Puget Sound Partnership issues 2009 State of the Sound Report

OLYMPIA – The Puget Sound Partnership has issued its first State of the Sound report noting the current condition of Puget Sound, funding allocated to clean up efforts, and accomplishments and challenges in the effort to clean up the Sound for the 2007-2009 biennium.

“We’re pleased to present the 2009 State of the Sound report,” said David Dicks, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership. ”The good news is we are making progress in our efforts to protect and restore Puget Sound. We have challenges ahead to meet our goal of achieving a clean Sound by 2020, but this report documents substantial improvements in the ecosystem.”

“It’s encouraging that even during these tough times we are continuing to make progress in Puget Sound cleanup. We have a long road ahead and more hurdles, but I’m confident our efforts are off to a good start,” said Governor Christine Gregoire. “I applaud the work of the Partnership and their many partner organizations for their hard work and commitment to restoring our natural jewel, Puget Sound.”

For the 2009 report, members of the Partnership’s Science Panel evaluated status indicators that represent each of the six goals in the Partnership’s authorizing statute: human health, human well-being, species and food webs, habitats, water quantity, and water quality.

Because the Puget Sound ecosystem is complex, it is not surprising that some parts of it may improve while others decline. Compared to historical conditions, the Puget Sound ecosystem shows signs of stress and degradation. Eight of the 20 indicators presented provide evidence of continuing decline in the Puget Sound ecosystem (fin fish harvest, conversion of forest land, orcas, herring spawning biomass, agricultural lands converted to development, eelgrass area, stream flows in major rivers, and flame retardant chemicals in harbor seals and herring), while seven indicators show evidence of improving conditions (shellfish harvest areas upgraded, increases in shellfish harvest, increases in Chinook salmon and Hood Canal summer chum run size, slight slowing in the rate of loss in forested land, improvement in sediment quality in Elliott Bay and improvement in freshwater quality. The remaining five indicators describe other dimensions of concern, but do not provide information about recent changes.

The report highlights several recent accomplishments that are important to Puget Sound recovery:

· a reopening of 1,309 acres of shellfish beds for commercial and recreational harvest;

· restoration of 3,800 acres of habitat;

· a 12 percent reduction in diesel emissions;

· a 22 percent reduction in mercury in waste streams;

· completion of the Phase I and II toxic loading studies that will help prioritize source control efforts;

· removal of 90 percent of the derelict fishing gear in Puget Sound;

· acceleration of projects needed to complete the removal of the Elwha Dam critical to salmon recovery;

· and, a permanent mechanism to maintain the emergency rescue tug at Neah Bay was created.

“Ecosystem performance evaluation and reporting is complex,” said David Dicks. “This daunting task of linking actions to improving overall ecosystem conditions has eluded many of the other large restoration efforts in places like the Chesapeake Bay and the Everglades. We have significant issues ahead of us, but we are on a path to make this work in Puget Sound and it will take a committed effort by the Partnership and its many partners to be successful.”

The Partnership is required to produce a State of the Sound report every two years. The statutory reporting requirements are to document the current status of the ecosystem, as well as status of implementation and funding. This information can be used to inform decisions about changes to funding, programs, or policies to accelerate the regional progress towards ecosystem recovery, including more efficient use of resources.

The Partnership effort and related reporting is different from prior efforts because of the 2020 end date for success, the inclusion of human health and well-being as part of the ecosystem, as well as the need to account for all state spending related to the Puget Sound. In addition, the Partnership must ensure that all actions taken were consistent with a science-based strategy, directed toward defined, measurable outcomes including those for people.

For the full text of the report, go to http://www.psp.wa.gov/sos2009.php

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