FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 11, 2019
Alyssa Barton, Puget Soundkeeper, (206) 297-7002,
Nick Abraham, Washington Environmental Council, (425) 761-9368,
Seattle, WA June 11th, 2019 –
Unfiltered stormwater runoff is the largest source of water pollution in Puget Sound and the primary contributor to the high mortality rates of fish within our waterways. Studies have found that 75% of the toxic chemicals entering Puget Sound are carried by stormwater runoff that flow off hard urban surfaces, such as roofs, highways, paved streets, and parking lots.
In 2008 and 2009, Puget Soundkeeper (Soundkeeper) and Washington Environmental Council (WEC) won legal decisions requiring Low-Impact Development techniques to be incorporated into state permits for managing stormwater. Starting in 2012, these permits required the 83 cities and counties across Puget Sound to update their development codes to make Low-Impact Development principles and practices the “preferred and commonly used approach” by 2016. Low-Impact Development incorporates natural drainage solutions that filter stormwater runoff and includes implementing rain gardens, buffers around paved areas, permeable pavement, and preserving existing vegetation on development sites. Decades of studies show that these techniques significantly reduce pollutants entering our waterways through stormwater runoff.
In an effort to hold cities and counties in Puget Sound accountable for compliance with the regulatory Low-Impact Development requirements, Soundkeeper and WEC communicated directly with 83 local governments to review their development codes and promote improvement. The ranking report, Nature’s Scorecard, was published in print and online at www.NaturesScorecard.com. In its first release in 2017, 53% of cities and counties failed to meet the permit requirements. However, after advocacy efforts by these organizations and their members, and with the cooperation of municipal staff, the newest release of the Scorecard in June 2019 found that 70% of Puget Sound cities and counties made meaningful progress on the Low-Impact Development requirements since 2012.
The 2017 Scorecard identified “Green Star” communities that went above and beyond the requirements in their code: Kitsap County, Lacey, Oak Harbor, Olympia, Port Orchard, Renton, Seattle, and Tacoma. In 2019, four new “Green Star” communities were identified; Bellingham, Lynden, Monroe, and Puyallup. Communities with two stars or less include Algona, Anacortes, Auburn, Clyde Hill, Dupont, Duvall, Granite Falls, Lakewood, Normandy Park, Orting, Pacific, Sedro Woolley, and Skagit County. The Nature’s Scorecard website also calls out “Outstanding Communities” including case studies of municipalities that incorporated LID principles into development outside of the rubric used to evaluate performance on the Scorecard. 2019 case studies included Sedro Woolley, Shoreline, Marysville, and King County.
“We appreciate that many municipalities stepped up and worked with us to incorporate required changes into their codes,” said Alyssa Barton, Policy Manager and Executive Coordinator with Puget Soundkeeper Alliance. “Moving forward, the next round of stormwater permits will contain new requirements to further ratchet down on stormwater pollution and bring old infrastructure up to new codes through retrofits. It’s critical that we continue to increase protections to protect our salmon, orcas, and the communities around Puget Sound.”
“Our cities are on the frontlines of the fight against the pollution that’s making our waterways unhealthy and killing the salmon and orcas communities rely on,” said Mindy Roberts Puget Sound Program Director for Washington Environmental Council. “The good news is from Lyden to Tacoma, our region is proving we can make progress and tackle this enormous problem with real practical solutions.”
Now that the Nature’s Scorecard has been finalized, the organizations emphasize the need to modernize how the Puget Sound region treats stormwater from pre-existing developments. Most of the hard surfaces in older, developed areas were built before modern stormwater regulations were adopted. To create walkable, healthy communities that protect our waterways for orcas, salmon, and people, communities must mistakes of the past by retrofitting existing developments. Pre-existing buildings, parking lots, and streetscapes are major contributors to Puget Sound’s biggest source of pollution – stormwater runoff – and they need modern stormwater controls. Puget Soundkeeper and Washington Environmental Council plan to remain engaged in efforts to increase the awareness and implementation of retrofits throughout the Puget Sound region.
To view the full Scorecard go to: https://naturesscorecard.com/scorecard/
JOINT RELEASE PUGET SOUNDKEEPER
WASHINGTON ENVIRONMENTAL COUNCIL