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Puget Sound cleanup grants announced

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on Dec. 22, 2011 at 11:57 am |
December 22, 2011 11:57 am

Federal grants worth more than $6 million are going out to agencies trying to protect the Puget Sound from pollution.

Among them is $480,000 for testing of greener development techniques at Washington State University’s Research and Extension Center in Puyallup. Researchers will examine ways of reducing polluted storm-water runoff, including permeable pavement.

The projects are listed here. Recipients learned about the grants Wednesday and they were announced today by three state agencies: the Puget Sound Partnership and the departments of Ecology and Commerce. Here’s their news release:

Efforts to protect and restore Puget Sound garner $6.3 million in federal grants to local communities

OLYMPIA – To help Puget Sound communities grow in ways that protect the Sound, the Washington departments of Commerce, Ecology and the Puget Sound Partnership are working together to offer $6.3 million in federal grants for 23 local projects to improve the health of the watersheds where Puget Sounders live.

The grant funds come from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and implement projects included in the Puget Sound Partnership’s Action Agenda – the single playbook for prioritizing and focusing efforts to recover and protect the Sound. Eighteen local, state and tribal entities in 10 Puget Sound counties were offered funding.

Gov. Chris Gregoire said, “Healthy watersheds are a key to a healthy Puget Sound. As our communities grow and prosper, it’s important that we develop and use the land in ways that protect our working lands, our streams and the Sound itself. These grants will help us do that. The Sound plays a huge role in the quality of life our state, which in turn is a major driver of our economy and jobs.”

U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks said, “As I continue to fight for federal funding necessary to clean up Puget Sound, it is gratifying to see these projects moving forward. We know that saving Puget Sound will require continued collaboration amongst governments, businesses and other organizations. These projects help build on our collective efforts to protect and restore Puget Sound for future generations.”

A full list of the grant award offers, including project descriptions, is at www.ecy.wa.gov/puget_sound/grants_fed_watershed2.html. View EPA’s interactive Puget Sound funding map at www.epa.gov/region10/map/funding/pugetsound_funding_map.html.

Watershed challenges in Puget Sound

As the lands within the 19 watersheds that make up the Puget Sound region get developed and more populated, pollution problems that threaten the Sound increase.

A multi-agency assessment released in November 2011 found the most common way that toxic chemicals reach Puget Sound watersheds is through polluted surface water runoff that flows off our developed residential, commercial and industrial lands.

Runoff carries these toxic chemicals and other contaminants across our developed lands where it goes mostly untreated into the fresh water lakes, streams and rivers that drain to Puget Sound. The pollutants in our watersheds come from many scattered, hard-to-reach sources that often are miles from the marine shoreline.

Transforming forest lands and fields into roads, homes and businesses often reduces fish and wildlife habitat. It can also have other environmental impacts on watersheds such as diminishing the effectiveness of wetlands and floodplains to filter, cleanse and control runoff.

What the projects will do

Most recipients being offered grants will work with other partners. They will use the EPA funding for a host of watershed projects that include innovative land-use planning and water quality improvements. These include:

  • Constructing a new wetland facility in the town of Coupeville that will protect area shellfish resources by cleaning and cooling surface water runoff before it is discharged to Penn Cove.
  • Aiding the Nisqually Tribe in creating economic and market incentives for landowners in the upper Nisqually River to restore and protect forested lands.
  • Establishing a transfer of development rights program in Skagit County designed to help stimulate commercial redevelopment in the city of Burlington while saving surrounding farms and forests.
  • Getting experts out in the field in Kitsap County to better identify critical fish-bearing streams and protect working forest lands.
  • Restoring the Skagit River estuary while protecting local agricultural lands.
  • Retrofitting stormwater infrastructure throughout the Hood Canal watershed to better manage surface water runoff, reduce pollution and boost rainwater infiltration.

Department of Commerce Director Rogers Weed said, “The projects we selected for funding include a wide range of approaches to protect and restore Puget Sound while helping support local economies. It’s important to develop market-based solutions to maintain working farms and forests, and also consider how to save money and protect jobs by cost effectively developing urban areas to accommodate our growing population.”

The Puget Sound Partnership is the state agency responsible for leading the coordinated effort to restore and protect the Sound by setting regional priorities, spurring action by organizations and providing accountability for progress.

Puget Sound Partnership Executive Director Gerry O’Keefe said, “Thanks to the work of our partners, we have many successes to celebrate today. Continued federal funding will advance science-based projects that put people to work, improve water quality and protect Puget Sound.”

In 2010 and 2011, EPA provided $34 million in targeted grant funding to Washington state agencies to restore and protect Puget Sound. The federal agency provided:

  • $8.5 million to the departments of Ecology and Commerce to restore and protect Puget Sound watersheds – of which $6.3 million has been offered to 18 local, tribal, state and regional agencies and environmental organizations.
  • $8.5 million to the departments of Fish and Wildlife and Natural Resources to restore and protect marine and near shore habitats.
  • $8.5 million to Ecology to prevent, reduce, and control toxic and nutrient pollution.
  • $8.5 million to Health and Ecology prevent, reduce, and control pathogen contamination.
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