Puget Sound is fed by more than 10,000 rivers and streams. The soils and climate conditions make this one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions. Puget Sound and its rivers are home to millions of salmon and a bounty of wildlife. It’s a crucial stop for migratory birds on the great Pacific Flyway. It’s also the economic heart of the Pacific Northwest, with 70 percent of Washington’s population and jobs, and 80 percent of the state’s income produced right here.
Yet Puget Sound is endangered. Floodplain management is haphazard. There are competing interests and competing needs, often resulting in conflicts. Despite millions of dollars spent for salmon recovery and millions spent for flood protection, salmon continue to decline and flood damage continues to rise.
It doesn’t have to be that way!
The Nature Conservancy is working with partners, including the Puget Sound Partnership and the U.S. Geologic Survey to bring the Puget Sound community together for integrated and efficient management of its major rivers and their floodplains. The Puget Sound Floodplains by Design project will create the information, tools, and inter-agency coordination needed to overcome these obstacles. It will integrate reducing flood hazards with restoring and protecting salmon and wildlife habitat, so that priorities are identified based on factors that matter to people and decisions are made to achieve common goals -- to provide clean water, abundant salmon runs and safer communities.
Several small-scale projects around Puget Sound have demonstrated that this approach can work. The Conservancy has led the way with its Fisher Slough and Port Susan Bay projects, both designed to provide multiple benefits—habitat restoration and enhanced protection against flooding for the region’s farms.