Taylor Shellfish’s Bill Dewey started off the day in Olympia talking about on-site sewage issues and finished it celebrating huge strides Clallam County partners and residents have made to improve water quality in Dungeness Bay.
Bill’s day was a perfect snapshot of what more than 50 people gathered to celebrate in Sequim on Nov. 20 as the Puget Sound Partnership honored several members of the Sequim-Dungeness Clean Water Work Group as Puget Sound Champions.
The group’s sustained efforts—including lining irrigation ditches that flow into Dungeness Bay, repairing and replacing septic systems, and putting farm plans into practice to keep sewage out of waterways—combined with cooperation from the local community, are behind the upgrade to 728 acres of shellfish beds in Dungeness Bay.
“Having clean enough water, healthy enough shellfish, knowing that we can jump in the water at the beach without fearing being hurt by it … that’s why we do what we do,” said Sheida R. Sahandy, Executive Director of the Puget Sound Partnership, to a room filled with more than 50 people who were later treated to oysters and geoduck ceviche from Taylor Shellfish and the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe.
The 2015 State of the Sound reports that, as of May 2015, Puget Sound saw a net increase of 2,851 acres of shellfish beds since 2007. This resulted from the reopening of 7,828 acres for harvest and takes into account the fact that 4,977 acres were closed due to poor water quality. The 2020 goal is to achieve a net increase of 10,800 harvestable shellfish acres, including 7,000 acres where harvest had been prohibited. Given current trends, meeting the 2020 target could be challenging.
As of October, the Department of Health reported a net acreage improvement of 3,813 acres, including the 728 acres in Dungeness Bay.
“When I saw the upgrade notice from the Health Department, I felt like dancing on my desk,” said Andy Brastad, Clallam County Environmental Health Director. “We get good results when good people work together.”
The secret to their success? “Partnership is what it’s all about,” said Matt Heins, manager of Dungeness Farms and the only individual honored at the event. Matt was recognized for both his work as an active member of the
Sequim Dungeness Water Work Group and as well as helping provide access to monitoring locations needed as part of the county’s pollution identification and control work.
“The agricultural community is appreciative to work with the tribes; to work together and get things done,” said Ben Smith, with the Dungeness River Agricultural Water Users Association. “Everyone is digging in.”
And while celebrating progress and work well done everyone knows that there is still plenty of work to get done.
“We with the tribe always look at the next seven generations,” said Theresa Lehman, a Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe council member. “If we don’t, who isgoing to do it?”
Clallam County Puget Sound Champions include:
- Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe – For providing marine and freshwater monitoring, water quality education and outreach, and securing funding for federal grant projects to help identify fecal coliform pollution sources.
- Dungeness Agricultural Water Users Association – For reducing sources of fecal pollution into Dungeness Bay by installing pipe in irrigation ditches
- Clallam Conservation District – For working with farmers to reduce agricultural pollution, providing a cost-share incentive for farms and septic system repairs, and piping irrigation ditches within the watershed.
- Clallam County’s Environmental Health Department – For conducting ongoing testing of water that flows into the river, investigating septic systems, providing financial help to homeowners to fix septic tank problems, and training homeowners about septic system maintenance.
- Matt Heins, active member of the Sequim Dungeness Clean Water Work Group and manager of Dungeness Bay Farms – For all-around spirit and tenacity in getting the necessary work done, including providing access to monitoring locations .
Each of these Puget Sound Champions were also instrumental in helping advance the Sequim-Dungeness Pollution Identification and Control Program.
Puget Sound Partnership: Clallam County partners honored for work that helped reopen 728 acres of Dungeness shellfish beds (11/20/15)
- Dungeness Bay becomes a reflection of collaboration (11/25/15)
- Dungeness Bay water quality improvement prompts upgrade (10/21/15)
- Return of the oyster (7/8/15)
Department of Health: Puget Sound shellfish areas reopen as progress is made to reduce pollution (10/14/15)