Puget Sound

Ballard Locks
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Rich Deline's love affair with the Ballard Locks started decades ago, as he walked the gardens as a forestry student at the University of Washington.  

It persists to this day. 

The Puget
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

This story was part of KNKX's presentation of All Things Considered live at the Ballard Locks.

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Temporary fans and sump-pump hoses are whirring along inside the West Point Treatment plant. It’s still dark inside the tunnels where on February 9, a flood of sewage busted doors off and submerged everything up to 12-feet high.

Where we’re standing, we would have been underwater.  Plant manager Robert Waddle switches on a flashlight to show me around.

Ned Ahrens / King County Wastewater Treatment Division

The breakdown last month of Seattle’s wastewater treatment plant has poured hundreds of millions of gallons of untreated stormwater and raw sewage into Puget Sound. Repairs alone will cost an estimated $25 million. And it’s expected to take till the end of April to get the West Point Treatment Plant back to normal. Until then, the broken wastewater facility will be violating its permit and polluting Puget Sound.

COURTESY OF KING COUNTY WASTEWATER DIVISION

What caused the catastrophic failure of Seattle’s main wastewater treatment plant and how can the public be sure it won’t happen again?

King County Council members took emergency action Monday to ensure there’s a fully independent investigation.  

More Than Stormy Weather

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

U.S. Representatives from Washington have pledged to fight hard against cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency that would devastate efforts to clean up Puget Sound. They say a draft plan from the Trump administration would slash federal funding for the Sound by 93 percent, to just $2 million. 

Congressman Derek Kilmer says he’s expecting to see substantial cuts to the EPA, including money for Puget Sound.  He says the Trump administration has confirmed an intention to cut the agency overall by at least 25 percent.      

Courtesy of King County Wastewater Division

King County is working to expedite the cleanup at a wastewater treatment plant that flooded earlier this month in Seattle's Magnolia neighborhood.

The King County Council unanimously approved to extend a waiver on the county's competitive bidding process for contractors. 

A North Pacific fishing boat sits at Fisherman's Terminal on Lake Union.
Simone Alicea / knkx

The fleet of boats that fish the waters off the coast of Alaska is getting old, but that could be a good thing for the economy here in Washington state, according to a new report.

Ted S. Warren, File / AP Photo

The Environmental Protection Agency has given a preliminary green light to ban all vessels from dumping sewage in Puget Sound. It’s the latest step in a long effort by the state and environmental groups.

Washington’s Department of Ecology has been working for several years to get a federal ban on sewage dumping for Puget Sound and issued a formal petition requesting it this summer. The EPA has established more than 90 of these so-called “no discharge” zones in 26 states, but this would be the first in the Northwest.

Bellamy Pailthorp / knkx

Efforts to restore and protect Puget Sound are getting a big boost from the Obama administration.  

Local advocates for that work have long argued that, as one of the nation’s largest and most iconic estuaries, Puget Sound is a national treasure and deserves protections on par with Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes.

Now a federal task force has formed to prioritize the pressing need for salmon restoration in the Sound, due in large part to what officials say is a steadfast commitment to local tribes’ treaty fishing rights.

Mark Musick / King Conservation District

Communities around Puget Sound have invested about $150 million over the past two decades to clean up the water and improve habitat for endangered salmon. Yet we continue to lose ground when it comes to a crucial part of that environment. King County watershed managers recently hosted a guided boat tour to spread the word about the importance of restoration work in recovering the so-called ‘nearshore.’                                         

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Boats will soon be forbidden from releasing sewage anywhere in Puget Sound if the state Department of Ecology has its way. The agency is seeking federal protection, asking the EPA to declare the Sound a “no discharge zone” for vessel sewage.  

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

The windstorm that hit the region March 13 was a powerful one, to be sure. We were seeing wind gusts as fast as 70 miles per hour in some spots along the coast, with gusts up to 40 miles per hour inland. The National Weather Service was quoted recently comparing it with a hurricane, but KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass says "not so fast."

Isobel Alexander / courtesy SKMMR.

Yellow tape is warning people away from the pocket beach near the Olympic Sculpture Park on Seattle’s waterfront. But it’s not a crime scene. The beach was closed to protect a young harbor seal that had hauled out. It’s not uncommon this time of year. 

Harbor seal pups are born in the summer and early fall in the Puget Sound region. And after they’re weaned, they’re on their own and particularly vulnerable for about six months. 

