Nature’s Scorecard identified 451 total qualifying Structural Stormwater Control (SSC) projects from 2007 to 2021, which were planned or completed by the 12 most populous Puget Sound Permittees that were assessed. Courtesy of Nature’s Scorecard.

Nature’s Scorecard identified 451 total qualifying Structural Stormwater Control (SSC) projects from 2007 to 2021, which were planned or completed by the 12 most populous Puget Sound Permittees that were assessed. Courtesy of Nature’s Scorecard.

2022 Nature’s Scorecard Report shows little progress on stormwater protections across Puget Sound

“We can’t simply focus on not getting worse,” said Mindy Roberts, Puget Sound Program Director.

On May 24, Puget Soundkeeper and the Washington Environmental Council released the third edition of Nature’s Scorecard, which is a report that provides comprehensive data on the structural stormwater controls implemented by municipalities.

Structural stormwater controls include stormwater retrofit projects that treat and control stormwater pollutions in areas developed without stormwater controls.

“Our Report shows that there are at least seven Phase II cities and counties that meet the Phase I population thresholds, and that are actually doing Structural Stormwater Control projects, but that have no regulatory requirements to do so,” said Alyssa Barton, Policy Manager at Puget Soundkeeper. “We need to raise the bar for all municipalities, to implement more widespread and strategic stormwater retrofit projects or else orcas, salmon, treaties, traditional cultures and our very way of life in the Puget Sound are gone.”

According to Puget Soundkeeper and the Washington Environmental Council, stormwater is the primary source of toxic pollution in rivers and lakes across the Puget Sound region, and neighborhoods with impervious surfaces and large traffic patterns produce the largest amounts of polluted runoff.

Rain directly and indirectly sweeps chemicals and microplastics from hard surfaces into the Puget Sound, where the toxins accumulate in fish and shellfish. As a result, the health of people and animals who consume the fish and shellfish are threatened.

The current municipal stormwater permit issued by the Washington Department of Ecology requires certain regional municipalities to address continuous harm and control stormwater by modernizing treatment, implementing green infrastructure, and retrofitting existing development.

“While we find these types of projects valuable for many reasons, some cities and counties more heavily relied on these types of projects and neglected to retrofit existing development,” said Mindy Roberts, Puget Sound Program Director for the Washington Environmental Council.

Recent research highlights a car tire chemical called 6PPD-quinone, which washes off impervious surfaces in stormwater, and is deadly to coho salmon, rainbow trout, and brook trout. The chemical causes Urban Runoff Mortality Syndrome (URMS), which causes coho salmon to die before they can spawn in urban streams.

Puget Soundkeeper has tracked URMS for decades, and constantly finds between 60% to 100% of spawning coho salmon die of URMS in urban streams, compared to about 1% in nonurban streams, according to Puget Soundkeeper. Most stormwater flows untreated into urban creeks and streams, which is why the permit requires certain cities and counties to retrofit developed areas.

“We can’t simply focus on not getting worse. We need to address built areas now because stormwater pollution, particularly from high-use transportation corridors, harms water and erodes resources throughout the region,” said Roberts.

Looking forward, Puget Soundkeeper and the Washington Environmental Council are already thinking about the next set of permit requirements, which will be released in 2024.

“Whether you fish, swim, or splash in our shared waters, people care deeply about clean water, and we are running out of time to correct the path,” said Roberts.

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