Puget Sound Innovation Stories

Birch Bay

Birch Bay, north of Bellingham, was closed to commercial shellfish harvesting in 2008 because of bacteria contamination, affecting a 670-yard radius around the mouth of Terrell Creek.  Local, state, and federal agencies collaborated to create a comprehensive strategy adapting to population growth and reducing bacterial pollution in the upper watershed.

In 2010, the Whatcom Conservation District began encouraging residents to adopt good stewardship habits; install low-impact development technologies; use agricultural best management practices; and participate in riparian, wetland, and stream restoration projects. A comprehensive social marketing plan called for recruiting a local resident to serve as a “watershed steward” to connect individuals with agencies and practices while nurturing relationships for sustained impact.

Watershed residents received outreach materials and options of available activities to develop a greater appreciation for the potential impacts of their individual actions. This community-based approach offered free technical assistance, project design, mentoring by staff, and financial assistance.

After only five years, 87 homeowners have acted to improve watershed health; 27 riparian restoration projects have protected 73 acres of stream; and 34 farm best-management practices have been installed to eliminate polluted agricultural runoff.

Funding Sources:

  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • State, local, and private funding

Congressional Districts: 1, 2


  • Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association
  • Birch Bay Watershed and Aquatic Resource Management District
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • Birch Bay State Park
  • Whatcom County Public Works
  • Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • British Petroleum
  • Birch Bay Water and Sewer District

Further questions? Think you can use this as inspiration for your own project? Please inquire with:

Aneka Sweeney–Education Coordinator for Whatcom Conservation District.


More Info

Publish Date: April 19, 2017
Category: Stormwater | Shellfish
Congressional Districts: Congressional Dist. 1 | Congressional Dist. 2
Legislative Districts: Legislative Dist. 42
Counties: Whatcom
Restoration Focuses: Reduce Pollution | Shellfish | Water Quality
Key Benefits: Community Engagement
Funding Sources: EPA