King County keeps eye on Penn Cove

The Port of Coupeville will partner with King County to monitor the water quality in Penn Cove.

The Port of Coupeville will partner with King County on a project to monitor the water quality in Penn Cove.

The King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks will install solar-powered sensors on the Coupeville Wharf and at other locations in Penn Cove to collect data on the water’s temperature, salinity, pH, oxygen saturation, chlorophyll levels and more.

Equipment will likely be installed within the next three months, according to wharf manager Danielle Vracin. King County already monitors Penn Cove water; Vracin said personnel from the county come in every two weeks by boat to collect samples. The new equipment the county is installing will automatically collect data every 15 minutes and transmit it to a website where scientists and members of the public can see it in real time.

Penn Cove is just one of many Puget Sound locations King County will monitor in this project, Vracin said. The study comes at no cost to the Port of Coupeville.

“We’re just going to facilitate and allow access,” Vracin said.

Taylor Martin, a King County oceanographer, wrote in an email that the county will collect data over multiple years to better understand how conditions in the cove change in response to factors including tides and climate, as well as how seasonal changes and year-to-year variability manifest in the area.

“Penn Cove is an area of particular interest due to low dissolved oxygen conditions that occur during the late summer and fall because of water circulation patterns, nutrient inputs and biological activity,” she said.

Port Executive Director Chris Michalopoulos said the port is happy to participate in this monitoring project. There are lots of potential applications for the data that will be collected, and port personnel expect this project to greatly benefit Penn Cove.

“We try to support anybody and everybody that is an official organization that is there to help protect our environment and study the health of Penn Cove,” he said. “When they reached out for this project, we were very excited to support them.”