Puget Sound Nearshore Subwatershed

Why is the Nearshore Subwatershed Important to Salmon?

Nearshore Subwatershed Facts

Human population: 316,918 (2009 estimate)

Primary land uses (mainland):
residential (68%), industrial (10%)

Primary land uses (Vashon-Maury Island):
residential (90%)

Salmon species currently present:
Chinook, coho, chum, pink, sockeye, steelhead, coastal cutthroat trout, bull trout

The Puget Sound nearshore -- where land and marine waters meet -- is a dynamic and interdependent ribbon of life for many plants and creatures. Salmon depend on the marine nearshore for food and shelter. Their success here reflects onthe overall health of the nearshore ecosystem, which in turn is a key part of the greater Puget Sound environment.

Important Information on Bulkheads and the Nearshore for Planners and Shoreline Property Owners.

Planners and shoreline property owners should be aware of the latest information on the impact of bulkheads on the marine nearshore. A 10 minute video produced in September 2008 provides an overview.

This video was produced by the WRIA 9 Forum of local governments with financial support from the King Conservation District and the Puget Sound Partnership.

Watch the video on bulkheads and the nearshore (Windows Media file).

Subwatershed Salmon Habitat Overview

The nearshore is the boundary between saltwater and land that stretches from beach bluffs out into the shallows of Puget Sound. This subwatershed also includes the small streams that drain directly into Puget Sound from West Point in Seattle south to Federal Way. All of Vashon-Maury Island -- uplands, streams, and beaches and bluffs -- also is included.

Map of Nearshore Subwatershed showing land cover

The map at right shows most of the Nearshore subwatershed (a small portion of nearshore in Federal Way is excluded). View a map showing this subwatershed in relation to the rest of the watershed.

The nearshore – the boundary between saltwater and land that stretches from beach bluffs out into the shallows of Puget Sound – provides an important link in the life history of salmonids. All anadromous salmon -- those that live in both fresh and salt water in their lives -- use the nearshore to acclimate to saltwater, feed, seek refuge, and as a migration route to and from the ocean. Most salmonid species are dependent upon the nearshore for juvenile rearing. Much of the greater Puget Sound shoreline has been filled, armored, and developed. Extensive areas have been dredged to maintain navigation along piers and within marinas. The supply of beach sediment has been curtailed due to bulkheading. Upland land use practices have affected nearshore habitats.

It is estimated that marine riparian (shoreline) vegetation exists along only 11% of the WRIA 9 watershed shoreline on the mainland. This loss of habitat affects not only salmon produced in the Green/Duwamish Rivers and other local stream but also those produced in other Puget Sound watersheds that use our shorelines for support during migration.

Where the Fish Are in the Nearshore Subwatershed

Fish distribution maps show where anadromous salmon and trout have been found or should be present. These maps were created in 2000.

More recent data on fish presence in the small tributary streams is available for:

Aerial photo of the nearshore on Maury Island, showing eroding bluffs and shallow water habitat (photo courtesy of Washington State Department of Ecology)

Problems on Streams and the Nearshore

Habitat Information

Additional information on nearshore habitat along the Puget Sound is available in:

More recent water quality data are available at the King County marine and sediment monitoring page.

See also water quality data from the Washington State Department of Ecology.

Photo of the Des Moines Creek Estuary in the Puget Sound nearshore subwatershed

Project Solutions to These Problems

Projects funded by the Salmon Recovery Funding Board and other grantors are listed here. The projects listed below are only a few of the various projects of governments and volunteer groups in this subwatershed.

Information on the status of individual projects also is tracked on the state's Lead Entity Habitat Work Schedule.

Local Governments in the Nearshore Subwatershed

Follow the external links to learn more about these communities and what they are doing to improve habitat for salmon.
* Indicates that volunteer opportunities or other specific salmon related information are available on this site.

Other Organizations/Efforts in the Nearshore Subwatershed

Puget Sound Partnership
The Puget Sound Partnership is the lead state agency for Puget Sound recovery. It provides a venue for people across Puget Sound to work together. Its mandate includes both marine nearshore areas as well as freshwater streams, rivers, and uplands.

Alliance for Puget Sound Shorelines
Begun in 2006, this is a partnership of People For Puget Sound, the Trust for Public Land, and the Nature Conservancy. Its goal is to create 10 new waterfront parks or natural areas, restore 100 miles of shoreline through on-the-ground restoration, and protect 1,000 miles of shoreline over the next ten years.

Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration Project
The purpose of the Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration Project is to identify significant ecosystem problems in Washington State's Puget Sound Basin, evaluate potential solutions and restore and preserve critical nearshore habitat. The project is a cooperative effort among government organizations, tribes, industries and environmental organizations to preserve and restore the health of the Sound's nearshore.

King Conservation District
Since 1949, the KCD has been helping the people of King County manage their natural resources by educating landowners, schools groups, scientists, consultants and agencies in recognizing problem situations and avoiding the creation of them. KCD also provides technical assistance in solving problems.

Port of Seattle
The Port of Seattle manages large areas of the waterfront on Elliott Bay and the Duwamish. The natural areas of these properties are managed to provide fish and wildlife habitat as well as public access to water. In addition, piers and other shoreline facilities are designed and operated to minimize harmful impacts to salmon and other aquatic resources.

People For Puget Sound
People for Puget Sound is a non-profit citizens group dedicated to educating and involving people in protecting and restoring the land and waters of Puget Sound and the Northwest Straits. It has done work on both the mainland and Vashon/Maury Island nearshore.

