Mixed results in Puget Sound efforts

Ups and downs: Habitat restored even as land goes to development

February 3, 2010 

OLYMPIA - The health of Puget Sound is a mixed bag of improvement and continued decline, according to a State of the Sound report issued Tuesday by the Puget Sound Partnership.

The partnership, created by the state Legislature in 2007 to help cure what ails Puget Sound by 2020, looked at 20 indicators to evaluate the condition of Puget Sound in its first status report.

Eight of the 20 indicators show a slip in health, and seven others show improvement. Five others lack information to determine a trend.

Among the improvements in the past two years:

 • More than 1,309 acres of shellfish beds have reopened for commercial and recreational harvest. Shellfish harvesting is big business in South Sound, home to about 50 percent of the state’s $100 million-a-year harvest.

 • About 3,800 acres of Puget Sound habitat has been restored, including a major estuary-restoration project at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.

Among the problems that continue to plague Puget Sound at a troubling level:

 • Continued population growth led to 4,600 acres of agricultural land converted to development from 2001 to 2006.

 • Major rivers are experiencing higher winter stream flows and lower, earlier-ending summer flows over the past 25 years compared with earlier periods.

“We have significant issues ahead of us, but we are on a path to make this work in Puget Sound,” said David Dicks, the executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership. “It will take a committed effort by the partnership and its many partners to be successful.”

The partnership is the third state initiative to tackle problems of pollution, habitat loss and declining species in Puget Sound. The first effort, the Puget Sound Water Quality Authority, dates to 1985.

The partnership still needs to set Puget Sound cleanup goals and deadlines to really measure progress or the lack of it, said Kathy Fletcher, the executive director of the conservation group People for Puget Sound and the first director of the Puget Sound Water Quality Authority.

For the 2009-11 biennium, about $400 million in state funds and $132 million in contributions from federal agencies and local governments have been directed to Puget Sound recovery efforts.

The pace of funding will have to increase to meet the 2020 recovery deadline set by Gov. Chris Gregoire, the report noted.

“We have a long road ahead and more hurdles, but I’m confident our efforts are off to a good start,” Gregoire said.

John Dodge: 360-754-5444

jdodge@theolympian.com

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