Puget Sound Partnership – Carved by glaciers, Puget Sound is a place where thousands of freshwater rivers and streams meet the ocean saltwater. These freshwater/saltwater mixing zones create estuaries – among the most productive and diverse habitats on earth.
The Puget Sound ecosystem supports a tremendous array of plants and animals – 200 species of fish, 26 species of marine mammals, 100 species of sea birds, thousands of invertebrates and hundreds of marine plant species. The Sound consists of 2,500 miles of shoreline, beaches, bluffs, deltas, mudflats and wetlands.
Problems Beneath the Surface
On the surface, Puget Sound still looks beautiful and healthy, but beneath the surface alarming signs indicate that the ecosystem is in trouble. Among the great diversity of species, many are listed as threatened or endangered, including orcas, otters, steelhead, salmon, bull trout, albatross, pelicans and sea turtles. Shorebirds have declined by nearly 50 percent in just the past two decades. Thousands of acres of commercial shellfish beds are closed because toxins and contaminants have made clams, mussels and oysters unsafe to eat.
Many beaches are not safe for swimming because they are contaminated with bacteria. Hood Canal has “dead zones” – areas without enough oxygen in the water to support life. New dead zones appear to be emerging in other parts of the Sound.
Nearly four million people live in the Puget Sound area, enjoying the beauty and resources of the Sound. Much of the area’s economy depends on its waters, with industries such as shellfish, fishing, shipping, ports, tourism and recreation providing substantial income. That population growth has taken a toll on Puget Sound. One-third of the households around the Sound rely on septic systems, many old or leaking, that transmit raw sewage into the Sound. Treated wastewater flushes into Puget Sound, along with toxic chemicals. Two million acres of forest have been cut, paved and built up in less than one generation. Cities and suburbs are increasing storm water runoff, and more rainwater picks up chemicals and oil as it washes over roofs and roads into storm drains that empty into the Sound. This “stormwater runoff” is the number one cause of pollution in Puget Sound.
The Sound is at a Tipping Point
While Puget Sound still supports a great biological diversity, growth and development is creating serious stress on the natural system. Natural systems have a remarkable capacity for healing, but the magnitude of environmental degradation will soon exceed the Sound’s ability to recuperate. Taking effective action now can ensure that Puget Sound’s legacy will continue for future generations.
Puget Sound Partnership Formed to Coordinate Recovery
To effectively implement clean up, restoration and protection of Puget Sound Washington’s governor and legislature enacted and funded legislation creating the Puget Sound Partnership (PSP). The 2007 legislation generally directed PSP to: protect and restore habitat, habitat functions, ecosystem diversity, and imperiled species; reduce toxins, nutrients and pathogens entering Puget Sound; improve water quality and provide water for people, fish, wildlife and environment; engage and educate the public in protecting Puget Sound.
Accomplishments on North Olympic Peninsula
Since the formation of the Puget Sound Partnership many projects have been completed or are underway to clean up or protect the environmental health of Puget Sound. Among projects located in Clallam and Jefferson counties:
Toxic creosote logs and pilings have been removed from Dungeness Spit and from an old mill operation at Jimmycomelately Creek;
- On Protection Island National Wildlife Refuge, creosote lumber bulkheads will be removed and native shoreline restored to protect sensitive breeding and nesting seabird habitat;
- At the mouth of the Dungeness River, tidal barriers will be removed to restore 20 acres of salt marsh estuarine habitat, which will benefit protected salmon, steelhead, bird and butterfly species;
- Washington counties, including Clallam and Jefferson, have adopted new septic system regulations to prevent sewage discharge into the Sound;
- A rescue tug is stationed seasonally at Neah Bay to assist disabled tanker ships. In 2007, six substantially disabled ships were assisted by the tug, preventing possible oil spills in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
For more information about the Puget Sound Partnership, visit http://www.psp.wa.gov/
Source: Puget Sound Partnership