Padilla Bay newsletter

Our e-newsletter is published quarterly with current events, articles, and program information.

New Northwest Straits Commission Communications and Outreach Specialist, Katie Harris

Northwest Straits Commission welcomes new team member

Katie Harris is the newest addition to the Northwest Straits Commission team as the Communications and Outreach Specialist. Katie hails from Wyoming and earned a B.S. in Environmental Science with a focus on Energy and Climate from Humboldt State University.

For the past few years, Katie spent her time as a bicycle advocate in Washington, DC, building and managing a coalition focused on connecting an 800+ mile regional paved trail network in the nation’s capital. She worked with county and state elected officials, agency staff, businesses, and citizen volunteers to build a shared vision of safe places to walk and bike. That focus on collaboration and community is something Katie is excited to continue working on through the local-based approach of the Northwest Straits Commission. “I’m interested in getting everyday people involved in making our region a better place,” she says. “It is going to take all of us, in our unique roles and ways, to create positive change for marine resources.”

When Katie’s away from Padilla Bay, you can find her fly-fishing, kayaking, cross-country skiing, or riding her bike. She’s thrilled to call the Pacific Northwest her new home.

Community art installation at Storming the Sound 2020.

Environmental educators “Storm the Sound” for yet another year

By Annie England

Every January, teachers, students, and regional environmental educators gather at La Connor’s Maple Hall for Storming the Sound. They listen to inspiring speakers, learn about each other’s programs and successes, and share the many things they’re doing in the community.

With all the challenges facing the natural world, it is all too easy to bog down in hopelessness and pessimism. An event like Storming the Sound refocuses on hope, connections, and positive action. This year, attendees were encouraged to share their reasons for hope through an installation art piece (see image). Children were the resounding reason for hope at this year’s Storming the Sound — not surprising for environmental educators.

As an environmental educator myself, I’m inspired by how open and ready children are to engage with the natural world. They notice, they wonder, and they're excited to make connections. I truly believe if we are able to connect children to the natural world, curiosity and appreciation will follow them into adulthood. There are so many reasons for hope.

Will tidal marshes survive rising seas?

The National Estuarine Research Reserve System has developed a powerful tool to evaluate and compare the ability of tidal marshes to thrive as sea levels rise. Using data from their System-wide Monitoring Program, Research Reserves used this tool at 16 sites in 13 coastal states to create the first national-scale comparison of marsh resilience to sea level rise. Pacific Coast marshes, including one in Padilla Bay, appeared better able to track rising seas than those along the Atlantic. Two marshes in Southern New England were found to be especially vulnerable.

Tidal marshes provide many benefits to nearby communities. They protect people and property against storm surges and flooding, improve water quality, create habitat for commercially important fish and wildlife, and offer many opportunities for outdoor enjoyment. Their ability to capture and store large amounts of carbon dioxide also makes marshes important in addressing climate change. For millennia, many tidal marshes have persisted by increasing in elevation to keep pace with gradually rising seas. With sea levels projected to increase much faster in the near future than they have in the past, the fate of many marshes — and the benefits they provide — is uncertain.

Marshes are not equally resilient to sea level rise. Tidal marshes can only thrive within a narrow band of elevation along the coast. If they are too low, they flood with tidal water too often and their vegetation drowns. If they are too high, they dry up and are replaced by upland vegetation. Marshes maintain the right elevation by accumulating sediment carried in from a river or through soil produced by the marsh plants themselves.

The National Estuarine Research Reserve System’s tool for assessing tidal marsh resilience to sea level rise can help coastal managers protect marshes. Anyone with the relevant data can use this tool to compare the resilience of different marshes to sea level rise. The free calculation tool is available at This open source approach can help protect tidal marshes and the benefits they provide, for generations to come.

Reprinted in part from the NERRS Marsh Brochure, available at