WSU’s Research and Extension Center in Puyallup received a 3-year grant of $480,584 on Dec. 21 to support the extensive testing of methods to reduce polluted storm water runoff for the Puget Sound cleanup effort.
The award is part of the 2011 Watershed Protection and Restoration Grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that is worth $6.3 million. The state department of commerce, ecology and the Puget Sound Partnership are using the grant to support 23 projects around the Puget Sound area.
The projects will work with four activity areas including watershed characterization and strategies to manage storm water, according a press release issued by the Pudget Sound Partnership and the departments of ecology and commerce. Four watersheds in the Port of Tacoma, Bellingham, Puyallup and Kitsap County are partnered with WSU’s extension.
Curtis Hinman, a green storm water infrastructure specialist at WSU, said the research facility the university recently finished in Puyallup will help the project’s focus on storm water management techniques. The guidelines are going to become requirements of the state.
“Storm water is arguably the largest source of pollution and arguably the most difficult to manage,” Hinman said. “For example, in Bellingham, Lake Whatcom is drinking water, but they have phosphorous leaking issues. One of the things we are working on here is how to best manage that phosphorous.”
In the last year of the grant, they will take their research and implement the techniques in the areas they partnered with on the project, said Hinman. The areas were chosen because of their unique issues and their pertinence to their research.
WSU’s project will assist in the development of design guidelines for low-impact techniques in the maintenance of watersheds and will research permeable pavement, according to the press release.
“The projects we selected for funding include a wide range of approaches to protect and restore Puget Sound while helping support local economies,” Department of Commerce Director Rogers Weed said. “It’s important to develop market-based solutions to maintain working farms and forests, and also consider how to save money and protect jobs by cost effectively developing urban areas to accommodate our growing population.”
The need for watershed-maintenance improvement stems from the increase in population and development in the Puget Sound region. As numbers increase, so do issues of pollution, according to the press release.
A November assessment gave evidence that the most toxic chemicals found in the watersheds come from surface water run off, according to the press release. Contaminants transfer to lakes, streams and other watershed areas and habitats in the Puget Sound.
“Healthy watersheds are a key to a healthy Puget Sound,” Gov. Chris Gregoire said in the press release. “As our communities grow and prosper, it’s important that we develop and use the land in ways that protect our working lands, our streams and the Sound itself.”