Water Quality photo identifier

Nonpoint Pollution from Forestry

Washington Watershed Restoration Initiative

There are over three times as many USDA Forest Service roads as state highways in our state. Lack of Forest Service funds for maintenance and improvements has led to a crumbling road network. Deteriorating, unmaintained and poorly located forest roads add sediment-laden runoff into streams, changing stream flow dynamics and harming dwindling runs of threatened and endangered salmon that need cold, clear water to thrive and reproduce. Sediment decreases drinking water quality and increases the need for expensive community water filtration systems. Two-thirds of the runoff from problem roads drain into an already ailing Puget Sound.

The Washington Watershed Restoration Initiative -- a coalition of state government agencies, tribes, and conservation/recreation groups -- recognized this growing problem and came together to find a remedy. Working with Congressman Norm Dicks, federal funding for road management became a reality with the creation of the Legacy Roads and Trails Remediation program (LRT). This funding provided the Forest Service the help they needed to get started. In the first year (2008), the national LRT program provided $39 million to projects designed to address the failing road network across the country ($3.5 million went to projects in Washington State).

Since 2008, the LRT program has invested nearly $22 million in Washington State to address the problems caused by the crumbling road network. These investments have been used to:

  • Maintain/improve 1,780 miles of roads.
  • Maintain/improve 104 miles of trails.
  • Decommission 204 miles of roads.
  • Construct/reconstruct 12 bridges.
  • Improve 32 stream crossings for fish passage.

This work has also helped keep an estimated 352-538 jobs in the forests – since local contractors and heavy equipment are often needed for these projects.

Washington Watershed Restoration coalition members:

Alpine Lakes Protection Society American Whitewater
American Rivers BARK
Conservation Northwest Gifford Pinchot Task Force
North Cascades Conservation Council Olympic Forest Coalition
Pacific Rivers Council Pilchuck Audubon Society
The Mountaineers The Wilderness Society
Trout Unlimited Upper Columbia United Tribes
Washington State Chapter, Great Old Broads for Wilderness Washington State Chapter, Sierra Club
Washington State Department of Ecology Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife
Washington State Department of Natural Resources Washington Trails Association
Washington Wild WildEarth Guardians



2014 Brochure

Washington Watershed Restoration Initiative: https://wawild.org/tag/washington-watershed-restoration-initiative/

For more information

Mark Hicks
Water Quality Program
WA Department of Ecology
Phone: 360-407-6477
Email: Mark.Hicks@ecy.wa.gov

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Last updated July 2017