Stormwater Runoff & Legacy Contamination

Manage stormwater runoff and legacy contamination by improving regulatory frameworks and incentives, including using a comprehensive approach at the site and landscape scales.
Urban stormwater is the leading contributor to water quality pollution in urban creeks, streams, and rivers in the state. Urban stormwater is also a significant contributor of toxics to marine sediment, including contaminated sites undergoing cleanup. Increasing volume of stormwater runoff due to development can also lead to flooding, property damage, degraded instream habitat, and adverse health impacts to communities. This strategy aims to support planning and implementation efforts that incentivize growth in areas that do not harm stream health and work to minimize toxic chemical concentrations in stormwater.

To achieve this strategy, stormwater permitting requirements or other local government programs must reduce nutrients and toxic chemicals in stormwater from residential and commercial lands. We must also increase local stormwater management capacity, and increase funding for actions, incentives, and local capacity to reduce nutrient loads. It will also be critical to continue to identify and fix toxic hotspots and increase the pace of cleanup of priority contaminated sites, while eliminating disproportionate impacts to vulnerable populations and underserved communities.

Implementing the Toxics in Fish, Benthic Index of Biotic Integration, Marine Water Quality, and other Implementation Strategies supports the success of this strategy.
  • Protect habitat from conversion, fragmentation
  • Restore habitat-forming processes
  • Reduce peak flows, increase low flows
  • Reduce toxics entering Puget Sound
  • Reduce nutrients to improve DO
  • Reduce bacteria to protect shellfish beds
  • Reduce inequitable health outcomes

Conduct watershed-scale planning and land use planning to protect and restore water quality. (ID #3)

Key opportunities for 2022-2026 include:

  • Create sufficient motivators to incentivize cross- jurisdictional and cross-departmental planning for growth and water resources;
  • Undertake watershed planning processes;
  • Promote the distribution of funds across jurisdictional boundaries to better facilitate the restoration of water quality;
  • Integrate existing plans across watersheds;
  • Identify and pass land use regulations and ordinances that are adequate to protect stream function, salmon populations, and other water resources.

Encourage retrofits and restoration through education and incentives. (ID #31)

Key opportunities for 2022-2026 include:

  • Adequately fund available for retrofit programs;
  • Identify high priority areas for implementing restoration that benefits water quality and quantity.

Increase local stormwater management capacity (including funding, staffing resources, and management tools and information). (ID #32)

Key opportunities for 2022-2026 include:

  • Create priority maps with parcel-level detail on the retrofit potential to reduce stormwater pollution runoff; share and incentivize through grant programs to fund key retrofits with local governments and other partners;
  • Engage decision-makers to increase support for additional stormwater funding;
  • Convey the need for watershed-based planning, stormwater approaches, and implementation;
  • Enable adaptive management of programs to respond to newly available science.

Incentivize redevelopment in areas associated with high loads of toxic chemicals. (ID #33)

Key opportunities for 2022-2026 include:

  • Reduce impacts and increase resources for community members residing in areas associated with high loads of toxic chemicals;
  • Identify priority locations for pilot projects based on loading and environmental justice;
  • Design effective programs and identify a funding source to pilot efforts.

Increase and stabilize funding that supports actions, incentives, and local capacity to reduce nutrient loads. (ID #34)

Key opportunities for 2022-2026 include:

  • Identify priority areas for stormwater nutrient reduction;
  • Incorporate nutrient reduction BMPs into stormwater management manuals and plans.

Develop and implement education and outreach and behavior change campaigns and fund projects to reduce nutrient impacts from residential, stormwater, and agricultural runoff. (ID #35)

Key opportunities for 2022-2026 include:

  • Assess existing programs for relevancy;
  • Identify state and local partners to work to develop and disseminate information.

Adjust stormwater permitting requirements or other local government programs to address nutrients in stormwater from residential and commercial lands. (ID #36)

Key opportunities for 2022-2026 include:

  • Conduct research on nutrient removal in stormwater BMPs;
  • Incorporate nutrient BMPs into stormwater management manuals.

Find and fix toxic hotspots (information, planning, education, funding, and implementation). (ID #41)

Key opportunities for 2022-2026 include:

  • Identify priority hotspots—such as high loading land- uses and transportation corridors;
  • Incorporate human health and environmental justice into prioritization;
  • Secure funding for incentives and pilots to invest in targeted interventions including source control and treatment.

Increase the streamlining of legal processes and the pace of clean-up of priority contaminated sites (information, planning, funding, implementation, and monitoring). (ID #61)

Key opportunities for 2022-2026 include:

  • Increase funding and capacity for the State’s clean-up program to undertake agency-initiated toxic cleanups and prioritize cleanups for Puget Sound recovery objectives.
Implementation Considerations

Key opportunities for 2022-2026 to integrate human wellbeing considerations and climate change responses into efforts include:

Human Wellbeing

  • Consider opportunities to bring jobs and economic benefits to communities through stormwater management and legacy contamination work.
  • Allocate resources, education, and outreach efforts to vulnerable populations and underserved communities (for example, The ECOSS Stormwater program) and ensure diverse participation in decision-making and design processes around stormwater management, legacy containments regulatory frameworks, and incentive programs.
  • Include equitable approaches to implementing green infrastructure that considers disproportionate impacts of flooding and community engagement while ensuring adequate and accessible housing.
  • Leverage existing preK-16 education programs (for example, StormFest, Green Streets, etc.) to improve understanding of stormwater and its impact on Puget Sound large-scale green infrastructure is considered— in both rural and urban settings—that provides human amenities and benefits.
  • Improve understanding of the impacts of legacy contaminants on local foods.
  • Expand training and employment in green stormwater infrastructure jobs.
  • Center health equity in designing for urban growth and increasing density.
  • Target infrastructure funding to equally consider human health, smart development, and stormwater management.

