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Puget Sound Recovery

A look at the Puget Sound Partnership “Action Agenda”

Puget Sound OrcasIn 2008, the Puget Sound Partnership released its “Action Agenda,” the agency’s plan to restore the Sound by 2020.  That date, like the development of the Action Agenda, was mandated by the legislation that created the Partnership. The law also directed the Action Agenda be periodically updated, and the Partnership is scheduled to release its first new draft this month.  According to the Partnership’s website, the update “will focus on developing strategies and actions that help achieve targets for reducing five pressures on the ecosystem,” and the pressures include 1) land development; 2) shoreline alteration; 3) runoff from the built environment; 4) wastewater; and 5) loss of floodplain function.  

Let’s first address what is not included in this list.  “Salmon recovery” was included in the original Action Agenda, and since then, the entire “Shared Strategy” process, which produced the recovery plan for Puget Sound Chinook salmon, has been moved into the Puget Sound Partnership; it is explicitly recognized that “salmon recovery” is part of Puget Sound Recovery.  So far, so good.  

We also know, however, that the “Shared Strategy” plan endorsed the status quo of allowing the “co-managers” to continue to determine how harvest and hatchery policies needed to be revised in order to accomplish recovery (or, how they did not need to be revised).  It seems to us that one only need look as far as the agencies’ “recovery plan” for the Elwha River and see how heavily it relies on hatchery production in order to see that harvest and hatchery reform remains a topic in which we collectively, as a region, continue to crawl rather than walk.  

How well does the Action Agenda update deal with the five pressures on which it is focusing?  It’s too soon to tell, because the updated Action Agenda has not yet been released (as of our press time), but early indications are that there are still some gaps.  A pre-draft that was shared by the Partnership included a sub-strategy that said “Identify and prioritize areas that should be protected or restored and those that are best suitable for (low impact) development.”   Certainly that’s a necessary sub-strategy, but how will it be implemented?  One of specific tasks to realize the sub-strategy was a directive for the Department of Natural Resources to continue to update water typing maps.  

While this inclusion recognizes that there is a problem with the maps, there is nothing to rectify the huge hole that continues to exist in this, the first line of habitat protection:  there is no directive for local governments (all 116 of them) to ground truth the maps (or the permit applicants’ submittal) before they make a decision on a permit application.  While some local governments have been pro-active in developing a detailed inventory of their waters and have in effect accurate maps of their resources, most have not, and they can continue to rely on the DNR maps if they so choose, consigning miles of undetected or mis-typed streams to destruction by allowing fill, destruction of riparian buffer, or installation of impassible barriers to fish passage.  

Wild Fish Conservancy will closely examine the draft update to the Action Agenda and comment on these and other matters accordingly.  Contact Mark Hersh at the WFC if you have any questions or comments.

Article by Mark Hersh, Water Quality Specialist, Wild Fish Conservancy

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