Local effort plays key role in meeting governor’s statewide goal to grow shellfish industry and reduce pollution
Officials from Gov. Jay Inslee’s office and Skagit County yesterday led leaders from various state agencies and local governments, tribes, and organizations on a tour of the Samish Bay watershed and hosted a roundtable to discuss progress being made through the Clean Samish Initiative to upgrade a large shellfish growing area in Puget Sound by working with the community to reduce contamination in the bay.
Washington’s shellfish industry supports more than 2,700 jobs. Julie Horowitz, Inslee’s lead advisor on shellfish, said the CSI is a centerpiece of the Washington Shellfish Initiative, a statewide effort among federal and state governments, tribes and the shellfish industry to grow the industry, create jobs and support abundant shellfish for Washingtonians.
According to Horowitz, there is still much work to be done locally and statewide, but programs such as CSI are making significant progress thanks to the efforts of local tribes, government leaders, agricultural and livestock growers, shellfish growers, and the Samish community.
“This effort is an inspiring example of people coming together in support of an effort that ensures a healthy, clean environment and good-paying shellfish farming jobs in the community,” Horowitz said. “We’re using the best available science and strategies to reduce runoff pollution and educate homeowners about things like maintaining working septic systems. This is an all-hands-on-deck effort and it’s working.”
The CSI is a multi-agency effort that formed after fecal coliform pollution issues attracted regional attention in 2008 and resulted in the downgrading of 4,000 acres of shellfish growing areas in 2011. Working through a collaboration that includes CSI, the state’s Puget Sound Partnership, and numerous local partners, Inslee has established specific goals of upgrading those 4,000 acres and ultimately increasing harvestable shellfish acreage throughout the Puget Sound to 8,614 acres by 2016.
“The vitality of our shellfish industry is very important to all of us, but the benefits of clean water go far beyond that,” said Skagit County Public Works Director Dan Berentson. “We’re making progress in the Samish because we are engaging the folks that live in this beautiful area and we’re working hard to engage our tribal, state and federal partners.”
Following the tour and roundtable, representatives from Skagit County hosted a public meeting. County Commissioner Ron Wesen spoke about his family’s multi-generation dairy farming and the importance of everyone working together to reduce pollution to protect public health and support shellfish harvest. Skagit County presented the progress being made to reduce bacterial pollution in the bay. They noted bacterial pollution during rainstorms is on average five times less than it was in 2008 but more work is needed to reach goals of re-opening. One example of CSI’s work includes technical assistance from the Skagit Conservation District to help local farmers implement best management practices. For example, SCD offers community members fencing for livestock during winter months, helping keep livestock – and their waste – out of low-lying wet areas.
Information regarding Inslee’s statewide goal of increasing shellfish acreage can be tracked through Results Washington.