Salmon-Safe Urban Development Certification
Salmon-Safeʼs Urban Development certification program is intended to promote ecologically sustainable land management that protects water quality and aquatic biodiversity. The program began in 2004 and has certified many projects, including high-rise, campuses, light industrial, and large-scale transportation projects in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. Salmon-Safe is based in Portland, Oregon.
The Salmon-Safe certification program focuses on salmonid species (i.e., salmon and trout) and their habitat requirements. Salmonid species are key indicator species in the Pacific Northwest, and their conservation is entwined with the health of a variety of ecosystems and aquatic and upland wildlife.
Salmon-Safeʼs Urban Development standards constitute a set of best management practices that can be applied across a variety of urban development landscapes. The evaluation focuses on protecting five salmonid ecosystem components: (1) water quality, (2) water quantity, (3) instream habitat, (4) riparian habitat, and (5) fish passage.
Urban development can negatively impact salmonid species― directly (by introducing polluted runoff to off- site, downstream locations) or indirectly (through unsustainable resource extraction, inefficient water use, and contribution to global climate change). Even when specific ecological habitats are not present on-site, urban ecosystems can help protect resources, clean up pollution, restore soil health, reduce the urban heat island effect, and carbon footprint.
The certification program has pathways for individual urban projects and multiple developments (the Campus and Portfolio approaches). Certification is available for both new and existing projects.
While the Urban Standards are designed as a standalone program, they can complement other leading certification standards (e.g., LEED, Sustainable Sites, and Living Building Challenge) by focusing on project activities with watershed impact.
Each certification project candidate will be assigned an interdisciplinary Science Team to work with through each stage of the design development process. All certification standards and performance requirements are performance-based, not prescriptive, to give the development team (and their assigned Science Team) the freedom to generate designs that work best for the developer, the development site, and overall project goals.
The program has a 5-year certification cycle with an annual verification process. After five years, certified projects may be recertified through a project site audit/assessment recertification process.
There are two sets of Urban Development Certification Standards, Core and Context-Dependent. The Core Certification Standards apply to every project. The Context-Dependent Certification Standards apply to projects where streams, wetlands, and associated riparian areas are present.
Core Certification Standards
U.1 Stormwater Management – Management of stormwater runoff.
U.2 Water Use Management – Use of water in landscaping.
U.3 Erosion Prevention and Sediment Control – Control erosion from upland resources.
U.4 Pesticide Reduction and Water Quality Protection in Landscaping – Avoid contamination of salmon-bearing waters.
U.5 Enhancement of Urban Ecological Function – Improvement of a broad range of ecological systems.
U.6 Site Climate Resiliency Planning – Climate change’s effect on urban watersheds and the health of salmonid species.
Context-Dependent Certification Standards
U.7 Instream Habitat Protection and Restoration – Assessing the condition of the actual channel or waterbody, including the streambed and bank, water quality, and identifying opportunities for restoring or improving habitat.
U.8 Riparian, Wetland, and Locally Significant Vegetation Protection and Restoration – Measures taken to protect areas closest to surface water bodies―riparian vegetation zones and wetlands.
Integrating Certification In The Process
The Certification Standards are broad and cover a range of project types to be applied strategically in such a way that does not add additional documentation burden to the design and construction team. The type of documentation that may be required varies according to the stage of development, as follows:
I. Inventory and Assessment – Collection of site-specific and other data to assess the condition of the site, its context within the watershed, existing natural resources and habitat, and opportunities and constraints for addressing habitat and resource-based concerns.
II. Site Planning – Development of conceptual building and site plans, master plans, renderings, or other products that provide an orientation of overall site features. Applicable permit documents would also be developed during this stage.
III. Site Design – Design development of “hard” site elements, including site utilities, infrastructure, buildings, roadways, or other necessary site Design development of habitat elements, landscaped areas, open space, and other “soft” natural resource features.
IV. Site Construction – Site mobilization, protection of natural resources, and physical installation of approved plan elements onto a project site. This stage typically coincides with the installation of roads, utilities, and homes.
V. Site Maintenance and Monitoring – Long-term care, performance recording, and adaptive management elements to be completed after the site is completely installed.
Evaluation Process For Certification
- The project must demonstrate thoughtful design stewardship and a commitment to long-term progress in addressing the impacts of the proposed development on sensitive aquatic and natural resources.
- Contact Salmon-Safe as early as possible to determine eligibility for certification.
- The process starts with an initial consultation to determine eligibility.
- If eligible, the appropriate project Science Team is selected.
- The Science Team consists of three or more qualified/independent subject-matter experts.
- The Science Team conducts a detailed assessment of the overall design, planning documentation, and a field review.
Certification can be awarded early in construction for large-scale development projects. A project can obtain fast-track certification if Salmon-Safe is engaged early in the design process and meets specific project benchmarks.
Campus and Portfolio Approach for Certification of Multiple Sites
The Campus and Portfolio approach is a certification path for developers and owners of campuses and multiple properties. This approach offers additional control over strategies for future developments beyond the individual site scale. Interconnected urban projects may provide mutual benefits in ways that individual projects cannot, offering additional pathways that continue existing Salmon-Safe Certification (Campus) and expanding the interconnections between adjacent individual project sites (Portfolio). Rather than every project having to meet every goal, there are opportunities during the certification process to acknowledge the unique characteristics of each project while maintaining the maximum overall district-wide benefits.
This campus and portfolio-wide commitment is a new approach for Salmon-Safe certification in highly urbanized environments. It improves aquatic habitats and promotes broader, non-aquatic ecological functions essential for urban wildlife. Even small patches of urban habitat can aid in species movement and provide temporary refuges for urban wildlife while benefiting district residents with access to nature and additional amenity zones.
Description of Review Phases
Salmon-Safe offers three formal opportunities for collaboration throughout the project planning and construction process. It’s recommended the ST participate during the following review phases:
Salmon-Safe certification is valid for five years, and is subject to annual verification. Annual verification consists of satisfactory progress in meeting any certification conditions and preparation of a yearly site summary report.
Pre-Conditions For Certification
1. The project does not violate national, state, or local environmental laws or associated administrative rules or requirements, as determined by a regulatory agency in an enforcement action.
2. The project is not currently altering or degrading salmon habitat or other ecologically sensitive aquatic resources.
3. The stormwater design approach and anticipated on-site treatment and infiltration are documented in sufficient detail to inform the evaluation of the project.
4. A statement of commitment or policy addressing new alterations or re-development is in place that meets Salmon-Safe standards and considerations.
5. All pesticide use occurs within an IPM process as documented in a comprehensive written strategy or as demonstrated or described during field assessment.
6. No application of any chemical on Salmon-Safe’s High-Hazard Pesticide List shall occur unless written documentation is provided in advance and approved.