Puget Sound Innovation Stories

Clean Samish Initiative

Cleaner water for shellfish beds

The Puget Sound Partnership ‘s Leadership Council set a goal of upgrading 10,800 acres of shellfish beds by 2020. Over 4,000 of those acres are in the Samish River watershed. The Clean Samish Initiative is a partnership working to improve water quality to keep shellfish beds open. In 2010 the Clean Samish Initiative partners implemented a Pollution Identification and Correction (PIC) program, and have been working with farmers and residents of the watershed to find and fix sources of fecal bacteria pollution. The team has used everything from windshield surveys and water quality sampling to sewage sniffing dogs and DNA tracing to identify where the problem is coming from and fix it. They continue to find a wide variety of sources and experiment with new methods of detection.

What worked:

  • Over 5000 non-timbered land parcels were evaluated to identify sources of pollution.
  • Over 4,000 septic systems were inspected to ensure water quality.
  • Individual citizens working as stewards and agency staff successfully identified and repaired sewage systems.
  • Samish basin large and small farmers have implemented over 260 best management practices to improve water quality.
  • Average bacteria levels in the water have been reduced significantly every year, and continue to decline.
  • Inspections, corrections, and repairs reduced bacteria levels by about 60 percent since 2010.
  • Commercial shellfish beds remain open for harvest for more days each year since the program began.


  • Local citizens continue engagement, and more are involved each year.
  • Swimming beaches stay open for more days each year.


  • Congressional District: 1, 2
  • Legislative District: 10, 39, 40
  • WRIA: 3
  • County: Skagit


  • Blau Oyster Farm
  • Conservation Commission
  • Washington Department of Agriculture
  • Washington Department of Ecology
  • Washington Department of Health
  • Washington Department of Natural Resources
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Governor’s Office of Regulatory Assistance
  • Natural Resource Conservation Service
  • Puget Sound Partnership
  • RE Sources of Sustainable Communities – North Sound Baykeeper
  • Samish Indian Nation
  • Skagit Conservation District
  • Skagit Conservation Education Alliance
  • Skagit County Public Works
  • Skagit County Public Health
  • Skagit County Planning and Development Services
  • Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group
  • Taylor Shellfish Farms
  • Upper Skagit Indian Tribe
  • Washington Cattlemen’s Association
  • Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Washington Sea Grant/University of Washington
  • Washington State Dairy Federation
  • Washington State University Skagit County Cooperative Extension
  • Western Washington Agricultural Association

Project Funding:

  • EPA National Estuary Program
  • Skagit County Clean Water Assessment
  • Washington Department of Ecology
  • Skagit County Public Health Department

More Info

Publish Date: July 10, 2019
Category: Stormwater | Shellfish
Congressional Districts: Congressional Dist. 1 | Congressional Dist. 2
Counties: Skagit
Habitat Types: Rivers & Streams | Estuary
Restoration Focuses: Shellfish
Key Benefits: Community Engagement