Local Waterways ‘Impaired’ under the Clean Water Act

October, 2014






On August 14, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Board voted to designate six local waterways as impaired by high concentrations of fecal coliform bacteria, such as E. coli.

Using Humboldt Baykeeper’s Citizen Water Monitoring data, the agency supported their staff’s recommendation and called for adding Little River, Widow White Creek, Martin Slough, lower Elk River, Jolly Giant Creek, and Campbell Creek to the Federal Clean Water Act’s list of impaired waters.

The designation—known as 303(d) listing—will set in motion the development of plans to restore water quality by limiting bacterial pollution that is finding its way into these streams—and ultimately into Humboldt Bay and coastal waters.

Unfortunately, due to the massive backlog of 303(d) listed waterbodies, developing a plan to restore water quality will likely take many years. The first step toward finding solutions is identifying the sources.

Here at Humboldt Baykeeper, our top priority for 2014 and 2015 is to secure funding for research that will identify the sources of bacterial pollution. Understanding the sources will help point to ways to reduce it, thereby restoring clean water to our streams, the bay, and local beaches.

 E. coli is a type of fecal coliform bacteria found in the guts of warm-blooded animals, including humans. It is an indicator of other pathogenic bacteria and viruses found in feces, all of which can make people sick. The state sets limits for waterways that are used for contact recreation, such as swimming, wading, fishing, surfing, or boating. Children are especially susceptible to illness from playing in small streams and coastal waters polluted with coliform bacteria, which can cause diarrhea, stomach cramps, vomiting, as well as skin and eye irritation.

While County Environmental Health monitors local beaches and posts warnings, little has been done to identify the sources of pollution and develop strategies to address polluted runoff that impacts local coastal waters. 

Good news for oyster growers and eaters: Humboldt Bay itself is not proposed for listing due to overall low E. coli levels in the bay. Oyster growers sample the bay frequently to ensure that bacteria levels are below limits set by the state for shellfish consumption. The proposed listing should benefit the oyster industry, which is required to suspend harvest during and after major rainstorms due to the high levels of bacteria being flushed from the Bay’s tributaries. 

Thanks to all of our dedicated Citizen Scientists who have monitored water quality since 2005, and to our consultants at Pacific Watershed Associates in McKinleyville.

Special thanks to the Eureka Times-Standard editorial board for supporting the proposed listing and our work in general! (see “A Call to Action,” posted April 11, 2014).

Have you or your children gotten sick after swimming or surfing at Little River, Moonstone Beach, or other local beaches? Let us know! Send your story to alerts@humboldtbaykeeper.org.



Exlplore the Hikshari' Trail with Humboldt Baykeeper


Join Humboldt Baykeeper for a free bilingual natural history tour of the Hikshari’ Trail in Eureka on Sunday, October 12 at 9:30 am. Meet at the Truesdale Vista Point on the Humboldt Bay waterfront at Truesdale Avenue. The trail is paved, level, and ADA accessible, and leashed dogs are welcome. For more info, or to RSVP, please call (707) 825-1020 or email tours@humboldtbaykeeper.org. For info on kayaking and motor boat tours, and to learn more about our work to safeguard Humboldt Bay and coastal resources, visit our website at www.humboldtbaykeeper.org.



Sundays in the Sanctuary

Redwood Community Action Agency (RCAA) is hosting two free coastal exploration events in south Eureka’s Elk River Wildlife Sanctuary on Sunday, September 28th and Sunday, October 19th (12-4 p.m. both days). Funded through State Coastal Conservancy’s Explore the Coast program, RCAA, along with many partnering organizations (including Humboldt Baykeeper), will be offering a myriad of family-friendly activities along south Eureka’s newest trail, the Hikshari’ Trail. Turn onto Hilfiker Lane off Broadway (at Hilfiker Pipe Company) for event activities and parking. Food services will be available.



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 www.theswimguide.org.



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