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Yukon Harbor approved for first-ever shellfish harvest

Yukon Harbor will be open to shellfishing for the first time since the 1960s, indicating the region’s waters are getting cleaner. - Courtesy Photo
Yukon Harbor will be open to shellfishing for the first time since the 1960s, indicating the region’s waters are getting cleaner.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

Yukon Harbor is being opened to shellfish harvesting for the first time since the state began monitoring shellfish areas in the 1960s. The harbor is located about 10 miles east of Bremerton and faces Seattle on the east shore of the Kitsap Peninsula.

“Making the Puget Sound a healthy environment for all of us is an important priority,” said Gov. Chris Gregoire. “The opening of Yukon Harbor for shellfish harvesting is a great sign that we’re heading in the right direction and I applaud our health and environment officials on this great success.”

This action upgrades 935 acres from prohibited to approved — meaning shellfish can be harvested directly from Yukon Harbor.

The classification change is based on good marine water quality samples collected by the state Department of Health and restoration work carried out by Kitsap County Health District, Kitsap Conservation District, and the local community to reduce bacterial pollution in the Yukon Harbor watershed.

The restoration work was funded by the Department of Ecology and the Kitsap County Surface and Stormwater Management Program.

“The people and programs of Kitsap County continue to produce great results restoring shellfish water quality,” Secretary of Health Mary Selecky said. “The work serves as a model for the region and other coastal communities around the nation.”

Since 2001 the local Health District has surveyed the entire shoreline area between Point Southworth and Manchester eight times.

The district has collected hundreds of water quality samples and investigated all drainages with high bacterial levels. They inspected 335 septic systems and identified 51 failing systems.

All but one of the failing septic systems have been fixed or resolved.

The conservation district’s work included several educational events, more than 100 visits to watershed landowners, and cost-share funding and technical support to establish better land-management practices to protect water quality.

“The people of Yukon Harbor are the key to this success, especially those who were asked to repair their septic systems,” said Michael Drew, environmental health specialist with the Kitsap Health District, who’s been working on the Yukon Harbor restoration project since 2001. “The results go to show that the techniques we’ve been using since the early 1990s to locate sources of pollution and foster community support are effective.”

The Kitsap Health District will follow up with more work in a few isolated spots where bacterial levels are still a concern.

The district will continue to monitor water quality at a dozen sampling stations. It will ll also conduct a full shoreline survey of the harbor annually to catch new problems that might emerge.

“The investments we’re making in Puget Sound cleanup are paying off,” said Puget Sound Partnership Executive Director David Dicks. “But while good progress is being made, we still have more work to do. Every day thousands of pounds of toxic chemicals flow into our rivers, creeks, bays and ultimately, Puget Sound. It’s critical that we all work together and keep taking action to clean up our threatened waters.”

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