Real solutions for Washington’s environment: Cooler, cleaner, healthier water
Through the state’s Climate Commitment Act, Low Carbon Fuel Standard, Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate, and Clean Energy Transformation Act, Washington is on a course to reduce its carbon emissions by 95% by 2050. The governor’s focus is consistently on reducing greenhouse gas emissions to combat global climate change — even though Washington has high air quality and has always had a clean electricity grid thanks to its plentiful hydroelectricity. House Republicans believe water pollution is a huge problem for our state that has not received the attention it deserves.
Water quality must be part of the discussion
While air quality is certainly an important factor in the climate change discussion, we believe the governor is failing to address another key component of a sustainable environment — Washington’s water quality.
Washington has about 28,000 miles of shorelines, which is equal to more than the distance around the Earth. Half of Washington stream miles and one-fifth of marine waters in Washington fail national water quality standards for at least one pollutant. (See the Department of Ecology’s Water Quality Focus Sheet.)
Water quality is vital to our state. The water must be cool enough and clean enough to support salmon survival. Our fish and shellfish must be safe for families to eat. Our waters must be safe to swim in. Washington House Republicans believe our citizens deserve much more progress toward cooler, cleaner, and healthier water.
Cooler, cleaner waters will help to preserve, restore salmon
Our state’s salmon population is at risk, not because of the Snake River dams as the governor would have you believe, but due to a combination of other serious circumstances. Puget Sound is home to 59 populations of Chinook salmon, steelhead, and bull trout. These fish require clean and cool water to thrive, but many salmon populations are declining, largely due to poor water quality.
Problem 1: Urban Heat
One of the most serious threats to our salmon population is known as “urban heat island effect.” Urban heat islands occur when cities replace natural land cover with dense concentrations of pavement, buildings, and other surfaces that absorb and retain heat. This is especially a problem in Seattle, Everett, Tacoma, and the cities along the shores of Puget Sound. Seattle can be up to 17 degrees hotter in the summer than rural areas. This heats up storm waters that empty into Puget Sound tributaries and directly into the sound, increasing water temperatures and harming salmon habitat. Warmer temperatures prevent water from mixing, allowing algae growth, which is harmful to fish and human health.
Problem 2: Untreated sewage and storm water
Another serious risk to our state’s salmon population is untreated raw sewage that frequently spills into Puget Sound. Between 2006 and 2019, as much as 23% of Puget Sound failed to meet oxygen standards mandated by the Clean Water Act. Much of this is attributed to inadequately treated human waste. Dumping this sewage causes a chain reaction that exhausts the water’s supply of oxygen, leaving marine creatures essentially breathless.
News story after news story show that millions of gallons of untreated storm water and sewage are being spilled regularly into Puget Sound from wastewater treatment plants that are inadequate to handle the flow volumes. It has become a well-documented problem for aquatic life, in addition to closing beaches to recreation.
Climate resilience goals must address the quality of air AND water!
It is disappointing that while Washington state has become the leader toward reducing carbon emissions, the governor and his majority party continue to ignore and neglect what keeps Washington truly green — water. It is the lifeblood of our state!
REAL SOLUTIONS from Washington House Republicans
Washington House Republicans have a four-point plan to address water quality issues, protect and preserve our salmon, provide for drought resilience, fund flood mitigation and prevention projects, and improve our state’s long-term forest health.
House Republicans are working to provide real solutions backed by scientific evidence and facts, not emotional rhetoric. These real solutions involve incentives, not tax increases, to achieve the goals of cleaner air and water and a healthier Washington state. We invite you to join us in these efforts!