Land Use Planning Tool for Estuarine Habitat Protection, Restoration, and Cumulative Effects Assessment in Northern Puget Sound
Puget Sound is home to hundreds of species of wildlife, millions of people, and thousands of rivers and streams. The largest supplier of freshwater and sediment within the Sound, Whidbey Basin, is of key ecological importance. A considerable portion of its tidal wetlands have been lost due to increased development pressure, poor land use planning, and dike and levy construction.
Understanding of the ecological and economic importance of healthy wetlands has spurred many restoration projects in this area. However, the effectiveness of these projects is diminished when participants lack the capacity to assess the feasibility of different restoration options, or to understand the implications of proposed changes on key natural resources. In addition, local land use planners lack systematic, common approaches to assess the cumulative impacts of multiple restoration projects within a selected area.
This project team is addressing these challenges by developing a basin-scale hydrodynamic modeling tool that will make it possible for land use decision makers to forecast the effects of restoration plans and land use changes in their own communities and the rest of the watershed. Researchers are working closely with stakeholders from organizations involved in restoration in the Whidbey Basin to ensure that the model is useful and accessible.
Outreach and training will be developed for multiple stakeholders including county, municipal, and tribal government officials, landowners, researchers and educators. The Coastal Training Program at the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) will conduct these trainings and outreach throughout the region. Training and outreach materials will also be distributed to national networks like Sea Grant and Non-point Education for Municipal Officials (NEMO).