Taxing district considered for Discovery Bay water quality
by JEFF CHEW
Peninsula Daily News
PORT TOWNSEND, WA -- Keeping Discovery Bay's water quality safe for shellfish is of major concern to one longtime shellfish farmer.
But setting up a shellfish protection taxing district is another matter.
``We don't want those beaches closed, but we don't feel the need for a shellfish taxing district,'' Richard Broders told the Jefferson County Board of Health on Thursday.
Broders' family has owned and operated Broders Seafood Co., with clam beds along the west and east shores of Discovery Bay, since the 1940s.
Broders expressed surprise at the Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association's letter to county environmental health officials urging a taxing district.
His company is not a member of the association, which represents larger local, state and federal interests of oyster, clam, mussel, scallop and geoduck growers from Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California and Hawaii.
Robin Downey, executive director of North America's largest shellfish association, urged in the letter to take immediate steps to protect shellfish threatened by bay waters contaminated with rising levels of fecal-coliform bacteria.
Downey raised economic issues that could result should part or all of the bay be closed to shellfish harvests.
Broders said some of his company's clam beds are within the most southwesterly section where the state Department of Health's shellfish office has found water samples with fecal coliform bacteria counts of 1,600 per millimeter.
``It's about as high as you can get,'' county Environmental Health Director Mike McNickle said after Thursday's county Board of Health meeting.
``This is more than a red flag,'' said Public Health Director Jean Baldwin.
``This is a large flag.''
Further downgrades could result in closing the southwest portion of the bay, McNickle said.
Bob Woolrich, growing-areas manager for state Health's shellfish program, said Snow Creek, which flows into Discovery Bay, might be at least part of the source of the fecal coliform pollution.
``We're talking about the very southern end of Discovery Bay, on the west side,'' he said, where several state water-quality tests this year have turned up elevated fecal coliform levels.
The findings led to the state downgrade in water quality in the area between the northern edge of the Discovery Bay highway commercial center to a spot near Trendwest time-share condominiums, Woolrich said.
Broders said his company owned shellfish beds on both sides of the Trendwest condos along the bay's western shores, along parts of the bay's eastern shores and the shoreline in Lower Hadlock, between the boat ramp and Skunk Island.
Bacteria pollution four years ago in Lower Hadlock's clam beds ended when live-aboard boats long moored in nearby waters left the area.
Broders said he believes abundant shorebirds and otters in Discovery Bay could the source of fecal coliform bacteria in the water.
``The septic systems are getting upgrades,'' said Broders.
``It's not like it used to be.''