The State of Our Watersheds Report and impervious surface in the Puyallup

The State of Our Watersheds Report and impervious surface in the Puyallup

Late last week the treaty tribes in western Washington released a new report showing that — despite drastic cuts in harvest and investment in habitat restoration — we are losing the fight to recover salmon. In short, salmon habitat destruction is still going on faster than restoration.

One of the most damaging aspects of habitat degradation is impervious surface, things like roads, rooftops and parking lots. It is essentially anything that stops water from naturally seeping into the ground. In the Puyallup River watershed, the increase in impervious surface has been drastic.

South Puyallup River watershed:


Clarks Creek

From the report:

The Puyallup River Basin saw an increase in impervious surface of 47% from 1986-2006. The South Prairie Creek mainstem is identified as a high priority for protection, meaning that further degradation would have a large negative effect on Chinook performance in that system (Salmon Habitat and Protection and Restoration Strategy March 2008). From 1986 to 2006, South Prairie Creek Basin’s impervious surface increased from 4% to 5.5% (“little to no impact” in impervious surface to “trend to impacting”). Clarks Creek contains critical habitat for Chinook Salmon. This basin saw an increase in impervious surface from 40 to 62%. The health of this creek and its sustainability are in jeopardy.

The Puyallup River Basin has an estimated 2010 population of 419,660 in incorporated communities and unincorporated Pierce and King Counties. It includes the state’s third largest city, Tacoma, with a population estimate of almost 200,000 for 2010. Increased population pressure and development, with the conversion of forested areas to impervious surfaces, is the major factor affecting water quality in the region (Puget Sound Partnership, 2008a). Greater numbers of people in the region result in greater volumes of wastewater, more septic systems, and more sources of nutrients entering surface waters. As a result of development, once forested land has been replaced with buildings, roads, and lawns.

Here is a link to the introduction and the main portion of the report on the Puyallup Tribe of Indians.

More information on the State of Our Watershed’s report can be found here.

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  1. Sadly, it is questionable if we have the political and social will to do what is necessary to protect healthy runs and recover listed stocks. We have some excellent tools at our disposal, including low impact development techniques. However, folks still want to live the “American” dream and have large houses and super box stores that translate to conversion of forested and other habitats to impervious uses as your analysis shows. We need to do a much better job of educating people about the impacts their decisions have and making sure governments (local, state, and federal) respect treaty rights and make a good faith effort to abide by them. In the face of increasing greenhouse gas emissions and predicted climate change for the Pacific Northwest, we need to act decisively and comprehensively if we are going to save salmon and fulfill treaty obligations.

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