‘In too deep’ isn’t a phrase that registers with Sequim-resident Steve Rankin.
As a volunteer for the Clallam County Streamkeepers, a citizen-based watershed monitoring program, Rankin has literally sunk himself into Sequim’s waterways more than he can count.
He was recently nominated by Ed Chadd, associate planner for Streamkeepers, for Gov. Christine Gregoire’s 2009 Outstanding Volunteer Service Award.
Rankin was honored April 20 at the Governor’s Mansion along with Fernellyn Brown, a Sequim Police Department volunteer, and 51 other volunteers from around the state.
Clallam County commissioners also presented Rankin a certification of appreciation on April 28 at their weekly meeting.
"Steve has spent hundreds of hours volunteering. It’s not just the length of time but the intensity," Chadd said.
"No one has embraced volunteering like him."
"I’m stunned by it all. We’ve found something that we enjoy," Rankin said.
"The award is just icing on the cake."
Rankin moved to Sequim July 2003, about 10 years after retiring as a mechanic for the Contra-Costa County Fire District in the San Francisco East Bay-area and as a search-and-rescue Coast Guardsman in San Francisco Bay.
Rankin became active in Streamkeepers shortly after moving to Sequim.
He began monitoring Bell Creek with the group and quickly became team leader.
His current project, Dungeness River and Sequim-Dungeness Watershed Water Pollutant Concentration Pilot Sampling Project, fell to Rankin’s lead because he was the most consistent volunteer attending public meetings.
Streamkeepers received a three-year grant worth about $700,000 to develop comprehensive data on storm water and its impacts, so that they can inform developers of their building projects’ impacts.
"In the end, it will enable Clallam County, as it develops, to protect public resources," Chadd said.
Rankin said the grant was given to Streamkeepers because Sequim is a rural area that is rapidly urbanizing and they want to know the effects.
There are 12 sites for the project that spans 40 miles. Depending on the site, Rankin will test for agricultural pesticides, petroleum, metals, silt and more. In one day, Rankin will drive 200 miles just in the greater-Sequim area. At each site, Rankin will take photographs of the site and the gauges for reference points later on. He posts them online and burns them to a CD.
"There’s no way for him to do this without being in lousy conditions," Chadd said.
"He loves the challenge."
Rankin said while checking one site, the murky bottom was so loose, his wife, C.J., had to prop a pole across a fence for him to hold onto so that he wouldn’t sink in over his head.
"When it hits the fan and there are only two people, the project moves forward anyway," Rankin said.
"There’s a lot of value in all the samples and footwork."
Rankin also tests five sites along 17 miles of the Dungeness River for their macroinvertebrate count, small bugs that are good for the ecosystem.
"If you have good water, then you have good bugs desired by trout and so forth. They have narrow windows that can thrive," Rankin said.
It took him six weeks to find the spots on the river. He and C.J. would hike for miles only to find that a specific location was not usable for monitoring.
The Rankins also have opened their home as an assembling area for storm water projects and have hosted
volunteers for 24-hour events.
Rankin has an unofficial Streamkeepers Web site, www.serenitysys.com/sk that is endorsed by Streamkeepers. He has a weather station connected to a laptop that updates the site every 15 minutes.
Streamkeepers has more than 120 volunteers throughout Clallam County who monitor water, wildlife and more. Chadd said they are looking for more volunteers with all abilities, backgrounds and passions. Streamkeeper’s annual training is in June.
Contact Ed Chadd at 417-2281 for more information.