Drayton Harbor improving, 2004 harvest likely

Published on Thu, Aug 14, 2003 by Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

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Drayton Harbor improving, 2004 harvest likely

By Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

When you ask Geoff Menzies about the status of Drayton Harbor and when the community will see the first shellfish harvest, he smiles and his eyes light up. He even offers to retrieve pictures and information from his truck, and on some days, even oysters.

�I think we�re on the right track, shooting for the spring of 2004,� said Geoff Menzies, project coordinator of the Drayton Harbor community oyster farm. �I think it�s realistic, but it�s going to take a lot of work.� Just as the Department of Health (DoH) was prohibiting shellfishing in Drayton Harbor in 1995, Menzies was going into the business and just as quickly, out.

�Just as I started up, the harbor was shut down,� he said. �I planted seed in 1993 and was going to harvest in 1995. But the harbor was closed down.�

The DOH shut down Blaine�s Drayton Harbor because of poor water quality, specifically the unsafe levels of fecal coliform bacteria, which comes from human and animal feces and can indicate the presence of other bacteria or viruses.

The Drayton Harbor community oyster farm, a community-based three-year project, started in 2001 and focuses on restoring the harbor. The project�s objectives include: starting and operating a community oyster farm; building community support for water quality improvements; eliminating specific sources of pollution; and generating ongoing revenue for water quality improvements.

Currently, there are several stations monitoring water quality in the harbor. �There are seven stations routinely monitoring in and around Drayton Harbor,� Menzies said, adding that both the community oyster farm and the DoH have been testing.

The water quality numbers revealed by the testing, he said, shows improvement. �It�s looking really good. This is really great news. Things are getting better and better in the harbor.�

Although water quality is improving in the harbor, one of the seven stations is posing a big question. One station located near the commercial part of the marina, has continuously exceeded fecal coliform levels.

�Reclassification of the harbor could be difficult if this station remains that high,� Menzies said. �So we are trying to find out why this station so high, and what is causing it.�

One of the methods used in the attempt to figure out the pollution problem, was a recent dye study, done in conjunction with the city of Blaine. The dye study, he said, was designed to determine whether sewage, possibly leaking from rain lines and manholes, is partly responsible for fecal coliform contamination in the commercial portion of Blaine Harbor.

All of the main sanitary sewer lines and manholes in proximity to the commercial portion of Blaine Harbor and the two lines immediately upstream to Lift Station 1 were dye tested.

This study, he said, concluded that human waste from the main sewer collection system is not causing pollution in the commercial portion of Blaine Harbor.

�I was pleasantly surprised,� Menzies said about the dye tests results. �Eliminating human sources of pollution is important to Drayton Harbor and restoring shellfishing.�

In addition to this dye test, the community oyster farm has done other studies that have involved Whatcom County and the Puget Sound Action Team, including circulation studies.

�This is a process of elimination, doing these studies,� Menzies said. �The big question that we need to answer is what is causing this? There�s something in the commercial end of the marina that we need to figure out.�

Quite possibly, Menzies said, the fecal coliform levels could be attributed to the abundance of birdlife the harbor is home to.

�We need to get a detailed bird count in the western part of the marina, looking at cormorant, pigeon and seagull populations,� he said. � What do they produce in waste? What are the bird populations? And the question, really, is what percentage of that waste ends in the harbor?�

In the past, he said, fishermen have lobbied against cormorant population. �The cormorants were taking all of the fish,� he laughed, and now, he added, they may be somewhat responsible for stopping the shellfishing.

The rat population is another possible cause that is being looked into. But whatever the problem is, Menzies said, they are determined to find it through studies and restore the harbor.

�We share a goal with the city of restoring this bay, and bringing back shellfishing,� he said. �We really want to thank the city for their efforts.�

For more information, visit the Department of Health online at www.doh.wa.gov, call 676-6876 or email geoffmenzies@attbi.com.

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