More than 20 governmental, business and non-profit organizations have a role or interest in improving water quality in the Samish watershed and Samish Bay. Ecology agreed to coordinate these efforts. The member organizations have welcomed this coordination and interest and support development of a workplan for fall 2009 to speed up cleanup activities. They are actively taking actions that will lead to improved water quality, and adopted a name for the overall effort: Clean Samish Initiative.
Ecology took the extra step to act as coordinator of the Clean Samish Initiative, but not to run the various activities. This was a natural outgrowth of Ecology’s recent work with Skagit County agencies, other organizations and Tribes to develop a water quality improvement plan (Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL) that identifies priority areas and actions for cleanup. EPA approved the TMDL in October 2009.
The Clean Samish Initiative workplan describes member-organization projects and a schedule aimed at making significant improvements in water quality by the end of the coming wet season.
Inspections: Ecology is inspecting properties along highly-polluted reaches of the Samish where livestock access may be an issue:
The Samish watershed has had problems with bacteria pollution for a couple of decades. Bacteria in the river, other streams and the bay frequently reach levels too high for safe shellfish harvest (and eating) and safe family recreation. In addition, farmers, especially those who irrigate from surface waters, are concerned about water quality. They want to provide assurance to consumers that their food products are safe.
In recent years, significant efforts by citizens and local agencies have led to measurable improvements in water quality. In the Edison area, for example, locally-led efforts, helped with County and state funding, led to the replacement of many failing onsite septic systems with a community wastewater treatment system. The marine waters off the village of Edison are measurably cleaner than before. Similar work in Blanchard led to replacement of individual onsite systems. Education and outreach by Skagit Conservation District has encouraged many farmers and landowners to adopt farm plans and add best management practices. Ongoing work by Skagit Health Dept. has resulted in a steady increase in the number of onsite systems throughout the County getting inspections and repairs.
Despite these valuable efforts, much work remains to be done. Samish Bay was closed to commercial shellfish harvest for a total of 10 weeks in 2008 and 2009. All the closures were related to rain events that carried high numbers of fecal coliform bacteria to the bay from throughout the watershed. (The state Dept. of Health monitors marine waters and has the authority to keep commercial shellfish beds open or close them if marine water quality is compromised.)
The TMDL implementation plan, developed in cooperation with state agencies, Skagit County, local organizations, and Tribes, identifies the major potential sources of polluting bacteria in the Samish as:
All these potential sources, if managed or practiced appropriately with water quality protections in place, need not pose a threat to water quality.
Clean Samish participating organizations and projects include:
|Dave Garland, Samish
Washington Department of Ecology
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