Time to move from strategizing to cleanup of Puget Sound
Planning for a healthy Puget Sound has gone on long enough. Time to focus on the cleanup of a scenic wonder, a recreational treasure and an economic asset.
FRUSTRATION with the lack of measurable progress on cleanup of Puget Sound is creeping into the civic conversation. That is a good thing.
The alarm bells were sounded by a clearly irritated Gov. Chris Gregoire over the funky conditions at 4,000 acres of commercial shellfish beds in North Puget Sound's Samish Bay.
McClatchy Newspapers reported last month that more than 20 organizations have come together to clean up the bay by a September 2012 deadline set by the governor.
Gregoire wants all of Puget Sound cleaned up by 2020, but there is dispiriting sense the preparatory, process-laden, get-ready part has stretched on for too long.
Toxic runoff and stormwater, and the fecal contamination at Samish Bay, among other places, put the commercial and recreational values of Puget Sound at risk.
No one doubts the challenge. The basics do not change. Puget Sound covers 14 major rivers, 2,500 miles of shoreline, 4 million people, and another 1.5 million on the way. How we manage our forests and farmland, and develop the land where we live, work and play, makes a vital difference. That includes being mindful of difficult lessons about sewers, storm drains, runoff and treating waste.
The Legislature claims to understand all this, yet skitters away from the votes to provide funding for cleanup of a fundamental job-producing asset. The Sound is chock full of the salmon and shellfish that help power an economy, let alone its iconic beauty and environmental richness.
In recent sessions, lawmakers have been a few votes shy of moving ahead with substantive progress.
Maybe some public displays of grumpiness will start to make things happen. Puget Sound Partnership is a creature of the Legislature, intended to lead cleanup efforts.
The partnership has added new members to its Ecosystem Coordination Board, which makes policy recommendations that drive the goals of Puget Sound cleanup. This week, the partnership hosts a series of agenda briefings and updates in Tacoma to review strategies.
The state Department of Ecology is finishing up work on policy directives on stormwater and low-impact development standards and permit requirements.
Meanwhile the degradation of an asset continues. Impatience on behalf of Puget Sound cleanup is wholly appropriate, and overdue.
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