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King County clean-water infrastructure creates artificial reef for endangered fish

Summary

Puget Sound is again becoming a desirable neighborhood for rare rockfish and other endangered species thanks to the Brightwater treatment system’s creation of habitat off of Point Wells north of Shoreline.

Story

Puget Sound is again becoming a desirable neighborhood for rare rockfish and other endangered species thanks to the Brightwater treatment system’s creation of habitat off of Point Wells north of Shoreline.

Biologists with the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife recently discovered Brightwater’s marine outfall structures, which were completed in 2010 to discharge highly treated water to Puget Sound, provide an artificial reef for two Endangered Species Act-listed rockfish.

Biologists observed 54 canary rockfish in the 180 to 300 foot depth range and one bocaccio was spotted at around 610 feet. The bocaccio rockfish has not been sighted in Puget Sound in more than seven years.

In 2010, the National Marine Fisheries Service listed the Puget Sound and Georgia Basin canary rockfish as a threatened species and the bocaccio rockfish as endangered. In November 2014, the Fisheries Service designated critical habitat for both of these species, which includes the Puget Sound.

In addition to these two endangered species, 140 quillback rockfish, one yellowtail rockfish, two lingcod and several other fish species and invertebrates were also observed in the Point Wells eelgrass.

The outfall pipes release exceptionally clean water to Puget Sound through a small section of diffuser ports a mile off shore at a depth of 600 feet. The hard pipeline surface nearer to the shoreline provides habitat for fish and invertebrates by acting as an artificial reef which is otherwise limited in the area. Sea life has transformed the twin mile-long pipes into a colorful underwater neighborhood.

The Brightwater marine outfall reaches a mile off shore at Point Wells by Richmond Beach north of Shoreline. Wastewater from homes, businesses, and schools is cleaned using advanced technology at the Brightwater Treatment Plant and sent through 14 miles of pipe deep underground to the marine outfall.

In 2004, King County began a major eelgrass restoration project to prevent loss of critical habitat from the construction of the marine outfall.

King County biologists designed a salvage program that harvested and cultured eelgrass from the construction zone and replanted the crops after construction was finished. Eelgrass also provides critical habitat that sustains forage fish, salmon and even Orca whales.  

The Brightwater Marine Outfall Project has become an extensive and ongoing development that continues to contribute a better understanding of Puget Sound.

To learn more about the Brightwater Marine Outfall Project and its positive impacts on the oceanography of Puget Sound please visit the following resources:

http://www.kingcounty.gov/environment/wtd/Construction/North/Brightwater/Description/Marine-Outfall.aspx

https://your.kingcounty.gov/dnrp/library/water-and-land/science/newsletter/2009/0903-4-outfall-eelgrass-restoration.pdf

http://green.kingcounty.gov/WLR/Science/Seminar/pdfs/PDF7.pdf

https://your.kingcounty.gov/dnrp/library/2013/kcr2115-2012.pdf

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