2006 Annual Priorities Report: The Puget Sound Basin
Note: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.
View the Updated Region 10 Environmental Strategy
Description of the Challenge…
Why is it a priority?
The Puget Sound Basin includes the sub-basins and archipelagos of the Straits of Georgia and Juan DeFuca and the Hood Canal. The Basin is home to over 200 fish species, 26 kinds of marine mammals, 100 sea bird species, and thousands of marine invertebrates and plants. Puget Sound is a cornerstone of the region’s quality of life and economy. Salmon fisheries, sport fishing, shellfish production, tourism, and other endeavors rely on a healthy Sound. However, this uniquely valuable estuary faces increasing pressure from growth and development.
From the top of the food chain to the bottom, the Sound’s living resources are in decline, both in diversity and quantity. While recent declines in salmon and Orca have received particular attention, concurrent declines in forage fish, ground fish, and shore birds signal broad ecosystem problems. Healthy habitat and undeveloped shoreline are key to maintaining robust fish, marine mammal, and marine bird populations. However, since the late 1800’s over half of the shallow water habitats in Puget Sound have been lost to development, including the loss of 75% of intertidal salt marsh habitat and upwards of 90% loss of aquatic habitat in the major urbanized estuaries.
Low flushing rates and poor mixing make Puget Sound waters vulnerable to build up of pollutants. Nutrient overloading threatens both Hood Canal and southern Puget Sound. Central Puget Sound still has many areas with toxic-contaminated sediments and groundwater.
In addition, EPA has agreed to help coordinate and align federal resources into a coherent interagency workplan. This integrated federal workplan would parallel the state’s interagency biennial work plan and budget priorities for Puget Sound and will help integrate EPA activities with other important federal, tribal and state programs and actions.
As in many EPA efforts, we provide our partners financial support. Work in the Puget Sound Basin follows that tradition. In 2005, EPA awarded approximately $6 million to Puget Sound Tribes to build the technical and administrative capacity to identify, manage, and correct environmental problems. Puget Sound communities received a number of EPA grants that support environmental education and public participation in local projects and initiatives. EPA has promoted the incorporation of evolving technical and scientific understanding into environmental decision making. Approximately 47 million federal dollars have been provided to a variety of Puget Sound agencies to implement various portions of the conservation and recovery plan. We will continue diligent management oversight of these grant funds to assure environmental results.
EPA will work with other agencies in Puget Sound to identify gaps in the overall management of stormwater, particularly in the areas where land use is changing from rural agricultural and forest to urban. EPA will promote development and implementation of smart growth and low-impact development strategies.
Superfund Site and sediment cleanup investigations continue in Commencement Bay and Eagle Harbor, throughout the Lower Duwamish Waterway, and at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Investigations and cleanup are also under way at the remaining upland National Priority List sites not already addressed.
Investigations and cleanups are also ongoing at many sites in Puget Sound managed by EPA’s RCRA program, which works with hazardous waste facilities. EPA will participate on interagency toxics assessment, monitoring, and source control strategy teams for mid-scale estuaries. We will make substantial contributions to restore an additional 3,500 acres of wetland and nearshore habitat by 2011. EPA’s future efforts will involve work with the state, local jurisdictions, and Tribes in sensitive and high value estuaries to reduce pathogen and nutrient contamination. EPA will make substantial contributions in recovering the use of shellfish bed growing areas through improved waste management and controlling pathogen and nutrient pollution sources.
|Goals and Objectives… |
What are the desired long-term outcomes?
The goal of this priority is conservation and recovery of orca, salmon, forage fish, and groundfish populations through protective water quality and habitat management, reduction of harm from stormwater runoff, and clean-up of contaminated sites and sediments. We will protect shorelines and other critical areas that provide important ecological functions, restore degraded nearshore and freshwater habitat, and prevent nutrient and pathogen pollution caused by human and animal waste.
Strategy and Approach…
How do we anticipate achieving our desired goals and objectives?
The 2005-2007 Puget Sound Conservation and Recovery Plan is an ambitious workplan crafted by the Puget Sound Action Team, a partnership of state, Tribal, local, and federal governments. The Plan focuses on the work of state agency partners. To supplement the Action Team’s plan, EPA is developing its own complementary action plan organized around the same priorities to support state and local programs and interagency priority teams.
A Map of the Puget Sound Basin
Residents and visitors to the Puget Sound area should be able to expect a clean and beautiful marine environment.
Measures of Success…
How will we know we have achieved success?
- Habitat destruction is stopped and trends are reversed,
- Declines in natural resources are reversed and numbers begin to increase,
- Water quality improves.