pacific, Skagit, and Cascadia Conservation Districts spend a few days to a few weeks in our office helping us with a mountain of work.

When NRCS began the process of assessing homes that may be at high risk of post fire events we asked for and received assistance from Andrew Phay, Whatcom CD GIS Specialist, with setting up data collection and GIS data for the evaluation teams.

We have also been working closely with the Colville Reservation Conservation District, as the fires this year severely impacted areas within the reservation and traditional hunting and fishing grounds for the tribes of the Colville Indian Reservation.

We are deeply thankful to the many individuals and their supporters at home that made dealing with this disaster much more possible. Without their dedicated professionalism, our communities and resources would not have received timely and effective technical assistance and we would not have verifiable information on the scope and scale of the damages we have endured.

ArcMap is FREE?

Did you know you can get ArcGIS (ArcMap) and all of the major extensions from NRCS for use in your office for FREE? You sure can! Just email Chas Scripter at NRCS (chas.scripter@wa.usda.gov) to get a free installation disc and license file to start your GIS adventure!

After you get on the GIS train, you can learn basic ArcMap using a tutorial manual called Getting to Know ArcGIS Desktop ($50 Amazon). It will teach you the basics step-by-step. Or, if you would prefer a hands-on GIS learning opportunity, come to one of our 3- day trainings in January and February next year (2016). We are in the process of choosing locations, so let us know if you are interested by voting HERE. The more interest in an area, the more likely you are to get a training in your region!

If you have any questions about GIS you can call or email Andrew Phay at Whatcom CD at any time: 360-526-2381 x129.

Want to learn more about Cultural Resources?

-James Weatherford, Thurston CD

Given the recent focus on cultural resources and the development of the new state cultural resources policy, I thought it might be a good idea to put the importance of human history in Washington State into some perspective. The book Archaeology in Washington looks to be a great resource for that. In fact, one only needs to read the executive summary to get some idea of the magnitude of the subject:

“Archaeology - along with Native American traditions and memories - holds a key to understanding early chapters of the human story in Washington. The authors portray the discovery of a mastodon butchered by hunters on the Olympic Peninsula 14,000 years ago; the nearly 13,000-year-old Clovis points in an East Wenatchee apple orchard; an 11,200-year-old "Marmes Man" in the Palouse; and the controversial "Kennewick Man," more than 9,000 years old, eroded out of the riverbank at Tri-Cities. They discuss a 5,000-year-old camas earth oven in the Pend Oreille country; 5,000 years of human habitation at Seattle's Metro sewage treatment site; the recovery at Hoko River near Neah Bay of a 3,200-year-old fishnet made of split spruce boughs and tiny stone knife blades still hafted in cedar handles; and the world-renowned coastal excavations at Ozette, where mudslides repeatedly swept into houses, burying and preserving them.”

Archaeology in Washington, by Ruth Kirk and Richard D. Daugherty (2007) is available from University of Washington Press.


One easy way to learn about cultural resources is to take the AgLearn course titled “Cultural Resources Training Series, Part 1.” It has modules that discuss: Why Cultural Resources are Important; Cultural Resources in the Planning Process; Using Existing Information to Identify Cultural Resources; Identifying Cultural Resources in the Field; Evaluation and Treatment of Cultural Resources; and Protecting Cultural Resources Under Specific Circumstances.

There is a large variety of AgLearn courses, including two that are needed if you intend to attend an NRCS Conservation Planning Course. So, if you are not yet signed up to take the AgLearn courses, you need to start the sign up process now. Talk to your supervisor about signing up and then contact James Weatherford or Larry Brewer if you need additional help.

Another way that you can learn about Cultural Resources is the guide located on the WSCC web site at: http://scc.wa.gov/cultural-resources-2/. Look under the “What are cultural resources?” tab on the left margin and select “Artifacts” where you will find the “Field Guide to Washington State Archaeology.”

Probably one of the best sources of Cultural Resource information is in your own back yard. Local archaeology groups, or your local tribes may be able and willing to provide guidance and information.

Finally, the WSCC is planning to offer some regional trainings on Cultural Resources yet this Fiscal Year and possibly at WADE. If you have any questions, feel free to con-tact me, Larry Brewer, at lbrewer@scc.wa.gov.

AGLEARN: What’s That???

All conservation folks should know what AgLearn is, since it is one of the key sources of training for soil and water conservation district staff. AgLearn provides web based training on a wide range of topics related to natural resource management.

