Puget Sound

Puget Sound is a complex of inter-connected inlets, bays, and channels with tidal sea water entering from the west and freshwater streams entering at many points throughout the system. Most of what is known as Puget Sound was formed by glacial action that terminated near Tenino in Thurston County.

The entire system, of which Puget Sound is actually a small portion, also includes the Strait of Georgia and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The large complex may be divided into nine oceanographic areas which are interrelated: Strait of Juan de Fuca, Admiralty Inlet, Puget Sound Basin, Southern Puget Sound, Hood Canal, Possession Sound, Bellingham Bay, San Juan Archipelago, and Georgia Strait (from Puget Sound and Adjacent Waters, Appendix XV, Plan Formulation).

Central Puget Sound Basin

The economic development of the central Puget Sound Basin has been stimulated by the fact that the sound is one of the few areas in the world which provides several deep water inland harbors. The use of Puget Sound waters by deep-draft vessels is on the increase due to its proximity to the developing Asian countries. This increased trade will attract more industry and more people which will put more use pressure on the sound in the forms of recreation (sport fishing, boating, and other water-related sports) and the requirements for increased food supply.

Life in the Waters of Puget Sound

Puget Sound waters are rich in nutrients and support a wide variety of marine fish and shellfish species. An estimated 2,820 miles of stream are utilized by anadromous fish for spawning and rearing throughout the area. Some of these fish are chinook, coho, sockeye, pink and chum salmon, steelhead, searun cutthroat, and Dolly Varden trout. All these fish spend a portion of their lives in the saltwaters of Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean before returning to streams of origin to spawn. The juveniles of these fish spend varying amounts of time in the shore waters of the area before moving to sea to grow to maturity.


Aquaculture or sea farming is now in the process of becoming reality in the Puget Sound complex. The mass production of seaweed, clams, geoducks, scallops, shrimp, oysters, small salmon, lobsters, and other possibilities looms as an important new industry. Shoreline management is particularly crucial to the success of sea farming. Aquaculture on any scale can be compatible and coexist with maritime shipping and shoreline industrial activities only by careful planning and regulation.

The shoreline resources of Puget Sound include few beach areas which are not covered at high tide. Bluffs ranging from 10 to 500 feet in height rim nearly the entire extent of the sound making access to beach and intertidal areas difficult. Because of the glacial-till composition of these bluffs, they are susceptible to fluvial and marine erosion and present constant slide hazards.

Storm Conditions

Although Puget Sound is protected from the direct influence of Pacific Ocean weather, storm conditions can create very turbulent and sometimes destructive wave action. Without recognizing the tremendous energy contained in storm waves, development of shoreline resources can be hazardous and deleterious to the resource characteristics which make Puget Sound beaches attractive (see Use Activity Policies and Regulations).

Additional Information

The concerns expressed previously in this section regarding each natural system are to be carefully considered when appropriate to the issuance of substantial development permits or the revision of the Master Program.