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Our Water Ways

Puget Sound Institute senior writer Christopher Dunagan discusses the challenges of protecting Puget Sound and all things water-related. As the very first environmental reporter for the Kitsap Sun, he has been a respected voice in the region for more than 25 years. He has been covering science-related stories for the Puget Sound Institute since 2015.


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Washington’s Water Quality Assessment offers insights into status of pollution (4/9/2021) - More than 2,000 segments of streams, lakes and marine waters have been added to the state’s massive list of water-quality data, allowing more Washington residents to take stock of pollution levels near their homes. The latest Water Quality Assessment for Washington waters, released for public review this week, covers 9,279 miles of streams, 434 lakes …
Invasive mussel triggers widespread talks, increased coordination with pet stores (3/29/2021) - Baby zebra mussels, no bigger than a grain of rice, provoked an emergency response across the country in early March, and now state and federal officials are contemplating changes to protect the Northwest from an invasive species that some people have unknowingly invited into their fish tanks. Nothing official has been proposed, but experts are …
Low-interest loans could help shoreline property owners finance improvements (3/9/2021) - As ongoing research confirms the importance of shoreline habitat throughout Puget Sound, experts are looking for new ways to help shoreline property owners pay for bulkhead removals. One emerging idea, which could be established as a formal initiative within a year, consists of a special shoreline loan program that could provide low-interest loans to residential …
Salmon experts predict more wild coho but fewer Chinook in Puget Sound this year (3/2/2021) - Greater numbers of wild coho salmon are expected to return to Puget Sound later this year, according to forecasts released last week, but threatened Puget Sound Chinook stocks are likely to see another decline. The 2021 salmon forecasts were announced Friday during an online video conference with sport and commercial fishers and other interested people …
Winding down Puget Sound’s 2020 targets, as approved shellfish acreage keeps going up (2/22/2021) - In 2020, state health authorities upgraded six shellfish-growing areas in various parts of Puget Sound. Now, thanks to improved water quality, the harvest of clams and oysters can take place on these 309 acres for the first time in years, adding to an ongoing gain in harvestable acreage. While efforts to upgrade shellfish growing areas …
New sewage-treatment permit would be a step to curbing nitrogen in Puget Sound (2/12/2021) - In an effort to stem the flow of excess nitrogen into Puget Sound, Washington Department of Ecology has proposed a new type of permit for some 60 sewage-treatment plants operating throughout the region. The flexible permit, called the Puget Sound Nutrient General Permit, aims to hold nitrogen releases close to or below their current levels …
Settlement agreement tackles water pollution caused by farming practices (2/1/2021) - As part of a legal settlement, state officials have agreed to develop “best management practices” for agricultural operations, while encouraging Washington farmers to take actions to improve water quality in streams and bays. The agreement, which includes provisions for stream buffers, was approved by the Washington Department of Ecology and the federal Environmental Protection Agency. …
Puget Sound Partnership proposing ‘Desired Outcomes’ for ongoing ecosystem recovery (1/20/2021) - Puget Sound Action Agenda, often referred to as Puget Sound Partnership’s blueprint for ecological recovery, continues to evolve. The next Action Agenda — scheduled to go into effect a year from now — will incorporate an expanded long-range vision for Puget Sound, complete with broad-based strategies, not just near-term actions. “Desired Outcomes,” the first major …
Repairs of bulkheads, docks and other structures now involve habitat assessment (1/14/2021) - In a major policy shift by federal authorities, waterfront maintenance and reconstruction projects are undergoing increased scrutiny — not only for their environmental impacts during and after construction but for effects that ripple through time. The change, imposed by NOAA Fisheries to protect threatened and endangered species, requires compensation for environmental damage calculated over the …
Hotly debated national permit for shellfish farms could be passed to Biden administration (12/31/2020) - Legal protections for marine shorelines, streams and wetlands could be revised just before President Trump leaves office, as the Army Corps of Engineers updates 52 “nationwide permits” that allow for a variety of water-related projects. Of particular interest in Washington state is a nationwide permit proposed for shellfish farms that would, purportedly, help to resolve …