Saving the Green/Duwamish River: a major opportunity for Puget Sound recovery

The Green/Duwamish River this week received the dubious honor of being named fifth on the list of Most Endangered Rivers in the U.S. by the national river advocacy group American Rivers. According to a news release from American Rivers, the designation is based on outdated dam and floodplain management and pollution in the Green/Duwamish River.

As a major tributary to Puget Sound and an important river to salmon recovery, the Green/Duwamish has long been of concern to those of us working to recover and protect Puget Sound. Much effort has gone into resolving the issues that afflict the river, and although the river is far from recovered, much progress has been made.

PSAR funding program helps restore floodplains and salmon habitat

Fenster volunteer planting eventOur own Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration (PSAR) funding program has supported significant improvements. The PSAR program was created in 2007 to help implement the most important habitat protection and restoration priorities for Puget Sound. Funding is appropriated by the Legislature through the Salmon Recovery Funding Board. The Puget Sound Partnership works with local entities to identify and prioritize projects. A few examples of PSAR projects on the Green/Duwamish River:

Action Agenda points the way toward future health of the Green/Duwamish and Puget Sound

Fenster looking downstream at project siteThe Green/Duwamish is also the focus of several proposed actions listed in the draft 2016 Action Agenda for Puget Sound. Before being added to the Action Agenda, each project undergoes a rigorous scientific review to ensure that, if implemented, it will contribute significantly to the health of Puget Sound. A sampling of the Green/Duwamish 2016 proposed projects:

  • Invasive species removal and restoration. Restore native plants and remove invasive species from the Green and Duwamish rivers via a multi-jurisdictional public-private partnership on public and private lands. The completed project will protect, enhance, and recover ecosystem processes and function.
  • Lower Russell Road levee setback and habitat restoration. Set back and replace the existing flood containment system along the east bank of the Green River between river miles 17.8 and 19.2. Excavate portions of the hydrologically isolated floodplain to improve flood protection and restore riparian and aquatic habitat.
  • Howard Hanson Dam downstream fish passage facilitation and coordination. Facilitate and coordinate stakeholder and public input in the design of Howard Hanson Dam downstream fish passage projects.
  • Re-greening the Green: acquisition easements and revegetation. Acquire easements and plant tall, native shade trees on strategically important properties on the Lower Green River. The completed project will lower water temperatures and increase the dissolved oxygen in the water, thus improving water quality and fish habitat.
  • South Sound Discovery Farms. Create a program for measuring and documenting water quality benefits of different best management practices in the Pacific Northwest by establishing research sites on Discovery Farm farmland in the Green Duwamish watershed.

You can read about these projects and more in the draft 2016 Action Agenda for Puget Sound. The Action Agenda is the shared roadmap to recovering Puget Sound—it identifies the goals and strategies for recovery, and describes how the work of many partner organizations contributes to improving the health of Puget Sound. The 2016 draft is currently available for public comment and will be finalized later this year. Funders often use the ranked project list to help them decide where to invest money in Puget Sound recovery.

Designation raises awareness for the river and for Puget Sound

Duwamish gardens futureOne benefit of the Green/Duwamish designation as one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers, is that it may inspire funders to sponsor the projects that stand the best chance of promoting the river’s recovery. Supporting such projects improves the future of not only the Green/Duwamish, but of Puget Sound as well. And that’s good news.