Governor’s tour shines spotlight on projects to improve Puget Sound

 

Photo of Cypress Island w/ Mount Baker in the background.
The waters around Cypress Island in the San Juan Islands once teemed with pinto abalone. New funding will help restore habitat within the Cypress Island Aquatic Reserve. Photo: DNR.

Today, July 18, Gov. Chris Gregoire is touring a series of projects underway to improve the health of Puget Sound. Joining her are Martha Kongsgard, chair of the Puget Sound Leadership Council; Bill Ruckleshaus; and Colonel Tony Wright, the new executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership.

The Governor’s tour will spotlight some of the good work being done to meet her goal of making Puget Sound “swimmable, fishable, and diggable” by 2020.

As a partner in the collaborative effort to protect and restore Puget Sound, DNR scientists, land managers, restoration experts, technicians, and policy and planning staff are doing their part to make Puget Sound more fishable, diggable, and swimmable.

The Governor and her colleagues are covering a lot of territory today. Here’s where they are planning to visit today: 

On the fishable leg of the visit, the Governor is touring Hood Canal Projects that may be completed with the help from a new “in-lieu fee mitigation” (ILF) program. This “first-of-its-kind” mitigation alternative for the Hood Canal watershed will initially be used to offset the impacts of construction of the Navy’s new explosives handling wharf. The ILF program will also have broader impacts within Hood Canal and Puget Sound for meeting county, state, and federal requirements for offsetting development.

DNR participates on the Interagency Review Team tasked with reviewing projects and making recommendations for ILF projects.

The dig-gable leg of the Governor’s tour takes place in Samish Bay at the Shellfish-tival, sponsored by Taylor Shellfish Farms. This community event educates the public about shellfish and water quality.  Gov. Gregoire is meeting with local elected officials, tribal members, local farmers, and shellfish growers. Recently, due to pollution, the Department of Health had to close a number of shellfish beds in the Samish area. Gregoire wants to make sure progress is moving forward to restore this area, and ensure the shellfish beds remain open.

As manager of state-owned aquatic lands, DNR is committed to doing its part to ensure the environmental health of the tidelands and bedlands that support shellfish habitat. With funding just received from the Jobs Now Act, we are entering into a cooperative agreement with the Puget Sound Restoration Fund to restore and enhance habitat for the native Olympia oyster, pinto abalone, and kelp in many of our Aquatic Reserves. Along with creating jobs, this funding will help restore these three species of concern identified in the Washington State Shellfish Initiative. 

And finally, during the swimmable leg of the tour, the Governor will visit a neighborhood cluster of eight rain gardens in Burien that were built to prevent polluted runoff from entering Puget Sound. In addition, she will visit nearby Seahurst Park to see where more than a 1,000 feet of bulkhead was removed to improve habitat. Both of these measures also provide a public benefit by improving water quality and public access to beaches. 

DNR is currently investigating ways to improve resource protection and restoration efforts by more thoroughly understanding the impacts that outfalls have on aquatic vegetation. Our goal is to improve the overall health of habitats along the nearshore and also to provide clean, safe public access to beaches.  

Learn more about DNR’s work to restore and protect state-owned aquatic lands.

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