Click here for more info on accessing and signing up for AgLearn.

Getting to Know You: District Highlight

District Name: South Yakima Conservation District

District Size: SYCD is located in Zillah and services approximately 1.3 million acres in the southern half of Yakima County. Yakima County is the 2nd largest county in the state at 2.75 million acres/4,295 square miles (2010).

District Population: There are 13 communities within our district boundaries, which also includes the Yakama Indian Reservation.

Number of Employees: 2

Main Programs: Livestock Nutrient Management Program, Implementation Grant Program, No-Till Drill Rental Program, Ground Water Management Area Deep Soil Sampling Plan.

Key Partners: Natural Resources Conservation Service, Washington State Department of Agriculture, Yakima County, Washington State Conservation Commission.

Project/Program Most Proud of: In 2011 SYCD had the wonderful opportunity to partner with WSCC, NRCS and WSU Extension Energy Program to work on a “pilot” for a new on-farm energy savings program for facilities & landscape (EQIP Energy Audits). After extensive/intensive “energy” training from WSU Energy Program staff, we did hands-on energy assessments on 21 dairy headquarters. Site assessment included the milking parlor and all equipment and water use, the milk chilling system, compressed air, lighting, pumps, all electric motors, etc. We also had a task order with NRCS to use and evaluate a “landscape energy assessment tool” on irrigated cropland to evaluate potential energy savings with certain practices. Lot of hard work, but tons of fun, too!

Fun Facts: Zillah is home of the Teapot Dome Service Station, which is listed on the US National Register of Historic Places. Also in Zillah, the Church of God Zillah – Although the church is fairly conservative and some are not amused by this coincidence (the church was named long before the Godzilla movies began), the church embraces it, even putting a wireframe Godzilla float outside.

FAQs and Fun Facts

On May 27, 1987, while installing an irrigation sprinkler pipe through an apple orchard on Grant Road in East Wenatchee near the Columbia River, orchard workers Moises Aguirre and Mark Mickles uncover a cache of prehistoric tools known as Clovis points buried about 20 inches below the soil surface. Volcanic ash surrounding the artifacts was later carbon dated to 13,200 years ago.

-from “Moises Aguirre and Mark Mickles Discover Prehistoric Clovis Point Artifacts in an East Wenatchee Apple Orchard on May 27, 1987” (HistoryLink.org essay #7966)

Training Events

Greetings from the TPDW Training program!

We have exciting stuff happening all over the state:

  • Pierce Conservation District hosted a GIS workshop conducted by Andrew Phay of Whatcom CD. Thank you, Andrew and Pierce CD admin and staff, for making this training event such a huge success! GIS is typically a difficult discipline to find training for on a regular basis, and it is an area I believe one needs to stay up to date on if one wishes to do that work on a it regularly I tend to forget the fine points, so it becomes more difficult and time-consuming.

  • TPDW has also been able to dedicate a modest amount of funding for Andrew to provide mentoring for GIS practitioners in CDs, in addition to providing funding for two additional GIS training events to be held in January or February (actual date forthcoming). A poll is being sent out to gauge interest and location.

On another note, TPDW anticipates there will be at least one session of the Basic Conservation Planning course held this year. The actual dates for this week-long course have not been finalized at present, but it is anticipated to be held in May or early June, prior to WADE. I strongly urge anyone anticipating wanting to attend this course to get the prerequisites, which are on AgLearn, completed now. To complete these courses, you will need to have an AgLearn account.

The prerequisites are:

  • NRCS Conservation Planning, Part 1, a web-based, 5-module course that must be completed prior to attending the classroom session. AGLEARN Course # NRCS-NEDC-000019.

  • Introduction to the Field Office Technical Guide, which is also an AGLEARN Course, #NRCS-NEDC-000149.

There have been periodic reports of people having difficulty establishing an account, so I highly recommend that if you do not currently have one, get started on it now. Just go to AgLearn and follow the prompts and buttons. There are also instructions avail-able on the TPDW website.

If you have questions regarding the Basic Conservation Planner Course, contact me at jweatherford@thurstoncd.com

Ask an Expert

We have added new categories to our Ask an Expert page! Be sure to check it out and start getting your questions answered today!

If you are an expert in an area and want to share your expertise, please email us, let us know what it is, and we’ll add you to the list: planning@tpdw.org.