Gov. Gregoire criticizes failure to clean up Samish Bay

The Skagit Valley Herald reported today on Gov. Gregoire’s criticism of efforts to clean up Samish Bay. The story is not available online, but here is an excerpt:

A three-year effort to end fecal coliform pollution on the Samish River that threatens tidal shellfish beds has been declared “a failure” by Gov. Chris Gregoire.

Her stern criticism of the Clean Samish Initiative came during an April 6 meeting of state agency heads involved in a monthly assessment of the effectiveness of government programs.

The Samish initiative seeks to reduce the amount of fecal coliform in the river through education, more frequent water quality monitoring and on-site farm and septic inspections.

Fecal coliform can get into the river from failing septic systems and animals defecating in or near the water. Typically, the highest levels of fecal coliform in the river are detected after heavy rainfalls.

To date the initiative has spent nearly $1 million in federal, state and local money. But Gregoire said there was little tangible success to report.

“We need to accept the fact that we’ve failed and take immediate steps to correct the fact that we’re losing 4,000 acres (of shellfish beds in the Samish Bay),” she said.

“We think that we need regulations to protect the environment,” said Larry Wasserman, environmental services director for the Swinomish Tribe. “You see what’s happening on the Samish Bay. That’s a program where we have the current county critical areas ordinance in place, and the shellfish beds remain polluted. … A voluntary program is not going to meet the tribe’s goal of recovering fisheries.”

Wasserman thinks the legislation will not help situations in critical watersheds.

“It will hurt in this regard: If there’s an illusion of a solution, then there will be less incentive to actually deal with the problem in an effective way,” he said.