Shellfish fest for harbor cleanup

Published on Thu, Jan 24, 2002
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Shellfish fest for harbor cleanup

Groups working to improve water quality in Drayton Harbor want to see more public involvement and awareness, and they’ll be using oysters and mussels as bait. “It’s a shellfish fest,” said Drayton Harbor Shellfish Protection District advisory group president Geoff Menzies of the group’s second annual open house and oyster feed.

More than a dozen booths will explain local and statewide efforts to clean up marine waters and reopen shellfish beds closed because of fecal coliform pollution levels, from the city of Blaine’s measures to limit sewage spills to the state department of health’s monitoring of shellfish beds. Blau Oyster from Samish Bay and Taylor Shellfish Farms will donate sacks of clean, healthy oysters and mussels so the community can get a taste of a resource Blaine lost as rising pollution led the state to shut down local oyster farms in 1995. The entire harbor is now closed to any shellfish harvesting. “We want to see more and more people come on board and clean up this harbor,” Menzies said. “There is community energy and we want it to grow.”

Some of that energy has gone into the volunteer community oyster farm project, which has planted two acres of oysters in Drayton Harbor in hopes that water quality will improve enough by 2004 to harvest the crop. “There’s a lot to do,” Menzies said. Some members of the group have spent the last six months tramping around Drayton Harbor’s smellier edges monitoring pollution levels where stormwater and fresh water comes into the harbor.

Preliminary results from the monitoring project indicate there is something rotten in drainages around Drayton Harbor; 27 of the 55 samples collected exceed the federal freshwater standard for fecal coliform. The question is how much of an effect those smaller drainages have, compared with the creeks that feed the harbor.

There have been concerns about fecal coliform from upstream sources such as dairies or hobby farms, but the current study found the creeks relatively clean. “Dakota and California creeks represent the lion’s share of fresh water coming into the harbor,” Menzies said. “They met the standard five out of six times.”

One clear result is that a flush event, or heavy rain following a dry period, can flood the harbor with high levels of fecal coliform. During a flush event in August all samples exceeded the fresh water standard for the bacteria. “We’re documenting what a lot of us suspected,” Menzies said.

Menzies said the monitoring program is only a small part of a larger puzzle and events like the open house provide an opportunity to see other pieces and think about how they all fit together. “There are all these things we’re doing to improve the harbor but it’s really still a great mystery,” he said. “Will we solve it?”

The open house will be held at the Blaine Harbor building on Marine Drive from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on January 26.

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