By Katie Zemtseff, Daily Journal Staff Reporter for Daily Journal of Commerce
Three sites are the first urban areas in Washington to be certified as being safe for salmon, and more are likely to follow, including large residential developments and golf courses.
Parks built by the Port of Seattle, the Washington State Department of Ecology campus in Lacey, and the campus of the University of Washington Bothell and Cascadia Community College have been certified by Salmon-Safe, a Portland-based nonprofit that focuses on restoring salmon habitat in agricultural and urban watersheds.
The program looks at land management practices, irrigation, pest control and environmental management on each site.
Dan Kent, executive director of Salmon-Safe, said toxins that leave a site eventually make their way into streams and local watersheds. This makes water unsafe, both for humans and salmon. “It’s all about what we can do as urban residents to be better stewards of the watershed.”
Those toxins also end up in Puget Sound. David Dicks, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership, said programs like Salmon-Safe will make a difference in saving the Sound. “If we can harness this energy, and I don’t mean this to be hyperbole, then we can win here,” he said.
Salmon-Safe has been around for 12 years, and initially focused on agricultural lands and parks. Recently, it began certifying corporate and institutional campuses. In Oregon, it has certified the Nike world headquarters in Beaverton, Portland State University and Toyota’s facility at the Port of Portland.
In Washington, the Salmon-Safe program is administered by the Network for Business Innovation and Sustainability. Mary Rose, co-director of NBIS, said her goal is to see Salmon-Safe banners on buildings throughout downtown Seattle so people can see which ones are helping to protect salmon — and which ones aren’t.
The urban sites certified in Washington have made a commitment to water issues and have agreed to continue developing their systems.
Martha Groom, of the UW Bothell, said the certification made her school commit to continue the work it has already done to protect water quality.
The UW Bothell/Cascadia campus lies next to a 58-acre wetland, which the school restored when it decided to move there. Students use the wetland as a living laboratory and the school’s water quality protection is “a hallmark of the college,” Groom said.
As the campus grows, Groom said Salmon-Safe will act as a planning guide.
Salmon-Safe has been accepted as a “LEED for innovation in design credit.” Salmon-Safe practices can also help get LEED points for stormwater issues.
Kent said other benefits include third-party verification, an opportunity for greater business development, and positioning the company as an environmental leader. “It sends a stronger signal to regulatory agencies that the landowner is out front in thinking about these issues and is a leader in the environmental movement.”
George Blomberg of the Port of Seattle said when the port builds a new project it offsets any impacts by creating new park space, a process Blomberg calls “institutional judo.”
The Salmon-Safe guidelines will help push the port to make those parks as good for local waters as possible, he said.
Ecology spokesman Steve Fry said certifying the agency’s 320,000-square-foot headquarters was especially important as it shows that Ecology walks its talk. The certification helped fine tune Ecology’s operation systems.
“There is a return on investment financially, as well as publicly, for us,” Fry said. “Things like Salmon-Safe or LEED don’t necessarily have to increase or make your building more expensive to operate than a normal building.”
Fry said the Building Owners and Managers Association estimates a building the size of Ecology’s headquarters costs $7 a square foot per year to operate, but Ecology operated at $6.70 per square foot for 2007, due in large part to water system improvements. That is a savings of $96,000, he said.
The cost of Salmon-Safe certification is site-based, and runs from $5,000 to $25,000 depending on they size and type of facility. For more information, visit www.salmonsafe.org/ or contact Mary Rose at: 425.828.0982 from NBIS for more information.
Photo 1: When the Port of Seattle builds a new project it offsets impacts by creating park space. A port spokesperson said the Salmon-Safe guidelines push the port to make those parks as good for local waters as possible.
Photo courtesy Port of Seattle.
Photo 2: The UW Bothell/Cascadia campus lies next to a 58-acre wetland, shown here during restoration. Now students use the wetland as a living laboratory and the school’s water quality protection is “a hallmark of the college,” according to a spokesperson.
Photo courtesy University of Washington Bothell and Cascadia Community College
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