Saving Puget Sound's shorelines from oil spills, urban runoff, toxic chemicals and a host of other threats will take bigger, broader efforts than the region has been able to pull...

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Saving Puget Sound’s shorelines from oil spills, urban runoff, toxic chemicals and a host of other threats will take bigger, broader efforts than the region has been able to pull off so far, a conservation group said yesterday.

“While it’s wonderful to restore an acre or two of habitat here or to have a shoreline stewardship project there … what we have not done yet is to operate on a scale that will really make a difference to the whole Puget Sound ecosystem,” said Kathy Fletcher, executive director of People for Puget Sound.

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In the first report card of its kind, the Seattle-based organization gave the shorelines of Washington’s inland sea a list of poor grades, citing the widespread loss of fish-spawning habitat, native plant life and driftwood that gives juvenile salmon a place to hide from prey and helps keep beaches from eroding too much.

As a first step toward turning things around, the group announced the launch of a 10-year goal to protect and restore 2,000 miles of Puget Sound shoreline, working with other conservation groups, government agencies, businesses, teachers, tribes and the public.

It also plans to lobby the Legislature to focus on:

• Improving water quality in Hood Canal, where scientists have blamed runoff from septic tanks as a leading cause of plummeting oxygen levels that have created a “dead zone” where fish and other marine life struggle to survive.

• Changing the state’s Growth Management Act, making it a higher priority for land-use planners to keep developments from harming water quality.

• Setting up a watchdog group to oversee efforts to do a better job at preventing and responding to oil spills like the one in mid-October, when 1,000 gallons of oil spilled in Dalco Passage near Tacoma and tainted more than 20 miles of Vashon Island and Maury Island beaches.

People for Puget Sound and other groups have criticized state and federal agencies for taking several hours to respond to that spill — a delay government officials blamed on darkness and fog.

The Dalco Passage spill came less than 10 months after about 4,800 gallons of oil drained into the Sound when a fuel barge overflowed at a Chevron-Texaco Terminal at Point Wells north of Seattle.

To compile its report card, People for Puget Sound reviewed research done by scientists with Washington’s Ecology Department, the state Department of Natural Resources and an interagency group headed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.