Portage Bay is part of the tribal fishing grounds of Lummi Nation.
The bay is restricted to shellfish harvest (60 acres in 1997 and
90 additional acres in 1999) due to declines in water quality seen
over the beds. In order to get the beds re-opened to harvesting,
we must document on-the-ground efforts that are occurring to improve
water quality throughout the shellfish protection district. To
help track our progress, different groups throughout the watershed
conduct water quality monitoring. A database, housed at Whatcom
County Water Resources, has been created to provide a central point
for all of the information- freshwater and marine data, municipal
sewer discharge data and even rainfall data. Graphs and data summaries
are generated from this data.
Comprehensive Water Quality Monitoring
Water quality monitoring and data management are important tasks
for the shellfish district. Monitoring water quality throughout
the district provides guidance for determining priority areas
for pollution control projects. Monitoring also provides information
on what the current levels of pollution are, which helps determine
where work still needs to be done and how close we are to achieving
the desired levels for fecal coliform bacteria necessary to re-open
the shellfish beds.
As part of this process, numerous agencies have agreed to share
their water quality data. The data is consolidated into one
comprehensive database, which allows for easy access of all information
to the entire shellfish protection district.
Graphs and maps are developed based on these datasets to help
visually display where samples are taken and what the current water
quality status is at the various sample locations. Figures 1 and
2 provide a visual display of the shellfish protection district
and the sample locations within the district where water quality
data is currently collected and compiled.
Figure 1: Portage Bay
Shellfish Protection District
Figure 2: Portage
Bay Water Quality Sample Locations
Washington Department of Health
Prior to July of 2002, the State Department of Health (DOH) monitored
Portage Bay for fecal coliform bacteria on a monthly basis. Water
quality in the bay appears to be improving over the past few
years and at the request of the Lummi Nation, DOH agreed that
water quality was showing enough positive improvement to increase
sampling in the bay from once per month to twice per month through
the end of 2002 with the hope that the bay’s water quality
might improve enough by the end of 2002 to allow for re-classification.
However, due to high counts over the beds in August and again
in September, the water quality was not good enough to allow
for a re-classification by DOH.
There are nine sites within Portage Bay that DOH uses for classification
3). The two-part National Shellfish
Sanitation Program standard for approved shellfish harvest requires
that the geometric mean for fecal coliform bacteria be <14 MPN/100mL
(MPN= most probable number) and the estimated 90th percentile for
fecal coliform bacteria be <43 MPN/100mL. DOH classifies shellfish
growing areas based on a minimum of the last 30 water quality samples
collected. At the end of 2002, all but one of the sites was meeting
the two-part National Shellfish Sanitation Program standard (Figure
Site #52 has the poorest water quality of the nine sites used
for classification. Sites #53 and #58 show the best water quality.
The graphs and tables below illustrate the water quality history
of each of the various sites currently monitored over the shellfish
beds in Portage Bay.
Northwest Indian College
The Northwest Indian College (NWIC) currently samples over 50
sites in the Nooksack watershed (Figure
of the creeks monitored do not meet the two-part fecal coliform
bacteria standard for a freshwater Class A waterbody (geometric
mean <200 and <10% of the samples >400) based on the
last 30 samples collected. A lot of work has, however, gone on
throughout the watershed over the past several years, and water
quality is improving in many of the streams. The Nooksack River
has a TMDL (total maximum daily load) for fecal coliform bacteria.
A detailed implementation plan (DIP) has been developed and target
fecal coliform levels set for various tributaries in the Nooksack
drainage. Each quarter a report is generated to document various
agencies’ progress toward meeting their goals for the DIP.
The fourth quarter of 2002 was the first time that all eight
monitored streams for the TMDL met their target fecal coliform
goals. The figure below illustrates the target fecal coliform
TMDL for each of the listed creeks and shows what the actual
fecal coliform value was for that stream during that quarter.
On-site Septic Systems
Municipal Sewer Systems
Education and Community Involvement
Data Management/Water Quality Monitoring