Mount Vernon — Following a dry spell through July, August and most of September, fall rain has prompted the first shellfish harvest closures of the season in the Samish Bay due to river rise, which often correlates with fecal coliform bacteria in the water.
Fecal coliform is an indicator that human or animal feces, which can carry pathogens that make people sick, are in the water.
When the river rises to a certain point, the bay is closed as a precaution, and the water is further tested for bacteria.
The bay is closed if fecal coliform entering the bay exceeds the state standard of 4.7 trillion units per day set by the state Department of Health's Office of Shellfish and Water Protection.
A precautionary closure began Sept. 29-30, and with more than double the state standard of fecal coliform found entering the bay Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, the closure continued through Oct. 3, according to an email report from Rick Haley, water quality specialist for Skagit County Public Works.
Another precautionary closure took place Oct. 8, but fecal coliform was found to be below the state standard and the bay was reopened, Haley said in the email.