Puget Soundkeeper Alliance
Puget Soundkeeper Alliance was created in 1984 as a coalition of citizens and organizations concerned about the health of Puget Sound.

City of Seattle Restore Our Waters Initiative
This City of Seattle effort is a partnership with the community to protect and restore streams, lakes, and marine shorelines.

Friends of Fauntleroy Creek
Fauntleroy Creek in West Seattle is home to coho salmon. An active group of local citizens are protecting and restoring the creek. A Watershed Council was created in 2001 to help guide these efforts.

Longfellow Creek Community Web Site
This Seattle Public Utilities sponsored web site provides educational resources, information on events and projects, and other creek and community specific information.

Environmental Science Center at Seahurst Park in Burien
The environmental science center focuses on informing and educating the Highline community about aquatic and terrestrial ecology in Seahurst Park and the beyond. Educational programs are available for schools and members of the general public.

Miller/Walker Basin Steward
The Cities of Burien, SeaTac, and Normandy Park; the Port of Seattle, and King County jointly fund stewardship of the Miller/Walker Creek basins in the Highline area.

Normandy Park Community Club: Miller/Walker Stream and Wetland Restoration Stewards of the Cove
Members of the Normandy Park Community Club are restoring Miller/Walker Creek for the benefit of salmon and bird and wildlife.

Friends of Des Moines Creek
This City of Des Moines web site provides contact information for a group of concerned citizens devoted to stewardship of Des Moines Creek.

Marine Science and Technology Center in Redondo - Highline Community College
The Science and Technology Center is located on the Redondo waterfront in Des Moines. It is the centerpiece for marine science programs at Highline Community College as well as an educational center for south county nearshore communities. In addition to classes, the center offers various educational programs and opportunities to observe and touch nearshore marine life.

Federal Way Stream Teams
This City of Federal Way site provides information on joining a stream team for Joe's, Lakota, and other streams in the city. The page also includes information resources and contacts for city residents who want to protect water quality, stream habitat, and the Puget Sound nearshore.

Vashon/Maury Island Basin Steward
Greg Rabourn, 206-296-1923, is the King County basin steward for Vashon/Maury Island. Greg is available to work with property owners to help them steward their land and water.

Vashon/Maury Real Time Marine Water Quality Data
This website provides real-time data on marine water quality from two buoys moored in Quartermaster Harbor between Vashon and Maury Islands.

Vashon Island Salmon Watcher Page
Interested in watching for salmon on Vashon Island? Check out this page to learn more and volunteer.

Vashon-Maury Island Land Trust
It is the mission of the Vashon-Maury Land Trust to conserve lands to protect the natural ecosystems and rural character of Vashon-Maury Island. The Land Trust has help preserve freshwater streams and nearshore habitat in cooperation with island landowners.

Vashon-Maury Island Aubudon Society
The group promotes and deepens public awareness of nature and helps protect the ecology of Vashon-Maury Island.

Information Resources for the Nearshore Subwatershed

Puget Sound Nearshore Environments - King County
Series of graphics illustrating the nearshore environment, its processes, and problems affecting the nearshore due to development.

Reconnaissance Assessment Report on the Green/Duwamish and Central Puget Sound Watershed
Comprehensive information on salmon habitat as of 2000. Includes detailed information on on salmon populations, conditions in specific subwatersheds and stream basins, and maps showing salmon habitat.

State of the Nearshore Ecosystem Report
Comprehensive information on the nearshore ecosystem in the Green/Duwamish and Central Puget Sound Watershed as of 2001.

Marine Shoreline Inventory Report
Summary information of shoreline habitat conditions that affect habitat quality and quantity for juvenile salmonids. Also available upon request are Geographic Information System (GIS) layers with these data. Published March 2004.

Urban Blueprint for Salmon - City of Seattle
Information about how Chinook salmon use the nearshore and other parts of Seattle.

Typing of Nearshore Streams
Washington Trout (now known as Wild Fish Conservancy) completed stream typing surveys on Vashon/Maury Island in 2001 and the nearshore mainland in 2004.

Federal Way Streams
This City of Federal Way site has a map of Joe's Creek, Lakota Creek, and and other streams in the city.

Vashon-Maury Island "Liquid Assets"
Detailed information and resources from King Countyon the streams and groundwater of Vashon-Maury Island.

Vashon-Maury Island Page - King County
Information from King County on the marine nearshore, streams, and upland ecologies and management efforts on Vashon-Maury Island.

Vashon-Maury Island Rapid Rural Reconnaissance
Completed in 2004, this report is a comprehensive inventory of the island's surface water needs. It lists priority drainage and water quality projects, acquisitions, studies and programs that would all be funded over time by surface water management fees.

Maury Island State Aquatic Reserve
Information on the first state aquatic reserve designated in Washington State by the Department of Natural Resources.

Central Puget Sound Watershed Page - King County
Information about the Central Puget Sound watershed.

Puget Sound Shoreline Stewardship Guidebook - King County
Lots of great tips for people who live next to the beaches and bluffs of central Puget Sound.

Puget Sound Shorelines Page - Washington State Department of Ecology
This Washington State Department of Ecology web page helps landowners and citizens learn about and protect the shorelines of Puget Sound.

Digital Coastal Atlas - Washington State Department of Ecology
Aerial photos of Puget Sound shoreline as well as maps showing various geological and ecological features.

Environmental Information Page for WRIA 9 - Washington State Department of Ecology
Includes downloadable publications, maps, and water quality information for Green/Duwamish and Central Puget Sound Watershed (WRIA 9). Limited information is available for the nearshore portion of WRIA 9.