Chapter 18.18


18.18.010    Executive summary and introduction.

18.18.020    Goal.

18.18.030    Strategy and protection program.

18.18.040    Background.

18.18.050    Shellfish closure response team – Burley Lagoon watershed district team.

18.18.060    Existing programs and actions to date.

18.18.070    Burley Lagoon closure response strategy – Program objectives.

18.18.010 Executive summary and introduction.

Burley Lagoon, a 10,000 acre picturesque watershed located on the Key Peninsula in both Pierce and Kitsap Counties, was downgraded in February 1999 from a “conditionally approved” to a “restricted” shellfish growing area – the second downgrade in eighteen years. The pollution sources appear to be failing on-site sewage systems, livestock and pet waste, and storm water runoff. Concerned local and state officials started meeting in January 1999 to discuss the problems, actions already being taken, development of a shellfish closure response strategy and formation of a shellfish protection district. A shellfish closure response team started meeting in February 1999 and has met monthly since. The team consists of several representatives from Kitsap and Pierce Counties, the shellfish industry, and the three lead state agencies – the state Departments of Ecology and Health, and the Puget Sound Water Quality Action Team. This strategy will subsequently evolve into the implementation program for the Burley Watershed Protection District.

(Ord. 238 (1999) § 3 (Exh. B, part), 1999)

18.18.020 Goal.

The overall goal of this strategy and protection program is to restore and protect the water quality and beneficial uses of water in the Burley Lagoon watershed. Beneficial uses of water include issues related to public health, recreational use, property values, and natural resources including shellfish and salmon.

The short-term objectives are (a) to continue identifying and correcting the causes of degraded water quality and habitat; and (b) to create a watershed protection district for the lagoon in both counties by mid-August 1999.

The long-term objectives are (a) to restore the shellfish classification for Burley Lagoon to “approved” by the end of the year 2000; and (b) to maintain the watershed’s health for the benefit of the public and natural resources.

(Ord. 238 (1999) § 3 (Exh. B, part), 1999)

18.18.030 Strategy and protection program.

Pollution in Burley Lagoon will be reduced by a combination of voluntary, inspection and enforcement actions, supported by technical assistance and education. The strategy and program contain actions for reducing and preventing pollution from on-site sewage, agriculture, and storm water runoff, as well as a monitoring and evaluation program. Effective implementation of the actions will depend upon adequate funding.

(Ord. 238 (1999) § 3 (Exh. B, part), 1999)

18.18.040 Background.

Burley Lagoon is a picturesque 10,000 acre watershed located on the Key Peninsula in both Pierce and Kitsap counties. Approximately sixty percent of the lagoon (marine waters) is in Pierce County and forty percent in Kitsap County. The percentages in each county are reversed for the watershed uplands. All of the commercial shellfish acreage, which is owned by Western Oyster Company, is in Pierce County. Historically rural, the lagoon is experiencing rapid growth as more people move to the area.

Burley Lagoon was an officially “approved” commercial shellfish growing area until the summer of 1981, when high concentrations of fecal coliform bacteria were detected in the tissue of shellfish grown in this embayment. A shoreline survey and an assessment of the water quality showed that Burley Lagoon no longer qualified for an “approved” classification; the area was downgraded to the “restricted” classification in October of 1981. The pollution sources which caused the degradation in water quality at that time were considered to be failing on-site sewage systems situated along the waterfront properties, livestock and pet wastes from small farms and homes in the watersheds of Purdy and Burley Creeks, and storm water runoff.

County and state agencies and local residents spent twelve years working together in intensive restoration efforts. The last significant source of pollution was removed when Pierce County connected the Purdy shopping center to a new sewer line tied into the Gig Harbor sewer district – the failed septic system had been discharging into Purdy Creek. The state Department of Health then upgraded Burley Lagoon in October of 1993, and the community hosted a celebration.

