In western Washington, stormwater runoff from cities, roads, and other developed areas is the most significant source of pollution threatening Puget Sound and other waterways, carrying with it heavy loads of contaminants straight into the aquatic habitats of sensitive species like salmon and orcas.
Earthjustice appealed the Clean Water Act stormwater permit for the state Department of Transportation on behalf of Puget Soundkeeper Alliance. The permit failed to require aggressive approaches to new projects and did little to address the impact of stormwater runoff from the existing highway network. Now in a settlement, state officials have agreed to a new plan expected to reduce the pollution threatening the waterways and wildlife of western Washington.
Jan Hasselman, attorney for Earthjustice, sees positive implications of the settlement beyond pollution protection. "Strengthening this permit can be an opportunity to put people back to work by retrofitting our highways to eliminate this problem," she said. "This will help our economy today and our quality of life tomorrow by cleaning up salmon spawning streams."
The Washington State Department of Transportation will be required to devote greater resources to retrofitting old highways when it builds new ones, and has agreed to give federal fisheries scientists an expanded role in overseeing new construction projects to ensure that they sufficiently protect endangered and threatened salmon and steelhead.