Puget Sound National Estuary Program - Integrated Watershed and Stormwater Planning

Information contained on this page represents a concerted effort on behalf of Commerce to integrate watershed and stormwater planning into local comprehensive planning in the Puget Sound basin. As a part of the National Estuary Program, this represents a joint effort between the Puget Sound Partnership and Commerce funded through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 

Photo of wetland area Puget Sound basin
A slough adjacent to Legoe Bay, part of a watershed on Lummi Island, WA.


The Washington State Departments of Commerce and Ecology have coordinated their efforts since 2011 to promote watershed based planning approaches to development and natural resource protection. Funding has been directed to support numerous local, tribal and non-profit groups to improve environmental outcomes for the Puget Sound basin. Since 2016, these agencies have worked with the Washington Stormwater Center at Washington State University to promote integrated stormwater and land use planning approaches, and are collaborating with other federal, state, local and tribal partners to promote regional priorities and fund targeted near term actions to recover the Puget Sound basin.

Commerce watershed project goals include:

  • Promoting more regional alliances to improve cross-jurisdictional planning, with an emerging focus on regional approaches to targeted stormwater mitigation.
  • Puget Sound Mapping to display current and expected development patterns and how they may impact the region’s environmental health.
  • Stormwater projects including watershed-based retrofit planning, as well as developing new implementation strategies for improving freshwater stream health and reducing toxic pollution impacts on fish.

Commerce Guidance

Integrating Stormwater and Habitat Management into Comprehensive Plans

Commerce recommends using the Sound Choices Checklist and the Puget Sound Regional Council’s (PSRC) Integrating Stormwater Solutions documents to assist local governments with upgrading comprehensive plans for stormwater and habitat management. 

The Habitat Strategic Initiative Lead (HSIL), in partnership with state natural resource agencies, has updated the Sound Choices Checklist for comprehensive plans. This checklist is a tool that aligns Puget Sound recovery strategies and actions with comprehensive plan elements. Puget Sound jurisdictions can use the checklist to consider if and how their comprehensive plans are setting the stage for Puget Sound recovery. This checklist also compliments the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Riparian Management Zone Checklist (PDF).

The PRSC’s guidance discusses stormwater solutions across comprehensive plan elements and how to integrate policies into your local plan. Some examples of stormwater solutions include stormwater parks and watershed-based land use planning. The guidance provides model policies, project examples and resources that can provide the groundwork for implementing these solutions. The Puget Sound Regional Council’s Planning Resources page also has additional resources on stormwater and watershed planning.

Building Cities in the Rain

Commerce, in consultation with a work group of interested parties, has developed a guidance document that describes a process for prioritizing watersheds for stormwater retrofits. It is intended to provide a tool for local governments to target investment in stormwater retrofits in a way that leverages opportunities for salmonid habitat restoration and facilitates redevelopment in urban centers. The Building Cities in the Rain guidance describes a three-step watershed prioritization process for stormwater retrofits, and provides sources of data for prioritization. 

Building Green Cities

The Washington State Department of Commerce’s Guidebook: Incentivizing Low Impact Development (LID) Beyond Permit Requirements presents ways that local governments can incentivize developers to voluntarily incorporate LID on projects in urban growth centers. The guidebook includes tools and outreach materials that local governments can utilize to encourage developers to go beyond existing stormwater requirements, including factsheets for best management practices and a variety of incentive programs.

Is a Community Based Public-Private Partnership (CBP3) right for your community?

A Community Based Public-Private Partnership (CBP3) is an innovative option in which a government agencies and private partners use green infrastructure to improve both water quality and quality of life for a community. The following guidebook is oriented to local government staff considering a CBP3 project option for their municipality.

It can be used within Phase I or II municipal storm water permits, or to assist with smaller scale public and private stormwater improvement projects. The guidebook provides guidance in project finance, procurement, construction, and maintenance to local staff, project participants, and elected officials. 

Please see these Ecology websites for more information:

Additional Stormwater Management Guidance

Planning for Stormwater Parks

Stormwater parks are community facilities that treat stormwater from a larger area, while also providing recreational opportunities. This guidance document (PDF) describes the many benefits of stormwater parks, shares information and lessons learned from already-built parks, and provides guidance for the planning of future stormwater parks.

Low Impact Development, Technical Guidance Manual for Puget Sound

This guidance manual (PDF) provides storm water managers and site designers with a common understanding of low impact development practices (LID) and specifications applicable to the Puget Sound basin. Technical LID guidance will assist engineers, landscape architects, developers, and planners with project design and construction.

The Puget Sound Urban Tree Canopy and Stormwater Management Handbook 

Created by the Environmental Protection Agency: National Estuary Program, the Puget Sound: Urban Tree Canopy handbook (PDF) provides an overview of stormwater management benefits. The handbook promotes tree planting and tree retention as a green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) strategy. The guidance also encourages communication between urban forestry and stormwater management professionals, in addition to educating and engaging policy makers, builders, developers, and property owners about environmental and community benefits.