The upgrade was to a “conditionally approved” classification rather than “approved,” though, due to a strong correlation between rainfall and fecal coliform concentration (based on a twenty-four-hour rainfall of 0.5 inch or more which closes an area to shellfish harvest for a period of five days).

However, the slowly circulating, shallow lagoon waters revealed a vulnerability to increasing population growth. Water quality gradually deteriorated again over the next five years until the standards for the “conditionally approved” classification could no longer be met. Burley Lagoon was downgraded to a “restricted” classification in February 1999. The pollution sources still appear to be failing on-site sewage systems, livestock and pet wastes, and storm water runoff; the building of second and third tier houses above the original waterfront properties has exacerbated the storm water runoff and increased the number of on-site systems.

State law requires the formation of a local shellfish protection district and protection program within 180 days after the official notification of the downgrade. The Puget Sound Water Quality Management Plan’s shellfish program calls for the development of a shellfish closure response strategy after a shellfish growing area is officially downgraded. Under the terms of a joint memorandum of agreement, the Puget Sound Water Quality Action Team, and the state Departments of Health and Ecology are to lead the development of the strategy in partnership with the affected local jurisdictions.

(Ord. 238 (1999) § 3 (Exh. B, part), 1999)

18.18.050 Shellfish closure response team – Burley Lagoon watershed district team.

The first official Burley Lagoon closure response strategy meeting was convened on February 4, 1999, bringing together representatives from state and local agencies concerned with public health, surface water management, agricultural management practices, and the larger issues of growth, land use, and development.

The Burley Lagoon shellfish closure response team consists of key agencies at the local and state level responsible for managing, controlling and preventing pollution into Burley Lagoon, as well as the shellfish grower and Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association (PCSGA). The team met monthly beginning in February and jointly developed this strategy. The team also discussed longer-term solutions including the formation of a watershed protection district to address the closure.

The team includes representatives from:


Pierce County Council


Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department (TPCHD)


Bremerton-Kitsap County Health District (BKCHD)


Pierce County Water Programs


Kitsap County Surface and Storm Water Management (KCSSWM)


Pierce County Conservation District (PCD)


Kitsap Conservation District (KCD)


Pierce County Planning and Land Services (PALS)


Kitsap County Planning and Community Development


Western Oyster Company


Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association (PCSGA)


Department of Ecology Southwest Regional Office


Department of Ecology Northwest Regional Office


State Department of Health (DOH)


Puget Sound Water Quality Action Team (PSWQAT)


Washington Sea Grant Program, University of Washington (WSGP)

Upon the team’s request, the Puget Sound Water Quality Action Team assumed the lead for coordinating the development of this strategy. The two counties will assume the lead for formation and implementation of the Burley Lagoon Watershed Protection District. The shellfish closure response team will then become the Burley Lagoon Watershed District team.

(Ord. 238 (1999) § 3 (Exh. B, part), 1999)

18.18.060 Existing programs and actions to date.

Both counties have invested significant resources in addressing water quality problems in Burley Lagoon over the years. Following is a brief summary of what each county has accomplished so far:

Kitsap County.

In October 1998, after learning of the potential for a downgrade, Kitsap County redirected resources through its surface and storm water management program (SSWM) towards aggressive identification, inspection, and correction. The Bremerton-Kitsap County Health District (the “health district”) obtained a special grant to conduct pollution identification and correction work on the lower Burley Creek Basin and Kitsap County portion of the Burley Lagoon shoreline. The health district will have completed over 200 parcel inspections by July, 1999.

The Kitsap Conservation District (the “KCD”) conducted an in-vehicle farm survey and prioritized 19 of 98 existing farms as high priority. The KCD and health district have contacted all the priority farms, including checking their on-site sewage systems. The KCD conducted workshops for livestock owners in the watershed in the spring of 1999. These were focused on livestock waste management and farm planning. The KCD submitted a Centennial Clean Water Fund grant proposal for $250,000 and received a draft offer for funding in June 1999.

