DraytonHarbor: Cleaner every year

Published on Thu, Jan 20, 2005 by Geoff Menzies

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Drayton Harbor: Cleaner every year

By Geoff Menzies

2004 has been a banner year for Drayton Harbor clean-up efforts. Due to the persistence of the Drayton Harbor shellfish protection district advisory committee and volunteers in the community oyster farm project, Drayton Harbor has been partially reopened for shellfish harvest for the first time in 10 years.

Shellfish can be harvested safely from upgraded areas except during major rain events. This “conditionally approved” classification means that every time there is half an inch of rain within a 24-hour period, the harbor is closed for the following five days.

Storm water runoff during these types of rain events transports excessive levels of pollutants from the land by way of creeks and urban drains into Drayton Harbor. Under these conditions, filter-feeding shellfish are considered unsafe to eat until the waters have cleared and shellfish are purged of contaminants.

This shellfish harvest upgrade is not ideal, but it does represent an improvement when compared to the previous prohibited status for the entire harbor. This classification closed commercial shellfish entirely and recommended against recreational clam harvesting.

Now a portion of the city of Blaine tidelands in Drayton Harbor has been reopened. This allows for the safe harvest of clams in this area by both recreational and tribal harvesters.

In addition, the Pacific oysters planted by the “farmers of the tideflats” in the summer of 2001 are safe to harvest as well. These community-grown oysters were served up last June at the shellfish district’s open house. As tide and weather allows, these oysters are being harvested this winter for commercial sale to China and direct sales on the docks in Blaine harbor. Proceeds from these sales will be used to support other clean-up projects in the watershed.

We achieved this upgrade by partnering with tribes, businesses, citizens, foundations, agencies, and state and local governments. We have worked closely with the city of Blaine to document that its sewer system is not polluting Drayton Harbor and to monitor storm water runoff from urban Blaine.

In spite of generally improving trends in water quality in both California and Dakota creeks, pollutants in the creeks during wet weather are too high.

We will be focusing on pro-active steps to address human bacterial pollution from home septic systems and livestock waste from both commercial dairies and hobby farms. We will also be partnering with Blaine on the design and construction of a storm water facility, which among other things, will reduce bacteria levels in storm water before discharging it to Drayton Harbor.

Our goal is to fully restore the harbor by the end of 2006 to its previous approved classification. This will allow for the safe harvest of clams and oysters by the entire community of recreational, tribal, and commercial users.

If we succeed, this will represent a major quality of life improvement for the 12,000 or so residents of the Drayton Harbor watershed and a beacon for other seaside communities like Blaine, which face similar challenges.

(Geoff Menzies is manager of the Drayton Harbor community oyster farm and chair of the Drayton Harbor shellfish protection district advisory committee.)