Water quality monitoring under the Surfrider Blue Water Task Force (BWTF) is a deeply rooted program in the Surfrider community. Volunteers become citizen scientists, testing water at their local beaches to make sure it is safe for recreation, and to solve any problems if persistent high readings are occuring. Over the course of the last year this program has seen a dramatic increase in the number of locations chapters are testing, as well as increased sophistication of the programs by expanding partnerships and working with various entities.
The successful BWTF program run by the Northwest Straits Chapter serves as the foundation for the programs recent growth in WA. The chapter, along with students from Western Washington University, partnered with Washington State Parks to conduct water sampling at the visually stunning Larrabee State Park. Through their efforts, the chapter realized the biggest impediment to the clean water was controlling a local raccoon problem. Raccoons would steal peoples food trashing the park and then contaminating a local stream flowing into the bay with their feces. Through water testing the chapter not only identified this problem but took steps with the park to install wire to keep the raccoons out of the stream. Additionally, the chapter has expanded their efforts to the other side of Bellingham Bay testing at Whirlwind Beach as part of their stewardship program. This testing and improvement of Whirlwind Beach and Larrabee includes a partnership with the Whatcom County Marine Resource Committee as well as supporting funding from the Department of Ecology. Through these partnerships with various agencies the NWS chapter built a framework for other chapters to be involved at a more sophisticated and calculated means which is exactly what the South Sound Chapter has done.
Larrabee State Park
The South Sound has consistently monitored two local beaches in the Tacoma area for several years. Following presentations at regional conferences about the program in Bellingham by NWS chapter Chair, Eleanor Hines, members with the South Sound took initiative to grow their program and increase its effectiveness. With an increased volunteer base and a new BWTF leader in Bruce Hoeft, the chapter expanded their testing sites to six locations. Upon further review of the locations the chapter realized they were testing without coordinating with Pierce County Health Department and thus doubling up sampling at the same site. This spurred a conversation where it was realized that the County rarely tested in the winter due to funding issues. In turn, the chapter prioritized winter site testing to better assist the county, forming a better and more strategic partnership leading to more information about water quality at beaches in and around Tacoma.
Continuing the growth and maturation of partnerships and the success of BWTF in WA, the Olympic Peninsula Chapter recently partnered with Clallam County to cover popular beaches that the county does not have the resources to monitor year round. The chapter recently had a training at Hollywood Beach in downtown Port Angeles on the process and will be testing this well know spot throughout the winter. The chapter also plans on expanding their program to other locations in the straits. The Northwest Straits, South Sound, and Olympic Peninsula Chapters have all demonstrated a commitment to working with their local agencies and community to actively ensure healthy water for recreation. If you are interested in getting involved with your local Blue Water Task Force, contact Brice.