Kitsap County is applying the lessons learned in the Port Gamble Bay closure response process. A critical aspect of the program is the use of the county’s solid waste ordinance to address animal waste problems. When the KCD’s technical support approach does not work – such as when property owners refuse to voluntarily work with the district or when it otherwise hits a snag – the county can apply the ordinance codified in this chapter and proceed with enforcement based on observations of mishandled solid waste. This reduces the reliance on the Department of Ecology for enforcement based on water-quality issues which are difficult to prove. The health district has issued six notice of order to correct violation letters.

Washington Sea Grant, through funding from the Puget Sound Action Team’s PIE funds, in June conducted on-site sewage operation and maintenance workshops in Pierce and Kitsap counties. The Kitsap Conservation District, through the same funding source, held two workshops for property owners of both counties in the Burley watershed on farm best management practices.

The upper Burley Lagoon Watershed is largely rural in character and produces relatively little storm water runoff. Most of the land is wooded and consists of stands of second and third growth Douglas fir, western hemlock and red alder. The land use is rural residential with homes and small farms on parcels ranging from one to twenty acres. The most recent Kitsap County Comprehensive Plan has the watershed zoned at one unit per five acres, but the predominant existing lot size is 2.5 acres. Storm water from the Kitsap County portion of the watershed is unlikely to be a critical factor in shellfish protection efforts in the near future.

Pierce County.

The TPCHD is an active participant in the multi-agency team working to improve water quality in Burley Lagoon and, if possible, bring about an upgrade in the shellfish growing area classification. The county has an operation and maintenance program, through which on-site sewage systems in the watershed have been permitted. The TPCHD has been conducting water quality monitoring and on-site sewage system inspections through the auspices of several grants over the past several years, and in May, 1999 hired an environmental technician to conduct sanitary surveys and monitoring studies. The TPCHD also has grant funds to help people repair their on-site systems. TPCHD staff have attended all of the closure response meetings and will be working closely with the other agencies to implement the closure response strategy.

The Pierce Conservation District conducted a “windshield” survey of the lower watershed and identified twelve farms. The Pierce Conservation District has contacted all the livestock farm owners identified in the inventory and has offered assistance in the form of technical recommendations, site-visits, farm plans, and cost-share assistance. The Pierce Conservation District has also conducted a farm management workshop on the Key Peninsula and notified the identified livestock farm owners in the watershed prior to the workshop.

Pierce County Water Programs has just completed a draft watershed plan for the entire Key Peninsula, including the Burley Lagoon Watershed. Kitsap County also participated in the watershed plan development, along with a management committee of citizens and agencies.

(Ord. 238 (1999) § 3 (Exh. B, part), 1999)

18.18.070 Burley Lagoon closure response strategy – Program objectives.

1.    Program Objective 1 – Establish a Coordinated Response Program. This involves setting up a closure response team, identifying the lead agency, developing the strategy, coordinating among agencies, and identifying the lead agencies to create a watershed protection district and implement the protection district program. PSWQAT led the development of the strategy.

2.    Program Objective 2 – Establish and Implement Watershed Protection District and Program. Pierce and Kitsap Counties will establish a joint “Burley Lagoon Watershed Protection District” and protection program. Currently the counties are drafting ordinances which will be presented to their respective legislative bodies during the summer of 1999, and enacted no later than August 28, 1999. The shellfish closure response team will evolve into the Burley Lagoon Watershed District team, and continue coordination of actions to restore and protect water quality to meet the goals of the program. The team will also support implementation of relevant actions in the Key Peninsula/Gig Harbor/Island Watershed Plan, and ensure consistency of local land and water regulations and programs with the protection program.

