Puget Sound Cleanup Costs May Reach $9 Billion
By Laura Fandino
Marten Law Group
Washington Governor Christine Gregoire has recently called for actions to restore and protect Puget Sound and the Hood Canal that may cost up to $9 billion by 2020, according to some estimates. That would put the State’s investment in Puget Sound on a par with spending projections for the restoration of the Florida Everglades and Chesapeake Bay, which are projected to ultimately cost $8-11 billion and $15 billion, respectively. The first installment of Puget Sound initiatives is included in the Governor’s recent budget proposal, which calls for an expenditure of $220 million during the 2007-2009 biennium to pay for Puget Sound restoration and cleanup.
The Puget Sound basin extends north from Olympia to the Canadian border and west from the crest of the Cascade Mountains to the Olympic Mountains. The “health” of Puget Sound has been the focus of substantial recent attention. The State Department of Ecology points to indications that quality and habitat conditions are declining. This decline is especially said to be seen in Hood Canal, where there are low dissolved oxygen conditions resulting in declines in iconic species such as Chinook salmon and southern resident killer whales. In large part, water quality degradation and its attendant problems are said to be attributable to stormwater pollution and/or septic wastes from aging septic systems that are allowed to reach and enter Puget Sound and the Hood Canal.
Priorities for Puget Sound Cleanup
Last month, Governor Gregoire released a two page policy brief describing specific proposed actions from her 2020 Action Agenda that she will focus on during the next two years in order to move towards a restored Puget Sound by 2020.  In brief, the Governor’s 2007-2009 action priorities and funding plan are to:
- Speed up control and cleanup toxic pollution - $54.7 million
- Cleanup areas with immediate septic and nutrient problems - $56.3 million
- Reduce polluted stormwater run off -$25.3 million
- Restore and protect Puget Sound habitat - $40.7 million
- Restore damaged shorelines - $37.4 million
- Promote public awareness through education and outreach - $5.8 million
Within each of the Governor’s priority areas, the Governor Gregoire has identified specific actions that the State will pursue in 2007-2009 to cleanup and restore Puget Sound:
Speed up control and clean-up of toxics: Proposed actions include the use of substantial Model Toxics Control Act funds from State and Local Toxics Accounts to cleanup contaminated aquatic and upland sites within one-half mile of Puget Sound. The State will also phase out the use of the toxic flame retardant PBDE.
Cleanup areas with immediate septic and nutrient problems: Proposed actions include: (a) providing grants to local governments to implement projects implement projects to reclaim wastewater; (b) initiating a public-private partnership to help homeowners repair or replace failing septic systems; (c) helping local governments improve septic system programs; and (d) assessing the sources and amounts of pollution to prioritize cleanup and prevention actions.
Reduce polluted stormwater runoff: Proposed actions include the provision of funds to cities and counties from a variety of sources to meet new standards to improve stormwater management, retrofit existing stormwater projects, and conduct compliance inspections.
Restore and protect Puget Sound habitat: Proposed actions include protecting and restoring riparian areas, floodplains and forested habitats and marine shorelines, and increasing compliance with existing water quality and habitat protection laws.
Restore damaged shorelines: Proposed actions include the implementation of high priority projects to restore salmon habitat including the removal of fish passage barriers, restoration of nearshore and shoreline habitat in Puget Sound, removal of creosote pilings from Puget Sound beaches, removal of derelict vessels, other actions.
Promote public awareness through education and outreach: The State would increase efforts to inform the public about the problems facing the Puget Sound region in order to help garner support for public policy actions. This would include working with local community organizations on education and outreach.
The Puget Sound Partnership Report
The Governor’s funding priorities are largely based on recommendations set forth in a December 13, 2006 report by the Puget Sound Partnership, entitled Sound Health, Sound Future-Protecting and Restoring Puget Sound.The 228-page Puget Sound Partnership report outlines five priority areas where the State should focus immediate attention in order to improve the health of Puget Sound by the year 2020: (a) accelerating control and clean-up of toxic pollution; (b) reducing polluted stormwater runoff; (c) protecting Puget Sound habitat; (d) implementing projects to restore damaged forests, rivers, shorelines, and marine waters; and (e) cleaning up areas with immediate septic problems. The report also describes a set of immediate actions that should be conducted to protect Puget Sound’s water quality, habitat and resources.
