FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Puget Sound funding secured to protect Lake Whatcom
TACOMA – The task of cleaning up invasive species from Lake Whatcom and the waters of Puget Sound took a big step forward with the help of a $164,000 grant announced today by the Puget Sound Partnership, City of Bellingham, and State Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island.
The Puget Sound funding will help prevent and control invasive species, and reduce pollutants threatening the water quality that people and fish depend upon. The City of Bellingham and half of Whatcom County obtain their drinking water from Lake Whatcom. Water from Lake Whatcom also flows into Bellingham Bay, which is part of another multiagency Puget Sound clean up effort.
“The health of Puget Sound is connected to the water we drink and the food we eat,” said Gerry O’Keefe, Executive Director of the Partnership. “It’s important for our region to invest in the highest priority actions and make Puget Sound healthy again.”
The Puget Sound Partnership is the state agency coordinating the regional effort to clean up Puget Sound. The Partnership identified improving water quality in Lake Whatcom as a priority in the 2020 Action Agenda, the roadmap to Puget Sound recovery.
Sen. Ranker is the Chair of the Senate Energy, Natural Resources and Marine Waters Committee. The appropriation is a result of funding secured by the Partnership and the passage of Senate Bill 5944, which Sen. Ranker sponsored and Gov. Gregoire signed into law.
Nine aquatic invasive plants have been confirmed to be living in and polluting Lake Whatcom, including a plant called Eurasian watermilfoil that creates dense mats of vegetation on the water’s surface and depletes oxygen from the water. In 2011, the Asian clam was also discovered in the lake, which competes with native mussels for food and space, and can reach densities in the thousands per square meter.
Preventing and better understanding the impact Asian Clams have on lake nutrient levels is one of the projects funded by the grant. Nutrients—primarily nitrogen and phosphorus—are essential for the growth of all living organisms. However, excessive nutrient levels degrade water quality by increasing algae blooms that foul water treatment facilities. Algae blooms also decrease the oxygen that fish and other aquatic life need to survive.
“With something as intricate as watershed management and important as safe, clean drinking water, it’s critical we all work together to keep our resources clean and make them sustainable for future generations,” said Sen. Ranker. “We were able to secure $50,000 one year ago and it is my hope that this additional $164,000 will help us continue our efforts to clean up Lake Whatcom and Puget Sound. This is an excellent example of multiple levels of government working together to effectively meet the needs of our constituents.”
The funding will help develop a control strategy for Asian Clams, while aiding the City of Bellingham and Whatcom County Invasive Species Board in implementing the plan to prevent and reduce aquatic invasive species. The funding can also be used for prevention strategies, including public education and outreach, inspections, and monitoring to evaluate progress and inform future work.
“The science-based, regionally coordinated effort to clean up the Sound is exactly what is needed to make a measurable difference,” said Mayor Kelli Linville. “From Lake Whatcom to Bellingham Bay, our city is a partner in investing in the highest regional priorities to protect public health, our economy, and Puget Sound.”
“Saving Puget Sound is a collaborative effort. Our progress throughout the region is a result of scientific analysis, local expertise, and bipartisan leadership,” said O’Keefe. “We value the support from elected champions like Senator Ranker and Mayor Kelli Linville.”