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Chico Bay gets green light

For the first time in 60 years, Chico Bay in Dyes Inlet is now open to both private and commercial fisherman for shellfish harvesting.

In early June, the Washington State Department of Health (WSDH) will open most of the bay to the public for clam and oyster collection.

“Kitsap County’s great work has improved water quality to the point that shellfish can go straight from Chico Bay to markets,” said WSDH Shellfish Program Manager, Bob Woolrich. “In the past, the clams had to be moved to Hood Canal for cleansing before being sold.”

Along with multiple water samplings conducted by the Kitsap County Surface and Stormwater Management Program, the Kitsap County Health District (KCHD) completed a pollution identification and correction (PIC) project in the Chico Bay Watershed.

After setting a goal to improve shellfish beds in Chico Bay, Mindy Fohn, environmental health specialist for the KCDH, said marine samples displayed high levels of fecal content coming from fresh water runoff. In 2005, KCHD completed the PIC and identified 15 sources of fecal pollution, including 14 failing on-site sewer systems and one urban wildlife source. Fohn said they determined the problem also was coming from old laundry machines draining water into the inlet.

Fohn added that all fecal pollution sources have now been fixed, however water tests will continue to be administered on a monthly basis.

“The community was incredibly supportive of our project,” Fohn said. “Without their help, this upgrade would not have happened.”

Kim Zabel, spokeswoman for the WSDH Shellfish Program, said the area will be open for harvest until an emergency closure occurs, which could happen is a water quality test comes back bad or if the presence of biotoxins are found. She added that if this occurs, signs will be posted.

“We sample (the water) all the time,” Zabel added. “(Chico Bay) now absolutely meets the commercial (harvest) standards.”

For more information about recreational and commercial shellfish harvest and food safety, visit www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/sf/default.htm.

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