Thursday, August 14, 2014

Around the Sound: Bringing back the oysters

By Seth Preston, communications manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

Staff and volunteers for the non-profit Puget Sound Restoration Fund took to the water recently to boost the Olympia oyster population in Port Gamble Bay.

A volunteer washes oyster shells into the bay.
It's part of Ecology's work to restore and preserve the Kitsap County bay, a key cleanup area for the Toxics Cleanup Program under the Puget Sound Initiative. Port Gamble Bay and its shores, like other former and current "working waterfronts" around the Sound, are polluted from large historical industrial operations -- in this case, from a large sawmill that operated for roughly 140 years.

The Puget Sound Restoration Fund spread oyster shells to provide a base for reviving the Olympia oyster population in the bay, which will support restoration of Washington's only native oyster.

Other restoration and preservation work in Port Gamble Bay includes:
  • Removing creosote-treated pilings at Point Julia, Martha John Estuary and other locations.
  • Studying the reasons why herring populations have slumped badly in Port Gamble Bay, as they have in other parts of the Sound.
  • Revitalizing riparian vegetation along the shores and eelgrass in the water to support fish, birds and other organisms.

Not their first rodeo

Oyster shells are used to help revive oyster populations.
This was not the first time the Restoration Fund folks have tackled a shellfish project. They spread 200 cubic yards of oyster shells in Skagit County's Fidalgo Bay, thanks to funding Ecology secured through a Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration settlement tied to the former Scott Paper mill.

The Port Gamble effort, however, is on a much larger scale -- staff and volunteers spread 1,500 cubic yards of oyster shells.

We will be watching to see what happens next.

Cleanup also coming

At the same time, we're continuing to work with Pope Resources to design a cleanup of pollution caused by historical operations at the old Pope & Talbot forest products mill on the bay. The mill operated from 1853 to 1995 before closing.

We are on target for in-water cleanup work to start in summer 2015.

No comments: