The Blue Water Task Force laboratory in Newport, Oregon is located at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Nearly thirty Surfrider volunteers participate in this program by collecting weekly water samples from Newport’s beaches and upstream waterways. Past BWTF data have revealed consistently high bacteria counts at Nye Beach and in Nye Creek. Concerned by the lack of public awareness of this pollution problem, the local chapter approached the City with their data. In 2005, the City of Newport responded by forming the Mayor’s Water Quality Committee to deal with the issues Surfrider was raising.
The chapter worked cooperatively with the Mayor’s Water Quality Committee to improve public notification of the creek’s contamination through newly developed signage. Nye Beach and the Nye Creek outfall were also included in the State of Oregon’s Beach Monitoring Program for the first time. This was a pretty significant achievement as these locations were not even being tested previously, and Nye Creek became the first freshwater site ever to be included in the State’s regular beach monitoring program. The Committee also developed watershed education leaflets that were distributed with the City’s utility bills.
In early 2007, the mayor concluded the Water Quality Committee but the chapter has continued to push local and state authorities to investigate and to start solving the pollution problems in Nye Creek and Nye Beach.
As part of their efforts to identify the sources of pollution, the chapter performed a watershed characterization that included sewer and stormwater infrastructure mapping and hotspot testing. Illegal dumping of waste from trailers and homeless camps were identified as one possible source of contamination in the upper watershed of Nye Creek. The city responded by removing the trailers and fining their owners. A nuisance ordinance was also passed to move the homeless camps away from the creek.
The work to identify the source of pollution continued, however, as the greatest concentrations of bacteria were found in the lower watershed. While the Chapter had difficulties at first trying to motivate the City Council to seriously investigate the sources of pollution, a youth volunteer group, Nye – Awareness, Research, Monitoring and Stewardship (ARMS), was more successful. This group was formed by members of the Oregon Coast Aquarium’s Youth Volunteers, who had been collecting and analyzing water samples. Under the guidance and mentorship of the Chapter, these youth became more involved in researching the Nye Creek Watershed. As part of their collaborative project with the Newport Chapter, they presented their findings from their winter water quality project to Newport City Council and made recommendations for Nye creek water quality issues.
In response the City began conducting smoke and dye testing to investigate the storm water basin and discovered several misconnections. Seven properties were discharging directly to the storm water system instead of the city sewer. These cross-connections have since been rectified. Learn more about the smoke testing and the investigation at http://www.newportnewstimes.com/articles/2008/04/18/news/news01.txt http://www.newportnewstimes.com/articles/2008/04/04/news/news16.txt
The chapter was also successful in convincing the City Council to revise Newport’s municipal code to mandate best management practices for water quality improvements through sewer, storm water and other non-point source pollution controls. The City unanimously passed an animal waste removal ordinance and watershed protection ordinances regulating stormwater runoff, including the creation of a stormwater utility and an opt-out incentive program for residents and businesses that participate in stormwater disconnect projects on their property.
Further reductions in non-point source pollution will also hopefully be seen in Nye Creek from the installation of a biopond in the upper watershed. The City of Newport has received approval from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to install this biopond to improve water quality in the watershed. Newport is able to use 80% of a past fine levied by the state for water quality violations to fund this Supplemental Environmental Project. The Newport Surfrider chapter was involved in the design phase of this project.
The Newport chapter’s BWTF program has also branched out beyond the Nye Creek watershed to participate in the Mid-Coast Basin Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) program. Located on Oregon’s central coast, the Mid-Coast Basin contains urban areas, agricultural lands, and public and industrial forests. Approximately 500 of its 2,765 stream miles are in violation of water quality standards for fecal coliform or E. coli bacteria. Volunteers throughout the Mid-Coast Basin are collecting water samples, and Surfrider will be providing its bacteria data to the DEQ to establish TMDL Load and Wasteload Allocations.