Thanks to improved water quality, the Washington State Department of Health recently reopened 180 acres of shellfish beds on Vashon Island to commercial and recreational harvesting for the first time in 20 years. Water quality in Quartermaster Harbor suffered not only from contaminants associated with mining and a nearby smelter, but also from failing septic systems.
A combination of federal, state, and local funding allowed implementation partners to work together to ensure septic systems were in compliance with water quality laws. The result was a cleaner, healthier harbor for fish, shellfish, and people. The Vashon Loop newspaper called the reopening “a tremendous victory for homeowners, for the Puyallup Tribe, which has reserved treaty harvest rights in the area, and for everybody who wants a clean and healthy Puget Sound.”
Nearby, Maury Island’s southeast shore boasts the largest public holding of protected marine shoreline in Puget Sound. Located on the southeast shore of the island on a former sand and gravel mine is the Maury Island Natural Area and Marine Park.
The area includes native madrone forests and more than a mile of natural shoreline that offers habitat supporting Chinook salmon, orca, and bull trout, as well as small bait fish that are a critical food many fish and birds.
Structures associated with mining have been removed, and invasive plants are being replaced by native plants. Acquired by King County in 2010, the land is recovering from years of arsenic and lead contamination with the help of project partners.
Maury Island has become a popular destination for camping and hiking, supporting more than 50 species of fish, 90 species of birds, and marine and land mammals.
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- King County Conservation Futures Tax
- Washington State Department of Ecology
- ASARCO settlement fund
Congressional District: 7
- King County
- People for Puget Sound
- Preserve Our Islands
- Vashon-Maury Island Land Trust
- Washington Environmental Council
Photo credits: Kyle Murphy/flickr (featured image), King County Parks
Further questions? Think you can use this as inspiration for your own project? Please inquire with:
Barbara Zaroff–Capital Projects Engineer for Kitsap County