Snohomish County's Puget Sound Initiative
Snohomish County's Puget Sound Initiative, launched by Executive Somers in partnership with the County Council, focuses on expanding efforts to protect and restore Puget Sound, one of the region's most valuable assets. In January of 2017, Executive Somers convened an internal working group to start planning and identifying next steps for implementation. Initiative efforts will primarily focus on internal opportunities in County daily operations and policy, and are intended to complement the work already being done by stakeholders and organizations across the region. The working group outlined three phases for the Initiative:
Phase I: What is the County doing to protect and restore Puget Sound?
The County's PSI website is a new tool to better communicate our work with the public. The website provides a snap-shot of a dozen County projects and programs that help quantify the beneficial impacts of our work on Puget Sound health. Phase I efforts focus on three core areas, namely: Water Quality, Habitat Restoration, and Species Vitality. The PSI website also includes a Community Call to Action, encouraging the local community to visit our 'Get Involved' page and to find out how YOU can help make a difference!
Learn more about what the County is already doing to protect water quality, restore habitat, and promote species vitality!
Phase II: Moving the needle on the County's existing work
The County's PSI internal working group is developing several new policies and operational changes, including:
- A new County Integrated Pest and Vegetation Management (IPVM) Program: The new IPVM Program includes a general policy, guidelines, and a new Steering Committee to help facilitate the exchange of ideas and best management practices for County departments and divisions. The County's IPVM Program will guide the update or enhancement of each department or division's existing pest and vegetation management plan.
- How does this help Puget Sound? The County's IPVM Policy directs all applicable operations of Snohomish County to manage pests or vegetation in an environmentally sensitive manner that seeks to use the least toxic method to achieve control while addressing public health and safety obligations. This helps to protect the health and safety of our community members, County staff, our waterways, and natural environment.
- Estimated timeline for policy adoption: February 2019.
- Inventory of chemicals used in County operations: All County departments and divisions are in the process of creating inventories of chemicals used in their daily operations, including annual quantities and chemicals of concern for each of the products used. Once the inventory is complete, the county will identify and test safer alternatives to existing products, and substitute where feasible.
- How does this help Puget Sound? Using safer alternatives to existing products will help protect the health and safety of our community members, County staff, and all of our waterways.
- Estimated timeline for completion: June 2019.
- Green Fleet Policy: A new Green Fleet Team is being convened to help guide the purchase, ownership, and operation of the County's diverse equipment fleet in a manner that promotes environmental and fiscal responsibility. The Green Fleet Team will help develop and implement a new green fleet policy for all departments and offices that own or operate vehicles and fuel-consuming equipment.
- How does this help Puget Sound? The County has completed two greenhouse gas emissions inventories for government operations (2009 and 2014, respectively), which demonstrate that government vehicles and fuel consuming equipment account for the largest share of total government GHG emissions at 44%. Development and implementation of a green fleet policy is a critical next step to help the county achieve its GHG emissions reduction goals. Global warming from GHG emissions continues to negatively impact the health of oceans and waterways, resulting in warmer water temperatures, ocean acidification, rising sea levels, and other consequences that inhibit the vitality of our ecosystem and communities.
- Estimate timeline for completion: The first Green Fleet Team meeting is targeted for February 2019 with a goal of finalizing a Green Fleet Policy for county operations by the end of 2019.
Phase III: Collaboration and planning for the future
In mid-2019, Snohomish County will launch a new Healthy Forest Partnership program that focuses on restoring the health of county-owned forested open space areas through a community stewardship model. The County recognizes the urgent need for action in order to restore the health of Puget Sound. Healthy urban forests provide a wide variety of ecological and community benefits, such as reducing stormwater runoff, improving air and water quality, enhancing wildlife habitat, providing opportunities for recreation and community building, and much more.
Healthy urban forests that are adjacent to water bodies offer even greater potential benefits to improving Puget Sound health. Snohomish County owns approximately 11,704 acres of forested open space, and of those, about 2,411 acres are adjacent to a water body that is salmon bearing. The County does not have adequate resources to maintain the optimum health of all of these areas and recognizes that our local community presents tremendous opportunity to help move the needle on Puget Sound health through an organized forest stewardship program.
Through this new program, Snohomish County will partner with our local communities to recruit and train stewards on active forest management and how these efforts benefit Puget Sound health. Ultimately, the county aims to build a network of healthy urban forests and a strong culture of community stewardship, leadership, and partnership.
Stay tuned for more information on this exciting new program!