Brown areas indicate where shellfish harvesting is closed due to pollution. (Screenshot from Washington Shellfish Safety Map)

Brown areas indicate where shellfish harvesting is closed due to pollution. (Screenshot from Washington Shellfish Safety Map)

DOH awards $5.5M to improve Puget Sound shellfish habitats

$455,000 was earmarked to improve the health of shellfish beds in Poverty Bay.

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) awarded $5.5 million in funding to 11 proposed projects that aim to restore and protect shellfish habitats across Puget Sound, according to a Feb. 28 announcement.

According to the DOH, Washington state is the leading producer of farmed shellfish in the nation, and commercial shellfish is shipped around the world.

However, 16,000 acres of Puget Sound shellfish beds are currently closed to harvest due to nonpoint fecal pollution, such as water runoff from agricultural activities, pet waste, boater waste discharge, and onsite sewage systems. Proposals funded by this grant will work to find and fix nonpoint source pollution.

One of the proposals will go towards shellfish bed protection in King County’s WRIA 9 watershed, the area which drains into the Green and Duwamish Rivers and where the rivers empty into the Puget Sound.

The funding list which includes the project outlines $455,000 in partial funding with the intent to fund in full contingent on future funds available, up to $910,000.

The funding is outlined “to expand pollution identification and correction and onsite sewage system management in Poverty Bay Shellfish Protection District and Vashon Maury Island, which have high risk of fecal pollution impact on Puget Sound water quality and high potential to maintain and upgrade harvestable shellfish beds.”

The funding list describes that the primary objectives are to:

  • Expand source tracking and pollution identification to high-impact areas not yet surveyed in Massey Creek sub-Basin, in Des Moines as well as areas on Vashon Maury Island;
  • Continue freshwater monitoring in Poverty Bay, which is offshore from Federal Way and Des Moines, to support long-term water quality management and upgrades to harvesting areas;
  • Reach new audiences - property owners on sewer and inland Vashon residents, providing financial and technical assistance for inspections and repairs; strengthen partnerships with community-based organizations that serve disadvantaged communities;
  • Improve onsite sewage system inspection enforcement and prepare for sea level rise impacts by expanding the marine recovery area to all of Vashon Maury Island.

“Washington’s marine waters are a dynamic and vital part of our unique ecosystem,” said Todd Phillips, DOH Office of Environmental Health and Safety director. “We applaud the efforts of each award recipient for their role in water quality improvement and protection. Partnerships with these awardees, along with agencies such as the EPA, emphasize the commitment and importance of advancing our goal of reducing fecal coliform pollution and protecting Puget Sound shellfish growing areas, with the overarching objective of protecting public health.”

Awardees were chosen by DOH’s Shellfish Strategic Initiative Advisory Team using Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Puget Sound Geographic Funds. The winners each submitted requests for proposals that focused on three key investment priorities: pollution identification and correction, onsite sewage system management, and/or livestock manure management.

DOH is responsible for the safety of commercially harvested shellfish in the state. For more information on current advisories, visit the Washington Shellfish Safety Map, which is updated daily.

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