Washington’s Shoreline Management Act directs counties and cities to create plans that offer protections and safeguards for important habitat. The health of Puget Sound is tied to the health and condition of its shorelines. Orcas, salmon, eelgrass, forage fish, and clean water depend upon well-functioning shorelines.
Working with partner organizations and local groups, WEC routinely engages the public on Shoreline Master Plan updates across Puget Sound counties. In a large part due to this work, we have seen a positive trend of removing built up shorelines compared with construction of new armoring. Just as importantly, we’ve supported neighbors in taking charge of their community’s future.
Working with our partners, WEC advocates for smart investments to protect and restore important habitat throughout the Sound. These projects are vast and include floodplain restoration, estuary protection, removing fish passage barriers, and innovative approaches like the creation of the Nisqually Community Forest, which received over $30 million in funding and protected nearly two thousand acres of prime salmon habitat in one of the most important watersheds in Puget Sound.
Wild Chinook salmon are an integral part of the Puget Sound ecosystem and cultural identity. Sadly, Chinook salmon runs have been declining over that last century to less than a third of the original population estimates. To support Chinook salmon recovery, WEC has a representative on the Salmon Recovery Council and works to secure funding for habitat restoration and protection in watersheds that sustain the Sound. With the Orca Salmon Alliance, we’ve also highlighted the connection between salmon recovery and Southern Resident killer whales that depend upon healthy runs of Chinook for their survival and who were listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 2005. As the tribal adage says, “no fish, no blackfish.”
Aquatic Reserves have been established throughout the state to protect critical native ecosystems. These reserves promote the preservation, restoration, and enhancement of state-owned aquatic lands that are of special environmental, scientific, or educational interest. WEC worked with our partner organizations – RE Sources, Nisqually Reach Nature Center, Whidbey Watershed Stewards, and Preserve Our Islands – and local groups to protect aquatic reserves through the creation of five citizen stewardship committees:
- Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve
- Fidalgo Bay Aquatic Reserve
- Nisqually Reach Aquatic Reserve
- Maury Island Aquatic Reserve
- Smith and Minor Islands Aquatic Reserve
Each committee supports their local aquatic reserve by reviewing science and management information, conducting public outreach and education, and guiding citizen science projects.