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Commercial shellfish beaches improve

South Sound commercial shellfish beaches are conspicuous in their absence from the state Department of Health's 2010 list of polluted beaches threatened with harvest closures.

It marks the first time since the state agency started its annual early warning notices in 1997 that one or more growing areas in Mason and Thurston counties haven’t been on the list, state Health Department shellfish specialist Bob Woolrich said.

The list of 10 areas threatened with harvest restrictions is down from 16 last year and is the least number of areas with deteriorating marine water quality in the past 13 years.

“We’ve seen improvement in water quality in many shellfish growing areas over the past year,” Woolrich said.

Nearly 1,000 acres of commercial and recreational shellfish grounds have been reopened in the first quarter of 2010, including portions of lower Henderson Inlet near Lacey and Dosewallips State Park beach on Hood Canal.

The efforts of homeowners, tribes, local and state governments and others to reduce sources of bacterial pollution from pets, farm animals, failing on-site septic systems and stormwater runoff are paying dividends, said David Dicks, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership.

In the past, areas have come off the list of threatened or closed tidelands only to see pollution rebound and trigger warnings and closures.

“Long-term success depends on persistent, strong local programs and cooperation among these many partners,” Dicks said.

About 10 percent of the state’s commercial shellfish growing areas remain threatened by pollution, according to the report released Tuesday. They include Grays Harbor, Mystery Bay near Port Townsend, Samish Bay in Skagit County, South Skagit Bay in Snohomish County and Drayton Harbor in Whatcom County.

In addition, a portion of Burley Lagoon in Pierce County is closing to harvest because of pollution problems.

John Dodge: 360-754-5444

jdodge@theolympian.com

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