Habitat Conservation on the West Coast: Puget Sound Action Plan
Through the Puget Sound Action Plan, agencies are working together to conserve habitat and the benefits they provide for coastal communities.
Healthy nearshore and floodplain habitat and good water quality, are critical for salmon and shellfish recovery in Puget Sound, Washington. Land-use and development practices in Puget Sound have compromised thousands of acres of quality marine and freshwater habitat, causing a decline in valuable habitat for salmon and shellfish.
Through the Puget Sound Action Plan, agencies are working together to conserve habitat and the benefits they provide for coastal communities. NOAA Fisheries, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Geological Survey, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are collaborating on an enhanced approach to implement the Puget Sound Action Plan to protect and restore habitat throughout Puget Sound for salmon, shellfish, and aquatic ecosystems. We are leveraging our existing Federal partnerships, and reaching out to Western Washington Treaty Tribes and State agencies, because we share a common goal to restore Puget Sound’s habitat and the species that depend on it.
A Puget Sound Science Team will increase the scientific foundation for monitoring and analysis, and allow for better tracking of progress, setting of priorities, and decision-making. A new Tribal-Federal Habitat Forum provides a venue for Treaty Tribes and Federal agencies to resolve habitat issues impeding salmon recovery within a watershed and/or across the region.
The Puget Sound Action Plan is one component of our nation-wide NOAA Habitat Blueprint. NOAA is developing and implementing new habitat-based solutions to support healthy and productive ecosystems. We are expanding partnerships, prioritizing activities, and improving our focus to understand, protect, and restore habitat for the benefit of our living marine resources and coastal communities.
Puget Sound Federal Task Force
On September 30, 2016, nine Federal agencies and cabinet departments signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) creating the Puget Sound Federal Task Force. The purpose of the MOU is to:
- Strengthen coordination among Federal agencies.
- Strengthen intergovernmental coordination of Federal actions with tribal, state, and local governments as well as with private efforts.
- Strengthen the integration of Federal activities in the Puget Sound Action Agenda.
- Strengthen the Federal contribution of scientific and technical expertise.
- Contribute to fulfilling Federal trust responsibilities to Puget Sound Federally recognized tribal governments.
- Create a standing Federal venue through which to share information.
On January 18, 2017, the National Puget Sound Task Force reviewed and accepted the Interim Draft of the Puget Sound Federal Task Force Action Plan FY 2017-2021. The purpose of the Puget Sound Federal Task Force Action Plan is to contribute toward realizing a shared vision of a healthy and sustainable Puget Sound ecosystem by leveraging Federal programs across agencies and coordinating diverse programs on a specific suite of priorities.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Region 10 Administrator and NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region Administrator co-chair the Task Force’s Regional Leadership Team, and senior NOAA Fisheries staff represent the agency on the Regional Implementation Team.
The Puget Sound Action Agenda, as well as salmon recovery and tribal habitat plans and priorities, are the foundations of the Federal Task Force Action Plan.
The Draft Action Plan is now posted on EPA’s website on behalf of the Puget Sound Task Force member agencies.
For more information, please contact Elizabeth Babcock at (206) 526-4505, firstname.lastname@example.org
Recommendations to reduce the adverse effects of shoreline armoring
Shoreline armoring constructed or reconstructed within the intertidal zone reduces the availability of nearshore habitat and alters the natural functions of the intertidal zone, adversely affecting salmon and rockfish and their intertidal habitat. This alters and reduces ecosystem functions provided by intertidal zones and may result in adverse effects on Endangered Species Act (ESA)-listed species and their designated critical habitat, as well as salmon and groundfish Essential Fish Habitat.
We recommend that where possible, bulkheads be located above the elevation of Highest Astronomical Tide (HAT). For all new bulkheads, and bulkhead repair or replacement projects, a feasibility assessment of locating the bulkhead above HAT should be completed. The necessity of the bulkhead should also be fully assessed.
Where locating the bulkhead above HAT is determined to not be feasible, we recommend an alternate soft-shore armoring option, as described in Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Marine Shoreline Design Guidelines, and that a feasibility assessment be completed.
For all projects involving bulkhead construction, repair, or replacement, we recommend that appropriate mitigation be implemented to avoid, minimize, or offset all potential adverse effects of the project, including short-term construction-related effects and long-term effects related to permanent structures.
On-site mitigation options are preferred, but off-site/compensatory mitigation options may be appropriate if suitable opportunities for on-site mitigation are not identified. Off-site mitigation programs should provide similar ecosystem functions to the same species and populations affected by the project. Examples of mitigation options (on-site or off-site) that may be incorporated into the project include (this is not an exhaustive list):
- Riparian planting with native trees and shrubs adjacent to the impacted shore zone, which should include a long-term monitoring and maintenance/replanting plan.
- Beach nourishment with substrate appropriate to surf smelt and sand lance that may spawn on the beach, which should be provided in perpetuity, with a monitoring and replenishment plan.
- Removal of artificial structures (e.g. pilings. concrete debris, adjacent bulkheads, etc.) from the nearshore.
Additional Resources for Puget Sound
The animated short, Nearshore was the winner of the 2014 Science in the Studio Award,, part of an ongoing partnership between Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA) & NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region.
- Watch: Nearshore
- Fact sheet: How Bank Armoring & Overwater Structures Shape the Health of Pacific Salmon & Steelhead (2012)
- Habitat Value Quantification in Puget Sound using the Nearshore Habitat Values Model & Habitat Equivalency Analysis (HEA) (Working Draft, April 2015)