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Puget Sound extends for 30 miles along the western edge of Seattle. The sound connects with the Strait of Juan de Fuca and ultimately the Pacific Ocean. Water levels here fluctuate with the tides and winds can produce dramatic waves seasonally.
Seattle's Puget Sound shoreline is used in many ways. Elliott Bay supports a deepwater shipping port and tourist and commercial businesses. Some areas of the shoreline are used for housing and residential neighborhoods. Universally the shoreline is used for recreation where public access exists. Similarly universal are fish and wildlife species that use this saltwater area for breeding, rearing, and feeding.
Seattle's shoreline has lost many natural features like coastal bluffs, sand spits, coastal wetlands and marine riparian areas. The majority of the shoreline around Seattle is armored with few trees or other plants to provide cover or shade. Water quality impairments include increases in water temperature and fecal coliform, which can be present in high concentrations at some swimming beaches. Bottom sediments are contaminated in some areas with metals, petroleum-based hydrocarbons and organic pollutants. Some formal clean up has occurred for Elliott Bay sediments. Shoreline habitat has been modified by railroad corridors, overwater structures, bulkheads and removal of riparian vegetation associated with the urban and industrial setting.