Ecosystem Protection and Recovery Actions
The San Juan County Local Integrating Organization has carried out numerous projects to advance the recovery within our marine waters. We work to create actions that will protect and restore the marine waters of San Juan County and the Salish Sea. Integration of efforts on the local, state, tribal and federal levels are expected to lead to an increased positive impact on this ecosystem.
The SJ LIO's work can be broken down through the Ecosystem Protection and Plan (EPRP). Issues of main concern in San Juan County can be addressed through four main strategies. Ongoing actions in each area of concern are described below:
Large Oil Spill/Vessel Traffic Impacts
- Reduce the risk of a large oil spill.
- Reduce vessel traffic impacts to marine habitat and threatened and endangered species.
- Reduce sources of contaminants to stormwater.
- Reduce sediment transport to freshwater bodies and the marine environment.
- Increase the amount of restored or protected nearshore habitat in high priority habitat areas.
- Maintain abundance of existing healthy kelp habitat.
- Reduce the rate of declining coverage of eelgrass on beaches and embayments.
- Increase the marine riparian native forest in high priority habitat areas.
- Increase summer stream flow and establish physical habitat for native anadromous salmonids in up to nine priority watersheds.
- Reduce sources of contaminants to fresh water.
- Increase biodiversity and disease resistance, and reduce wildfire risk in mature forest.
Through the implementation of this plan, the San Juan Action Agenda Oversight Group seeks to continue its efforts to address these challenges and ensure that ecosystem protection is recognized throughout the region as equally and often more important to Puget Sound Recovery as restoration. The SJ-LIO has been successful in implementing the EPRP and will continue our recovery actions in the following ways.
Current SJ LIO Projects
- Vessel Traffic & Oil Spill Prevention
- Addressing Creosote Contamination
- Shoreline Hardening
- Water Resources
San Juan County lies in the heart of the Salish Sea surrounded on all sides by major shipping lanes. This risk of a major oil spill is of huge concern to the County.
A Near Term Action proposal for a comprehensive Oil Spill Risk Consequences Assessment was selected for locally-directed $100,000 funding in 2018. Economic consultants were contracted to perform an Oil Spills Consequences Assessment for San Juan County (Earth Economics) and to evaluate the cost of an emergency response towing vessel (ERTV, Northern Economics).
The San Juan Ecosystem Protection and Recovery Plan identifies investment in an ERTV to reduce the risk of a spill at Boundary Pass/Haro Strait on the north and west sides of San Juan County as a priority risk mitigation measure. Such actions have also been recommended by the Governor's Southern Resident Orca Task Force, the Department of Ecology's 2016 Salish Sea Workshop, and Puget Sound Partnership Ecosystem Coordination Board and Leadership Council.
Completed and Related Projects:
Creosote-treated wood pilings are a significant source of contamination in the nearshore environments of the Salish Sea. As creosote leaches into the marine environment, it impacts forage fish spawning habitat, valuable eelgrass beds, and other nearshore habitats and species. Creosote vapors also pose a risk to human health. Removing creosote-treated material from the marine environment is a priority for the Marine Resources Committee and San Juan County.
This project will inventory and assess in-water creosote pilings in San Juan County. The surveys will identify what has been removed since 2009 and what remains. There will be a focus on publicly owned sites to determine whether the pilings could be removed as part of a stand-alone restoration project or replaced as part of upgrades to an existing facility or structure and the survey work will allow the county to lay out a roadmap for permitting these different avenues of removal.
This project has been funded wholly or in part by the United States Environmental Protection Agency under assistance agreement: PC-01J22301 through the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. The contents of this document do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Environmental Protection Agency or the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, nor does mention of trade names or commercial products constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.
Shoreline armor prevents banks from eroding. Eroding shorelines “feed” the beach with sand and gravel, necessary to maintain the beach profile and habitat. When armor is added to shorelines, beaches coarsen and forage fish can no longer find a place to spawn. The removal of shoreline armoring allows for the natural exchange of minerals and resources from the upland to the marine ecosystem. Removal allows the natural processes to take place that help restore spawning habitat for forage fish.
Working in partnership with Friends of the San Juans, shoreline armor inventory was completed comparing data from 2009 through 2019.
Completed and Related Projects:
Take a deeper dive into the Clean Water Program to learn about projects related to the management and restoration of stormwater and freshwater resources.