The bulk of King County’s $361,000 state penalty for last year’s West Point sewage treatment plant failure will support a Puget Sound eelgrass recovery project, under oversight by the Department of Ecology.
A legal agreement holds King County accountable for its water quality violations, while providing multiple environmental benefits for Puget Sound.
Human activity has significantly altered Puget Sound shorelines, including significant losses of once-abundant eelgrass beds. Eelgrass provides habitat for numerous species, such as juvenile salmon and small fish that are a vital link up the natural food chain, including for at-risk southern resident killer whales. Eelgrass also helps keep water clean by absorbing nutrients, and it reduces carbon dioxide and other gases associated with climate change.
The restoration work will be performed by the Nearshore Habitat Program at the Washington Department of Natural Resources. The project will assess tideland conditions in King County, identify possible sites for eelgrass restoration, plant 10 test plots and develop up to five long-term restoration sites. The long-term sites are scheduled to be planted in 2020, followed by monitoring through 2021.
The county will pay $287,279 – 80 percent of the penalty amount – into the eelgrass project that has not been otherwise funded.
The remaining $73,721 will be paid into Ecology’s Coastal Protection Fund that supports grants to public entities for environmental protection and restoration statewide.
In addition to the penalty, King County must comply with Ecology’s order to make several improvements to its operations and maintenance at West Point. Those improvements are expected to cost about $1.35 million.