As Washington’s population grows, more of its natural resources, such as water and land, are used to accommodate new homes and businesses. In the past 20 years, Washington’s population has increased by an average of 87,900 people each year resulting in 30 percent more people.1,2

Chart showing increasing population trends

To successfully accommodate that many new people requires planning. Washington has two important laws that aim to coordinate that planning. The Growth Management Act, passed in 1990, requires cities and counties to develop comprehensive plans for managing growth and the Shoreline Management Act requires them to develop programs to coordinated development of shorelines. While both of these important laws aim to protect these valuable resources, habitat important to salmon and orcas still are being developed faster than they can be restored.

Continuing the current approaches to zoning, transportation, wastewater regulations, and infrastructure will continue the loss of vital habitat, further endangering salmon and orcas. Without substantial changes, we will not recover either.

1Y. Zhao, “Strong population growth in Washington continues,” Washington Office of Financial Management, 26 June 2018
2Chart data from: “State of Washington Forecast of the Population,” Washington State Office of Financial Management, Olympia WA, December 2021, p. 5,, accessed online April 2022, and “2021 Population Trends,” Washington Sate Office of Financial Management, Olympia WA, March 2022, pg. 8,, accessed online April 2022

Task Force Recommendations


Recommendation: 48
Status: Pending

Adopt and implement policies, incentives, and regulations for future growth and development to prevent any further degradation of critical habitat and sensitive ecosystems; enable and channel population growth in ways that result in net ecological gain; evaluate and report outcomes for all jurisdictions at the state, county, tribal, and municipal levels.


Recommendation: 49
Status: Underway

Conduct a comprehensive environmental review and take action to minimize potential whale-strike risk and underwater noise posed by the growing number and distribution of fast ferries and water taxis in Southern Resident critical habitat.