Strategic Initiatives prioritize near-term recovery efforts and funding to focus on the most meaningful improvements for Puget Sound. In 2012, the Puget Sound Partnership and its boards (Ecosystem Coordination Board, Science Panel, and Leadership Council) established three Strategic Initiatives:
- Stormwater Strategic Initiative: Prevent pollution from urban stormwater runoff
- Habitat Strategic Initiative: Protect and restore habitat
- Shellfish Strategic Initiative: Protect and recover shellfish beds
The 2016 Action Agenda requires that all proposed Near Term Actions address one of the three Strategic Initiatives.
STORMWATER STRATEGIC INITIATIVE: THE CHALLENGE
Nonpoint sources of pollution, such as stormwater and changes in the hydrology of runoff patterns, are the biggest threats to Puget Sound water quality. Polluted stormwater carries toxins, nutrients, sediment, and bacteria to Puget Sound where these pollutants affect aquatic life and public health. Land development can increase stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces. Climate change and its effects on precipitation and runoff are significant variables in managing stormwater.
HABITAT STRATEGIC INITIATIVE: THE CHALLENGE
Puget Sound habitat supports a multitude of fish, seabird, invertebrate, and plant species as well as a burgeoning human population. Human impacts on habitat have translated to declines—sometimes over a brief period of time—in many marine species. Habitat loss and decline is closely tied to tribal treaty rights that are at risk. The primary challenges to Puget Sound habitat are as follows.
- Hardened shorelines
- Filled estuaries
- Channelized rivers and altered floodplains
- Competition for fresh water
- Oil and chemical spills
- Loss of habitat for protected species
- Vulnerability to climate change
SHELLFISH STRATEGIC INITIATIVE: THE CHALLENGE
Shellfish make an essential contribution to the culture, recreation, and economy of the Puget Sound region. Northwest tribes have harvested shellfish for about 12,000 years. Commercial shellfish harvests generate about $180 million annually in economic benefits to the state. The filtering and recycling capacities of shellfish are also essential to marine waters. Shellfish beds require excellent water quality, a requirement that is threatened by direct discharges of pollutants as well as stormwater and surface runoff. The rapid pace of ocean acidification exceeds the ocean’s capacity to restore pH and chemical balance, causing shellfish to corrode more rapidly. While intensive shellfish aquaculture can supply shellfish to a demanding market, it can stress the Puget Sound ecosystem.
The Strategic Initiatives serve a crucial role in Puget Sound recovery by directing efforts and funding toward priorities that address the most critical threats and opportunities. Strategic Initiatives will increasingly be informed by Implementation Strategies.