Minter Bay Shellfish Protection District
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 to restore water quality.
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 to help?
Minter Bay will not have clean water without the help and support of Minter Bay residents. If you are interested in joining the regular water quality team planning meetings, please send us your request. You'll be added to the contact list, and notified of upcoming meetings and agendas.
Several meetings were held throughout the development and adoption of the Closure Response Plan and Minter Bay Shellfish Protection District. You'll find links below to recordings of those meetings. Check them out if you would like to learn more about the Plan, the District, or the partners working to improve water quality.
The public process is concluded now, and the County Council has adopted the Plan. However, there are still opportunities to provide feedback and help guide our pollution control efforts. Find out more about these quarterly meetings by visiting the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department's website.
Public Meeting #1
Pierce County invited residents to a public meeting for the proposed Minter Bay Shellfish Protection District. The project will enhance water quality and support safe shellfish harvest in Minter Bay. The meeting was held Tuesday September 29th 2020 6:30pm-8:00pm for residents to ask questions and provide comments. You can view the recorded meeting below.
Pierce County Zoom Webinar First Public Meeting
Recording Now Available Below
Public Meeting #2
Pierce County invited residents to a second public meeting to discuss the Draft Minter Bay Closure Response Plan. At the meeting, Pierce County walked through the plan contents, heard public comments, and discussed any revisions that need to be made before the draft plan is submitted to the Pierce County Council on December 4th 2020.
Pierce County Zoom Webinar Second Public Meeting
Recording Now Available Below
Water Quality Planner
Phone: (253) 625-3714
7:30 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
2702 S 42nd St, Ste 201
Tacoma, WA 98409-7322