A New Governance Structure for Puget Sound
In addition to the 2020 policy initiatives, the Governor is also supporting several new pieces of legislation, “including a proposal for a new governance structure to continue the work of the Puget Sound Partnership.” A bill (H.B. 1374) establishing a new governance entity – also called the Puget Sound Partnership – was introduced by Representatives Upthgrove and Sump. A companion bill, SB 5372, has been introduced in the Senate by Senators Rockefeller, Swecker, Poulsen and Marr, and was referred to committee on January 17, 2007. The proposed governance structure generally follows the recommendations of the Puget Sound Partnership report, and includes the establishment of a seven member leadership council appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate, which would be informed by a panel of scientific advisors. In addition to the Leadership Council, on the ground action would be guided by an Implementation Board composed of a diverse set of public and private stakeholders.
The Governor’s recommendations have drawn strong support from many quarters, but also its share of skeptics. Some members of the environmental community remain concerned that the proposed initiatives will not adequately deal with stormwater, an issue that rose to the forefront of debate during public review of the Puget Sound Partnership’s draft report, issued in October of last year.
Still others have raised concerns about funding. Federal funding, as well as private funding may eventually be needed to pay for the Governor’s proposal. The Governor has reportedly “said she won’t propose new taxes or fees until citizens understand that, and are convinced that a fiscally responsible Save the Sound campaign is getting things done.”
For more information on Puget Sound, and on Marten Law Group’s water quality practice, contact Laura Fandino.
 Puget Sound Partnership, Sound Health, Sound Future-Protecting and Restoring Puget Sound, page 95 (December 2006).
 See Id.
 Puget Sound Partnership, Sound Health, Sound Future-Protecting and Restoring Puget Sound, page 29 (December 2006).
 In her State of the State address, Governor Gregoire analogized the waters of Puget Sound to a bathtub that collects polluted stormwater during periods of rain and snow, and septic wastes from aging septic systems that are allowed to reach the Sound. See State of the State address at www.theolympian.com/static/docs/2007statespeech.pdf; see also Letter from University of Washington scientists to the Puget Sound Partnership, dated October 26, 2006, available at http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/dayart/pdf/stormwater20061108.pdf (indicating that a serious plan to address stormwater run off management is required for a healthy Puget Sound).
 See Office of the Governor Policy Brief, Puget Sound: Protecting our Health & Safety, available at http://www.ofm.wa.gov/budget07/highlights/assets/pdf/briefs/brief_pugetsound.pdf.
 See Office of the Governor, Proposed 2007-2009 Budget & Policy Highlights, page 34 (December 2006), available at http://www.ofm.wa.gov/budget07/highlights/assets/pdf/highlights.pdf; see also Office of the Governor Policy Brief, Puget Sound: Protecting our Health & Safety, available at http://www.ofm.wa.gov/budget07/highlights/assets/pdf/briefs/brief_pugetsound.pdf; Governor’s 2007-2009 Puget Sound Budget, available at http://www.psat.wa.gov/News/announcements/PSbudget12-18-06.pdf.
 The Puget Sound Partnership, created by Governor Gregoire in December 2005, is composed of 22 leaders from building and timber industries, shellfish growers, agriculture and environmental interests, port authorities, and local, state, federal and tribal governments. The Puget Sound Partnership was formed for the purpose of developing “recommendations for preserving the health and ecosystem of Puget Sound and to help educate and enlist the public in achieving recovery of the Sound by 2020.”
 See Puget Sound Partnership report, Sound Health, Sound Future-Protecting and Restoring Puget Sound (December 2006), available at http://www.pugetsoundpartnership.org/reports.htm.
 Puget Sound Partnership website, at http://www.pugetsoundpartnership.org/; see also SB 5372, 60 th Legislature (2007 Reg. Sess.) (read first time 1/17/2007); HB 1374, 60 th Legislature (2007 Leg. Sess.) (referred to Select Committee on Puget Sound on 1/17/2007).
 Letter from University of Washington scientists to the Puget Sound Partnership, dated October 26, 2006, available at http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/dayart/pdf/stormwater20061108.pdf (indicating that a serious plan to address stormwater run off management is required for a healthy Puget Sound).
 Robert McClure and Lisa Stiffler, Gregoire offers blueprint to rescue Puget Sound, Seattle PI (December 14, 2006).
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