3.    Program Objective 3 – Identify Pollution Sources. The TPCHD will conduct a sanitary survey of shoreline properties in the Pierce County portion of Burley Lagoon and Purdy Creek to identify and correct failing on-site sewage systems. The survey will include other sources of water quality problems, such as improper agricultural practices or solid waste violations; violators will be reported to the proper authorities. A letter will be sent to property owners in the survey area, requesting their participation in the survey. All cooperating properties will be dye tested, utilizing charcoal packets, to identify failing on-site sewage systems. Non-participating properties will be examined, from the road and the beach, for probable cause that the on-site sewage system is failing. If probable cause is found, an administrative search warrant will be pursued and, if obtained, the property will be dye tested utilizing charcoal packets. If there is no standing or flowing water on or adjacent to the property, then charcoal packets will not be used and instead the site will be visited each day for two days following the dye test for signs of surfacing dye.

The BKCHD will continue the inspection and evaluation of land parcels in the Kitsap County portion of the watershed for fecal coliform contamination. Specifically, the BKCHD will conduct parcel inspections in the Kitsap County portion of the Burley Creek Basin according to its Fecal Coliform Pollution Identification and Correction Protocol (PIC – 8th Edition, BKCHD, January 1999).

The Kitsap Conservation District will coordinate with BKCHD to evaluate agricultural sites within the watershed. This will be on a parcel-by-parcel basis and will be implemented according to the BKCHD’s protocol referred to above. The Kitsap Conservation District has identified all farm properties in the Burley watershed. These sites have been entered into a geographic information system (GIS) format database for mapping and statistical management. The Kitsap Conservation District will contact farm owners per the BKCHD/KCD cooperative agreement, to offer technical assistance and development of farm plans. As of May 1999 all farms were contacted.

The Pierce Conservation District finished the inventory of small farms in Pierce County’s part of the watershed in March. The Pierce Conservation District has contacted all the livestock farm owners identified in the inventory and will offer assistance as needed in the form of technical recommendations, site-visits, farm plans, and cost-share assistance.

The Kitsap County surface and storm water management program (SSWM) will conduct an investigation into potential storm water contamination sources and will perform corrective actions where needed. SSWM’s water quality specialist will review water quality data developed by the Bremerton-Kitsap County health district and will coordinate with the BKCHD and the Kitsap Conservation District in the identification of possible sources of contamination.

Pierce County Water Programs’ storm water technicians have located and inspected sixteen storm water outfall points. Those facilities requiring maintenance were referred to the local maintenance shop. Water Programs’ GIS technician has created maps of the watershed including this data and an address list developed from the assessor’s database.

DOH, TPCHD and BKCHD will identify possible other sources of contamination, such as from wildlife, primarily through the water quality sampling efforts and sanitary surveys.

4.    Program Objective 4 – Control On-Site Sewage Sources. The BKCHD will enforce the correction of failing on-site sewage systems pursuant to local regulations and the PIC protocols (BKCHD, January 1999). The TPCHD will enforce the correction of failing on-site sewage systems through their local regulations.

When a failing on-site sewage system has been identified, the TPCHD has grant moneys available to assist in funding the repair. Until June 2000 or until the grant moneys have been expended, the TPCHD will pay up to seventy percent of the repair cost for a failing on-site sewage system that is adversely impacting water quality in Burley Lagoon.

The state Department of Ecology will provide technical assistance as needed.

5.    Program Objective 5 – Correct Agricultural Sources. Both conservation districts will provide technical assistance with farm plans, design of best management practices (BMP’s), implementation, and cost-share funding of BMP’s. They will also provide assistance with operation, maintenance and inspection of best management practices. The BKCHD will enforce the correction of animal-related solid waste handling violations pursuant to local regulations and the pollution identification and correction protocols (BKCHD, January 1999).

The KCD will be available to assist owners of all farm sites in the Burley watershed in developing and implementing farm plans that protect the water quality of the watershed. This will include but not be limited to design of best management practices (BMP), application for cost-share funding for projects, installation of BMP’s and follow-up operations and maintenance of installed BMP’s. Priority will be focused on sites identified through previous site inspections and fecal coliform sampling data results. Those sites that are in nonconformance with state standards for water quality will be given the highest priority.

