Humboldt Baykeeper - Impaired Waters Designation Finalized by EPA

August, 2015


Impaired Waters Designation Finalized by EPA

On June 26, the U.S. EPA made its final determination that Little River, Widow White Creek, Jolly Giant Creek, Campbell Creek, Lower Elk River, and Martin Slough are impaired by bacteria, namely E. coli, a species of fecal coliform that lives in the guts of warm-blooded animals. The U.S. EPA’s approval of the 303(d) listing finalizes the August 2014 recommendation by the North Regional and State Water Quality Control Board, which was based on Humboldt Baykeeper’s Citizen Water Monitoring data collected between 2005 and 2010.

Of California’s more than 200,000 river miles, over 40,000 are not meeting at least one water quality goal, and still need clean-up plans. Many clean-up plans are years behind schedule, including a plan to address dioxin contamination in Humboldt Bay.

Now that state and federal agencies charged with protecting and restoring water quality have formally recognized the bacteria pollution that has troubled Humboldt Bay’s oyster industry for years, clean-up plans will be prioritized.

The U.S. EPA also upheld the listing of several Humboldt County beaches as impaired by bacteria: Clam Beach at the mouth of the Mad River and at Strawberry Creek, as well as Luffenholz, Moonstone, Trinidad State Beach, and Old Home Beach, which is also known as Indian Beach. This list includes all beaches monitored by the County, leaving the public to wonder how many other local beaches are similarly polluted.

On June 16, Clam Beach was given the dubious distinction of being the third most polluted beach in California in the annual Beach Report Card compiled by Heal the Bay, a non-profit in Santa Monica. This is Clam Beach’s second year in a row on the “Beach Bummer” list due to unacceptably high levels of fecal bacteria detected by Humboldt County’s Ocean Monitoring Program (for more info, including weekly sampling results, visit Levels higher than allowed for swimming were found in 80% of the samples from the surf zone on Clam Beach near the mouth of Strawberry Creek. Again, the sources of this water pollution are unknown, but Baykeeper is coordinating with the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board to identify the sources so we can work toward effective solutions.

Humboldt Bay is not considered polluted by bacteria during dry weather, but each major rainstorm flushes polluted runoff into the bay from tributaries, closing commercial oyster beds according to public health regulations. Finding solutions to bacteria pollution will protect the commercial oyster industry as well as people who harvest wild clams and mussels. Clean water must also be restored to ensure that local waterways are safe for swimming, surfing, wading, and other water-based recreation.

Although the sources of bacteria remain unknown, Humboldt Baykeeper has received funding to identify the sources through molecular analysis of water samples. Thanks to Coast Seafoods, the Humboldt Area Foundation, Environment Now, Moonstone Beach Surf Camp, and hundreds of individual supporters, we are developing sampling plans for pilot studies in Little River and Janes Creek. We hope to begin sampling later this summer. Once sources are identified, solutions can be developed to restore clean water to ensure that our local waterways are fishable, drinkable, and swimmable.

What can you do to help prevent water pollution?

• Clean up pet feces
• Have your septic system inspected
• Clean up trash that attracts birds and other wildlife
• Fence livestock out of streams and away from streamside areas
• Make sure nothing but rain goes down the storm drains.
• Become a member of Humboldt Baykeeper
• Donate to our Water Quality Program


Swim Guide App

Waterkeeper Swim Guide is a mobile phone app that delivers the latest beach water quality information right to your smartphone. The Swim Guide shows current and historic status of the most popular beaches so you can determine if the water is safe for swimming. For more information and to download the app, visit


Explore Humboldt Bay/ Explora la Bahía

Interested in exploring Humboldt Bay while paddling a kayak or from the deck of a motor boat? Baykeeper has partnered with the Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center and the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District to offer tours covering a variety of topics on Humboldt Bay. Thanks to a grant from the California Coastal Conservancy, our staff and docents lead tours in Spanish and English. Boat tours are for ages 8 and older. Space is limited and reservations are required.

Upcoming motor boat tours with the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District are scheduled for 9:30 to 11 a.m. on these dates:
Saturday, August 15
Saturday, September 26
Saturday, October 10

Call 707-825-1020, or email for more info or to reserve your Bay Tour. Se habla español.



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