Year in Review: Drayton Harbor Shellfish Protection District Advisory Committee

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The Drayton Harbor Shellfish Protection District (DHSPD) Advisory Committee was formed in 1995 by the Whatcom County Council in response to the Washington State Department of Health’s closure of shellfish harvesting areas due to poor water quality from fecal bacteria pollution. 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.

The Washington State Department of Health uses fecal bacteria measurements to regulate shellfish growing areas to protect human health. Fecal bacteria pollution comes from improperly managed human and animal waste; for example, from livestock, domestic pets, failing septic systems or improper disposal of sewage from boats or RV holding tanks.

Since the district’s formation in 1995, community partners have been working diligently to monitor and control the sources of these wastes entering the Drayton Harbor watershed. In 2019, this work included fecal bacteria sampling from upstream sites and in Drayton Harbor; outreach and offers of technical and financial assistance to landowners and watershed residents for waste management best practices; upgrade of failing septic systems; and international collaboration to address cross-border pollution.

As a result of nearly 25 years of effort, we now celebrate three years since commercial shellfish harvesting restrictions were lifted for 810 acres of growing area in Drayton Harbor. We have even more good news to share.

With DHSPD leadership, a “Green Strategy” was presented to the Department of Health to lift restrictions on much of the “red” (prohibited) area of Drayton Harbor, based on continued structural and water quality improvements. As a result, effective October 22, 2019, an additional 765 acres of Drayton Harbor were turned from “red” to “green” and opened for commercial shellfish harvest. Efforts will continue to maintain this substantial progress, and to address other threats to recreational and commercial shellfish harvesting.

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