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Port Susan Shellfish Safe for First Time in Decades

by GARY CHITTIM / KING 5 News, Posted on March 8, 2010 at 5:58 PM

ARLINGTON, Wash. - Twenty-five years ago the Stillaguamish Tribe turned its back on the contaminated bay which was once its food basket.

Development around Port Susan had left it polluted with fecal coliform. Human and animal waste had been flowing into the shallow bay and mudflats for decades.
But 12 years ago, the tribe decided to do something.

"The tribe was committed to finding out where the problems were and knowing in the future, this would be a good thing for the tribe," said Don Klopfer, a biologist for the Tribe.

The tribe turned to its neighbors and they responded. Dairy farmers agreed to move cattle away from streams and other tributaries. Cities improved their waste water treatment facilities and sewer lines. Residents updated septic systems.

This month the State Department of Health gave the Stillaguamish Tribe permission to harvest Port Susan shellfish for the first time in more than 20 years.

"It's not a matter of removing farms, and removing fishing and the timber companies," Said Shawn Yanity, A Stillaguamish Council Member and fisheries Manager. "It's our practices."

Adjusting those practices made the bay safer for all creatures who depend on it, starting with the clams and oysters.