OLYMPIA – A bill aimed at restoring salmon habitat for Puget Sound orcas struggling to find enough food to survive was approved by the Senate by a vote of 28-21 on Thursday.

Senate Bill 5273, sponsored by Sen. Jesse Salomon (D-Shoreline), would require residential property owners to use an alternative that has the least amount of negative impact on marine life when replacing existing shoreline seawalls.

“Nearly one-third of Puget Sound’s shorelines are armored with structures like bulkheads and seawalls,” said Salomon. “These structures can be incredibly destructive to marine habitats in the area. There are several alternatives that can achieve comparable results for property owners while also having less impact on the natural environment.”

Property owners looking to replace a seawall or bulkhead can replace it with the exact same structure under current state law. Certain types of seawalls can be bad for critical nearshore habitat.

When seawalls are installed, the natural process of beach and sand erosion is disrupted. This can cause a chain reaction of negative environmental impacts, including the disruption of fish habitats in the area.

A lack of adequate salmon population has been identified as one of the factors jeopardizing the Puget Sound’s Southern Resident Orca population.

SB 5273 will now go to the House of Representatives for consideration. It has until April 11 to be approved by the House to be eligible to become law this year.

The 2021 legislative session is scheduled to adjourn on April 25.


Additional information:

Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee Public Hearing

WDFW: Marine Shoreline Design Guidelines

UW Puget Sound Institute: The latest numbers on shoreline armoring

Office of the Governor: Southern Resident Orca Whale Recovery