Shoreline projects gradually restore Puget SoundSeptember 11th, 2012 by cdunagan
We’ve been writing a lot lately about shoreline restoration projects. As with road construction, it seems that the heaviest lifting on restoration projects gets going as summer draws to a close.
Notable projects on the Kitsap Peninsula:
- The dismantling of 1,500 feet of rock bulkhead from Bainbridge Island’s Port Madison, a project known as the Powel bulkhead removal.
- Removal of a 700-foot concrete bulkhead at Anna Smith Children’s Park in Central Kitsap.
- The first phase of a $1.8 million restoration of the Union River estuary, which will include breaching a dike next year to allow sea water to cover about 30 acres walled off for 80 years.
Judging from the comments on the stories, some people don’t believe the government should be spending money on environmental restoration when the state and nation are in an economic slump.
Two years ago, Gov. Chris Gregoire made it clear that she believed that the economic troubles did not outweigh the ongoing risks to Puget Sound. I quoted her in the Kitsap Sun Oct. 15, 2010:
“We are in the hardest economic problem since the deep depression, but we cannot take a recess; we cannot take time out (from the Puget Sound cleanup).”
Investing in cleanup efforts to repair past problems is one thing, the governor said, but the solution is not just costly restoration projects:
“It comes down to individuals like us. We are all part of the problem and we can all be part of the solution.”
She was talking about reducing stormwater pollution by being careful with household and lawn chemicals, car washing, oil and oil leaks, pet waste and other things.
When it comes to restoration projects, it turns out that the recession was actually a good time to begin many of these costly projects. As I reported in “Water Ways” on Oct. 21, 2010, the economic stimulus package approved by Congress helped pay for more than 600 projects directed to Puget Sound problems. The projects carried a price tag of about $460 million and created nearly 16,000 jobs.
The economic downturn also turned out to be good timing in another way. Construction companies hungry for work offered much lower bids than they would have during economic boom times. In many cases, including the Union River estuary project, bids are still coming in at the low end of cost projections.
Property owners who wish to restore their streams and shorelines are getting help from the government and nonprofit groups. In most cases, these projects would not get done by the property owners alone.
The $460,000 Powel bulkhead removal, for example, became a partnership between the Powel family, the Bainbridge Island Land Trust and the Puget Sound Partnership. The partnership’s new executive director, Anthony Wright, stated in a news release:
“It’s exciting to see everyone coming together to do some good for Puget Sound. Puget Sound is going to be healthy again because of people like the Powel family, the land trust and regulatory entities all working together.”
Some people doubt that the restoration projects are doing much good. Some say they simply are not worth the cost. But experts who have studied nearshore ecosystems argue that the ecological connections along the shoreline have been so severely disrupted that restoration is the best hope of saving the Puget Sound ecosystem.
I’ve heard people say that science does not support these kinds of restoration efforts. That’s an opinion not held by most experts, but if you are willing to do some reading, you can come to your own conclusions.
Some of the leading experts in our region have been taking part in the Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration Project, which includes a website of technical reports and plans. If you’re a fan of science, like me, you may feel like a kid in a candy shop as you peruse the many reports.
I would recommend the following as a beginning:
- Implications of Observed Anthropogenic Changes in the Nearshore Ecosystems of Puget Sound (PDF 842 kb)
- Strategies for Nearshore Protection and Restoration in Puget Sound (PDF 11.3 mb)
- Puget Sound Shorelines and the Impacts of Armoring— Proceedings of a State of the Science Workshop, May 2009
The pair of explanatory drawings below is taken from a chapter of the “State of the Science” report mentioned above. See Fish and Invertebrate Response to Shoreline Armoring and Restoration in Puget Sound (PDF 440 KB) by Jason D. Toft, Jeffery R. Cordell, Sarah M. Heerhartz, Elizabeth A. Armbrust, and Charles A. Simenstad.