By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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“Everything in the lower river ends up in the bay,” said Ed Chadd, Streamkeepers coordinator.
“If you're going to clean up the bay, you're going to have to clean up the lower river.”
With bottles attached to mechanical arms, teams hike to remote stream spots to pull out water that will be tested at county laboratories.
“These are beautiful rivers,” volunteer Bob Fleaner said while sampling Dungeness feeder creeks earlier this month.
“We need to do whatever we can do to protect them and everything they feed.”
The tests look for bacteria, nutrients, the flow and health of the waters, temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, conductivity, salinity and turbidity.
That data, Chadd said, will be used to help assemble a plan by the county to help fix failing septic systems in the area and bring the water that feeds Dungeness Bay back up to snuff.
“It's all about information,” Chadd said.
“The more good information we have, the better we can target our resources.”
Both the bay and the lower Dungeness River have been named cleanup sites under the federal Clean Water Act.
That designation has shut off shellfishing on the beach near the former 3 Crabs Restaurant, which once was a hot spot for clammers.
“Hopefully, helping to clean up the septic problem is going to address the major issues in the bay,” Chadd said.
Streamkeepers has teams that monitor waterways throughout the county, but most Clallam County streams do not struggle with the same nutrient pollution problems the Dungeness watershed does, according to Chadd.
The county cut the $5,000 dedicated to the Dungeness teams because of budget constraints in 2011.
Now operating under a grant from the state Department of Ecology's Centennial Clean Water Fund to find solutions to aging septic systems in the area, Streamkeepers is back in the Dungeness watershed.
“We're trying to clean this area up,” said Ann Soule, hydrogeologist with the Clallam County Department of Health and Human Services.
“That starts with good data.”
Soule said the septic systems in the area were built when the area was developed, and many are aging out of their useful lives.
The county is considering several options, ranging from $13 million for new septic systems at each lot to $25 million for a central collection and treatment system.
With more help from the county road and environmental health departments, along with the Jamestown S'Klallam tribe, the county is training and deploying volunteers into the streams.
There currently are more than 100 Streamkeepers volunteers, but only two have signed up to monitor the Dungeness waterways.
An introductory training course for new volunteers is set from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday, June 11, in the Clallam County Courthouse EOC training room.
Two full-day classes with indoor and outdoor instruction will follow on subsequent Saturdays, June 15 and 22.
No previous experience or special equipment required. Voluneeers can bring boots or waders if they have them.
To enroll, contact Chadd at 360-417-2281 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at email@example.com.