The state Department of Ecology will take the actions discussed in the Memorandum of Understanding with the conservation districts and enforce as needed. Ecology will also provide technical assistance as needed.

6.    Program Objective 6 – Control Storm Water Sources. Pierce County will install BMP’s as warranted and where feasible to control unidentified sources of fecal contamination.

Maintenance of residential systems in the Kitsap portion of the watershed will be performed by Kitsap County’s SSWM, while the owners of commercial systems will be required by SSWM to perform maintenance as needed. Any retrofit BMP’s identified for potential water quality improvements will be evaluated for inclusion in the county’s capital improvement plan (CIP). The CIP is developed with a priority rating system favoring projects that are in response to state or federal mandates such as the shellfish closure response and the NPDES requirements.

7.    Program Objective 7 – Educate and Involve Public. The BKCHD will provide technical assistance and education to property owners through community workshops, parcel inspections (see Tasks 3.2, 4.1, and 5.3), and as requested or needed throughout the project. The TPCHD will provide ongoing technical assistance and education to homeowners for their on-site sewage systems during surveys and dye tests.

The Kitsap Conservation District will dedicate funding and personnel to provide education to the landowners and realtors in the Burley community. Education and information on natural resources, waste management and water quality will be highlights in these programs. Education may be in the form of seminars, field days, fairs, newsletters, public meetings, personal contact with farmers, and media contact. The Pierce County Conservation District will continue educating small farm owners on BMP’s during the farm planning process.

All the team members will coordinate on targeted press releases about progress in Burley Lagoon. Washington Sea Grant will produce a regular newsletter on the Burley Lagoon effort for the community. All the team members will also work to promote watershed education programs in the local school districts.

Pierce County will work with homeowners to expand the Adopt-a-Beach program into beaches in Burley Lagoon. The TPCHD and PCSGA will develop an education program for employees of the shellfish growers.

8.    Program Objective 8 – Establish a Coordinated Monitoring and Evaluation Program. The marine waters, streams and shoreline of Burley Lagoon and the watershed are being monitored, as well as storm water runoff. The BKCHD began monitoring streams in November 1998. The BKCHD will continue to monitor established stream stations in the Burley Creek basin pursuant to the county-wide monitoring program. Stream stations will be monitored monthly for fecal coliform bacteria, flow, and conventional parameters (temperature, pH, DO, conductivity, and turbidity).

The state Department of Health, Shellfish Office (DOH) has been monitoring the marine water quality on at least a monthly basis, and will continue to do so.

The TPCHD began monitoring the Pierce County shoreline in May. To assess water quality changes over time and to identify fecal coliform sources, the TPCHD will assist DOH staff until June 2000 with their monthly sampling of the marine waters in the lagoon and several of the major tributaries. In addition, the TPCHD will collect water samples from the key tributaries during the third week of every month until June 2000 to provide greater temporal data coverage. The water samples will be analyzed either by the DOH laboratory or by a contract laboratory. In addition to fecal coliform concentrations, the tributary sampling will include an estimate of stream flow, water temperature, pH, and conductivity.

All three agencies will periodically evaluate the data and track trends to measure progress in restoring water quality in the lagoon. The BKCHD will provide DOH, TPCHD, and the shellfish closure response team with Kitsap County stream data summary reports on a quarterly basis. The data reports will evaluate and present monitoring information with respect to state water quality standards and observed trends with respect to the shellfish closure response plan. Pierce County may sample storm water outfalls if future sampling by DOH and TPCHD indicates a possible problem. DOH will compile reports from the implementing agencies. DOH and TPCHD will coordinate the monitoring schedule and quality assurance/quality control.

(Ord. 238 (1999) § 3 (Exh. B, part), 1999)