Spring rains often swamp the Samish River with "fecal" matter that washes off fields and runs into the river. When that happens, the State Department of Health (DOH) temporarily closes Samish Bay to shellfish harvesting.
As a result of multiple bay closures during past spring months, the DOH reclassified Samish Bay from "Approved" to "Conditionally Approved." This means if the river rises by a certain level, the DOH automatically closes the bay.
Then, Skagit County employees or Storm Team volunteers must quickly take water samples, test them, and send the results to Olympia the next day. When pollution levels are within the safe range, the bay will be reopened. It will remain closed until the water and the shellfish are safe.
On March 1 a four-month clock starts running to measure the success of the Clean Samish Initiative's (CSI) massive clean-up effort. Restoration of the "Approval" status in Samish Bay in 2012 will be achieved if the following ground rules are satisfied by July 1:
(1) There must be "normal" rainfall during that 4-month period.
(2) There must be at least 6 times when rain makes the river rise enough to cause an automatic closure by the DOH.
(3) There can only be one bay closure due to pollution levels in the river. If there are more, all bets are off and the bay will not be upgraded this year.
What's going on with CSI and the Samish River over the next four months is critical and complex, and Skagit Leeks has a front row seat.
The DOH will upgrade Samish Bay to "Approved" only if it rains enough and the river rises often enough to demonstrate that efforts to clean up pollution sources in the watershed have been successful.
Everyone following the Saga of the Samish the last few years wants the CSI Team to be successful and Samish Bay to be upgraded. The upgrade will signify the river is cleaner, the bay is cleaner, there will be fewer closures to shellfish harvesting.
We at Skagit Leeks have put some champagne on ice and hope to pop the cork and toast the success of the CSI Team on July 1.