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Sediment load from major rivers into Puget Sound and its adjacent waters

September 9, 2011

Each year, an estimated load of 6.5 million tons of sediment is transported by rivers to Puget Sound and its adjacent waters—enough to cover a football field to the height of six Space Needles. This estimated load is highly uncertain because sediment studies and available sediment-load data are sparse and historically limited to specific rivers, short time frames, and a narrow range of hydrologic conditions. The largest sediment loads are carried by rivers with glaciated volcanoes in their headwaters. Research suggests 70 percent of the sediment load delivered to Puget Sound is from rivers and 30 percent is from shoreline erosion, but the magnitude of specific contributions is highly uncertain. Most of a river's sediment load occurs during floods.