Climate Change

  • New development and retrofits should prioritize low impact and biophilic design elements (carbon- sequestering vegetation, green roofs, etc.) and developers should have incentives to protect existing mature trees, or disincentives for removing them.
  • Prioritize creation and restoration of urban green spaces that are resilient to floods (if near rivers), contain trees to help filter and reduce stormwater run-off, or are areas that could be de-paved and replaced with natural landscaping.
  • Promote green and nature-based infrastructure as a stormwater, climate adaptation, carbon sequestration, and human wellbeing solution.
  • Consider future changes in climate and ocean conditions when finding and fixing toxic hotspots.
  • Consider areas resilient to future changes in climate and ocean conditions when incentivizing redevelopment in areas associated with high loads of toxic chemicals.
  • Incorporate targeted climate change information when developing and distributing relevant outreach resources about nutrient impacts from stormwater and agricultural runoff.
Ongoing Programs

Ongoing programs provide regulatory oversight, technical support, implementation resources, funding, or guidance and serve as the critical foundation for Puget Sound recovery. The following is a list of example state and federal ongoing programs that help to implement this strategy. Many more local, tribal nations, and nongovernmental programs exist that support this strategy.

Program Name Owner Organization
Brownfields Program US EPA
Clean Water Indian Set-Aside Program US EPA
Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program US NOAA
Creosote and Marine Debris Removal Program WA DNR
Damage Assessment, Remediation, and Restoration Program US NOAA
Legacy Roads and Trails Program USFS
Local and Regional Project Assistance Grants (RAISE) USDOT
Local Toxics Control Accounts and Toxics Cleanup Program WA DOR
National Estuary Program and Puget Sound Geographic Funds US EPA
National Estuary Program: Shellfish Strategic Initiative WA DOH
National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program US EPA
Partnership Nearshore Credits Program WA PSP
Planning, environmental review and funding programs USDOT FTA
Public Works – Environmental Division (Joint Base Lewis-McChord) US Army
Puget Sound Conservation Districts (12) WA SCC
Puget Sound Corps WA DNR
Puget Sound Federal Task Force US EPA
Puget Sound Watershed Characterization Assessment WA ECY
Salmonid Life Histories and Survival Research WA DFW
Sewer Overflow and Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grants (OSG) Program US EPA
Shellfish Funding WA SCC
Solid Waste Management - Biosolids management WA ECY
Solid Waste Management - Moderate Risk Waste management WA ECY
Solid Waste Management - Organic materials management WA ECY
Superfund Program and National Priority List US EPA
Toxic Cleanup Program - Cleaning up priority bays in Puget Sound WA ECY
Toxic Cleanup Program - Lower Duwamish Waterway WA ECY
Toxic Cleanup Program - Remedial Action Grant Program WA ECY
Toxic Cleanup Program - Tacoma Smelter Plume WA ECY
Toxic Cleanup Program - Underground Storage Tank Program WA ECY
Toxic Cleanup Program - Voluntary Cleanup Program WA ECY
Urban and Community Forestry WA DNR
Voluntary Stewardship Program (VSP) WA SCC
Water Quality - Clean Up Polluted Waters - standards and water quality improvement plans (TMDLs) WA ECY
Water Quality - Control Stormwater and Wastewater Pollution WA ECY
Water Quality - National Estuary Program (NEP) Stormwater SI WA ECY
Water Quality - Provide Financial Assistance WA ECY
Water Quality - Reduce Nonpoint Source Water Pollution WA ECY
Watershed Surveys and Planning Program USDA NRCS
What We're Measuring

We achieve our recovery goals of healthy water quality and vibrant quality of life by protecting ecologically important lands from development (including beaches, estuaries, forests and wetlands, streams and floodplains); restoring instream and riparian areas of rivers and streams, increasing infiltration and water holding capacity of upland areas; reducing toxic hotspots through improved source control and treatment where stormwater runoff or wastewater contain significant concentrations of numerous toxic chemicals; prioritizng and cleaning up in-water and near-water sites that exceed state standards for contamination; reducing nutrient loading in stormwater runoff from residential and commercial lands and from agricultural lands and working forests; reducing disease-causing (pathogenic) bacteria and viruses in stormwater runoff from residential and commercial lands; ensuring that levels and patterns of pollutants and biotoxins in surface waters do not threaten the health of Puget Sound communities; and eliminating the disproportionate impacts to vulnerable populations and underserved communities. Indicators of success include:

Current Legislative Actions (3 Bills)
2024 | State Bill HB 2235
Status: Did not pass
2024 | State Bill HB 2400
Status: Did not pass
2024 | State Bill SB 6163
Status: Did not pass