By Kate Kimber and Erika Douglas
The Whatcom County Council formed the Drayton Harbor Shellfish Protection District in 1995 in response to Washington State Department of Health’s closure of shellfish areas due to poor water quality.
The purpose of a shellfish protection district is to develop and implement a strategy to address sources of pollution and restore the area for shellfish harvesting. Potential sources of fecal coliform bacteria include: Animal waste from livestock, domestic pets and wildlife; and human sewage from failing septic systems, leaking sewer lines or cross-connections between sewer and stormwater systems.
2016 proved to be a successful year for the Drayton Harbor Shellfish Protection District. The most notable success happened on December 1, when harvest restrictions were removed on 810 acres of shellfish growing area after 20 years of work by the community.
Some of the work completed by the protection district in 2016 included:
Water quality monitoring throughout the watershed and extensive monitoring in three focus areas to assist with source tracking and water quality improvements. Provided information to watershed residents about fecal coliform bacteria sources and ways to fix problems. Improvements in fecal coliform bacteria levels observed.
Joint work by Whatcom County Public Works and the Whatcom Conservation District in focus areas to contact landowners offering technical and financial assistance for small farm practices. Identified and fixed failing septic systems.
Improved water quality data sharing through interactive maps and water quality summaries posted on the web (whatcomcounty.us/2170/Water-Quality-Monitoring-Results). Goals for the protection district in 2017 include improving data sharing between agencies and community members through a new data coordinator position, continued water quality monitoring throughout the watershed, and continued education and outreach. Sustained community engagement in pollution prevention actions is needed to ensure clean water to keep the shellfish beds open and local waterways safe.