Pierce County invites residents to a public meeting for the proposed Minter Bay Shellfish Protection District. This project will enhance water quality and support safe shellfish harvest in Minter Bay. Join us Tuesday September 29th 6:30pm-8:00pm for more information and to provide your comments. Contact Austin Jennings for more information.
Every month, the Washington State Department of Health tests the water in Minter Bay for bacteria. Recently, bacteria levels have become too high for people to safely eat shellfish collected from the bay. When this occurs, the status of the bay is changed and Pierce County is required to establish a Shellfish Protection District and create a Closure Response Plan.
Minter Bay has been a valued fishing and shellfish harvesting location for indigenous peoples since time immemorial. Archaeological findings suggest this area has been continuously occupied for at least 1,400 years, and some sites farther inland along Minter Creek could date back as far as 9,000 years.
Commercial harvesting in Minter Bay dates back nearly a century. In 1882, the Minter Family from Nebraska settled there. By the early 1900s, Minter had grown to a small town, complete with a shingle mill, logging railway, saloon and social hall. The first oyster farm officially opened in 1931.
In 1982, and again in 2006, several acres of Minter Bay shellfish beds were downgraded due to poor water quality. In 2011, Pierce County Surface Water Management began working with agency partners and local stakeholders to improve the bay. By 2014, all but 32 acres were reopened.
What is a Shellfish Protection District?
The features of a Shellfish Protection District are defined by Washington State law in RCW 90.72. All Pierce County areas draining into Minter Bay will become part of the Shellfish District. Properties included in the Shellfish Protection District are not subject to any special fees or regulations. An ordinance establishing the District must be presented to the Pierce County Council for adoption.
The Minter watershed also extends into Kitsap County. Kitsap already has a shellfish protection program in place (Clean Water Kitsap), and will not be required to create a new Shellfish Protection District. The Clean Water Kitsap partnership agencies will also be included in the Closure Response Plan.
What is a Closure Response Plan?
The Closure Response Plan (CRP) outlines how Pierce County and partner agencies will respond to improve water quality. The closure of the bay is the result of high fecal coliform bacteria levels. These bacteria are found in the intestines of all warm blooded animals, including humans, livestock, pets and birds. The CRP will focus on both finding and correcting bacteria sources around the bay.
The most common sources of bacteria in areas like Minter Bay are failing septic systems, pets and livestock. Pierce County will be working with the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department and the Pierce Conservation District to develop the CRP, guided in part by the Pierce County Shellfish Partners 2020 Strategic Plan. Pierce County will also work closely with the Clean Water Kitsap partners to address sources in the upper watershed.
What can you do?
Minter Bay will not have clean water without the help and support of Minter Bay residents. If you are interested in helping create a CRP, please let us know by signing up for notifications.