Priorities for 2018-2022 focus on accelerating progress toward the Estuary Vital Sign.
River delta estuaries form where river floodplains meet the sea, creating a unique and important environment where freshwater mixes with salt water and sediments collect. Estuaries are home to a diverse array of specially adapted plants and animals moving in and out with the tides. Estuaries provide important feeding and resting habitat for young salmon, migratory birds, and many other species that cannot find these unique benefits in any landscape. Young salmon that are able to spend time in river delta estuaries grow faster and are more likely to survive their ocean migration. Large river deltas are home to unique geomorphic processes that contribute to the Puget Sound ecosystem function and adjacent habitats.
The Estuaries Vital Sign indicator target is measured across the 16 large river delta estuaries in Puget Sound (Deschutes, Dosewallips, Duckabush, Dungeness, Duwamish, Elwha, Hamma Hamma, Nisqually, Nooksack, Puyallup, Quilcene, Samish, Skagit, Skokomish, Snohomish, and Stillaguamish). Increases in area or function of these estuaries is a priority in the Regional Priorities because of their potential contribution toward the Estuaries Vital Sign indicator target. The large agricultural river deltas (Nooksack, Samish, Skagit, Snohomish, Stillaguamish) are particularly a priority because they were historically some of the largest estuaries and now have the greatest opportunity for large additions of estuary acreage with high quality habitat potential.
The Implementation Strategy for the Estuaries Vital Sign indicator target aims to enable and accelerate tidal inundation of land while minimizing impact and maximizing benefits to farming communities and other stakeholders.