Back to Whatcom County home page Whatcom County | Departments | Contacts |  Help |  Search
 Public Worksheader image
  Public Works  | Services  | Contact Us

Natural Resources

Natural Resources


Salmon Recovery

Marine Resources

Pollution Identification & Correction

Noxious Weeds

Shellfish Protection Districts

Water Resources Comp Plan


Shellfish Protection Districts

new Drayton Harbor Boater Education



Shellfish Protection Districts
The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) Chapter 90.72 requires that the county legislative authority create a shellfish protection district within 180 days after the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) closes or downgrades a shellfish growing area due to a degradation of water quality.   

There are three Shellfish Protection Districts that have been established in Whatcom County.


Shellfish Recovery Plans
Shellfish Recovery Plans have been created for each of these districts. The plans outline the primary sources of bacteria and actions to improve water quality.


Current Status of Shellfish Growing Areas
The Washington State Department of Health prepares annual reviews for commercial shellfish growing areas that describe the current status of each area and marine water quality data. Links to the 2012 Annual Growing Area Reviews for Whatcom County are provided here:


Water Quality Monitoring
The Natural Resources Division coordinates a routine water quality monitoring program at approximately 90 stations in watersheds that discharge to marine waters. Samples are collected on at least a monthly basis and analyzed for fecal coliform bacteria. Additional sampling is conducted in focus areas where elevated fecal coliform levels have been seen consistently and water quality improvement programs are being implemented.

Water samples are collected with trained staff using consistent methods and monitoring sites. Steps are taken to ensure high quality data.

Water quality data is compiled and reviewed on an annual basis to determine current status and priority areas for water quality improvement programs.

Many landowners have indicated an interest in collecting their own water quality samples. These guidelines provide background information and step-by-step directions for choosing sampling sites, collecting samples, delivering samples to a certified laboratory, and interpreting your lab results.


Drayton Harbor Winter Monitoring Project

A partnership of local, tribal, and state groups is conducting intensive water quality monitoring in Drayton Harbor between November and February. This project is partially funded by a grant from the Washington State Department of Health. Drayton Harbor is currently closed to commercial and recreational shellfish harvesting between November 1st and February 28th each year due to elevated bacteria levels observed in the marine waters.  While the bacteria do not harm the shellfish populations, they do indicate the shellfish may be unsafe for people to eat.

Dakota and California Creeks are the primary freshwater sources to the harbor.  The health of the harbor is threatened by contamination that runs downstream and empties into the harbor. The partnership is collecting freshwater and marine samples on a weekly basis to characterize this relationship and guide water quality improvement projects in the watershed.

On Tuesday, December 10th, the Washington State Department of Health conducted a dye study in Drayton Harbor to characterize circulation and dilution patterns. A harmless, red dye was released at the mouth of Dakota Creek and tracked in Drayton Harbor. King5 News Story


2013/2014 Water Quality Focus Areas

Drayton Harbor Watershed

Birch Bay- Cottonwood Neighborhood


Community Solutions to Clean Water

Residents can help improve the community's water quality by inspecting and maintaining septic systems and by fencing animals out of creeks, ditches and swales. By actively managing pastures, creating protected heavy use areas, and covering manure storage areas, residents can prevent manure-contaminated mud from uting surface water. Planting shrubs and trees along creek banks and picking up after dogs also contributes to better water quality.

Small Farm Assistance- Whatcom Conservation District

Septic System Maintenance and Operations- Whatcom County Health

Boating in Drayton Harbor


Upcoming Meetings and Events

  • Portage Bay Shellfish Protection District Advisory Committee

Regular Meeting- Wednesday, October 29th from 3-5 p.m.
Department of Ecology, Bellingham Field Office, 1440 10th Street, Bellingham. Agenda


More Information

For more information about the Shellfish Protection District programs contact Erika Douglas at or visit the shellfish program website at


Natural Resources Division

Natural Resources Division
322 N. Commercial Street, Suite 110, Bellingham, Washington, 98225
Telephone: (360) 676-6876