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU News

She’s been called President Obama’s “green quarterback.” Gina McCarthy is the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and she's known for tackling sources of climate change. And now she’s shining a light on efforts to clean up Puget Sound.

McCarthy met with government officials and community groups in Tacoma on Wednesday and toured Commencement Bay by boat to learn more about what still needs to be done. 

Chris Kittredge Photo

In recent years, the Samish River Basin in Skagit County has suffered severe pollution from fecal coliform bacteria. Water polluted with untreated sewage and manure leads to frequent closures of shellfish beds and beaches. County authorities are testing a new method to find the sources: poop-sniffing dogs

Bellamy Pailthorp

It might surprise you to learn that you can dump the contents of your toilet into Puget Sound and not get in trouble. That’s essentially what some boaters do when they discharge their sewage into the water instead of pumping it out at a dock or marina.

The state Department of Ecology has proposed a federally-enforced ban on dumping in Puget Sound to stop the practice.

Amy Jankowiak with the state Department of Ecology says the state has been working on evaluating the feasibility and appropriateness of putting a dumping ban in place for two years. The department has now written the proposed law, which is ready for public comment.

U.S. Army Corp of Engineers

Some residents in the Olympia area are concerned about dredged materials being disposed of in the Puget Sound. They say the Department of Natural Resources is failing to protect underwater ecology at the same time that state and federal governments are spending millions on cleanup.                

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU News

With its rocky beaches and abundant sea life, Puget Sound is at the heart of western Washington’s identity. Yet we are falling behind on the work needed to restore its health, following years of pollution from industry and a growing population.

The Puget Sound Partnership has released its latest progress report. And though there is some improvement, the challenges are still numerous. 

Roger Tabor / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Survival rates for salmon and steelhead in Puget Sound have plunged since the 1970s, and a big new international study is aiming to figure out why.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Puget Sound lost a champion when Congressman Norm Dicks retired last year. Two freshman U.S. Representatives have formed a special caucus to fill the void. 

An attempt to get rid of tiny pests has proven costly for the Port of Tacoma.

The Port and two contractors have agreed to pay a half-million dollar fine and spend more than $4 million to restore and enhance wetlands under a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The wetlands at Hylebos Marsh were damaged during attempts by the Port to eradicate an invasive snail. The dime-sized vineyard snail comes from the Mediterranean and can destroy grain crops.

Donna Schroeder / University of California, Santa Barbara/AP Photo

The National Marine Fisheries Service proposes to designate almost 1,200 square miles of Puget Sound as critical habitat for three species of endangered rockfish.

The habitat protection follows the 2010 decision to list yelloweye, canary and bocaccio rockfish under the Endangered Species Act.

Donna Schroeder / University of California, Santa Barbara/AP Photo

The Center for Biological Diversity said Thursday it intends to sue the National Marine Fisheries Service for missing a deadline to designate protected habitat for endangered Puget Sound rockfish. It's been three years since they were listed.

A lawyer for the group in San Francisco, Catherine Kilduff, says some rockfish can live to be 100 years old and losing them would be like clear-cutting an old growth forest.

Bellamy Pailthorp photo / KPLU News

Scientists examining the health of Puget Sound have uncovered a new mystery involving the very bottom of the food chain.

A new study from the state Department of Ecology shows toxins in sediments have declined over the past decade. But it also found declining health of the creatures that live in the sediment. 

zenobia_joy photo / Flickr

With its eelgrass beds and rocky beaches, Puget Sound’s shoreline is frequented by hundreds of species of fish and other creatures. State and federal agencies spend hundreds of millions of dollars on its restoration.

But Amy Carey, Executive Director of a new group called Sound Action, says the marine ecosystems that support sensitive species are still declining.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU News

When you look around the streets of Seattle, you can expect to see less concrete and more greenery being put in over the next 12 years.

The City is planning to dramatically increase its use of green infrastructure to treat stormwater runoff.

Stormwater runoff is acknowledged as the single largest source of pollution in Puget Sound.

The Associated Press

More than a dozen killer whales swimming past West Seattle gave residents a spectacular sight Monday as the sun set.

There have been a few glimmers of hope lately for the U.S. economy, such as a better-than-expected jobs report. But local economist Dick Conway  says there’s even more reason for optimism for the Puget Sound region. 

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