Stretching from the inner crook of the Olympic Peninsula up to the southwest edge of British Columbia is a complex network of waterways we call the Puget Sound. This body of water, littered with islands and inlets, is integral to the health of Pacific Northwest flora and fauna. But more than 100 years of abuse from its now 4 million human residents have now pushed this once supportive ecosystem to its limits.
Unsustainable development, pollution and over-harvesting are just a few of the problems facing the Sound. A week ago the Puget Sound Partnership released a plan to help the Sound recover. The government agency announced its Puget Sound Action Agenda, which outlines how the state will go about making the Sound safe for fishing, shellfish harvesting and swimming by 2020. Governor Christine Gregoire established the Partnership to create a plan to save the Sound and address such issues as stormwater runoff, industrial pollution and species conservation and restoration.
The Partnership's strategy is to take on the major threats to the Sounds, such as toxic chemicals from contaminated runoff, by focusing these major goals:
• Protect the last remaining intact places.
• Restore damaged and polluted sites to health.
• Stop water pollution at its source.
• Coordinate all protection, restoration and cleanup efforts.
Saving the sound is a huge task. And the Puget Sound Partnership's Action Agenda is not without flaws.
Everyone is for saving Puget Sound in general. But when it comes to the very specific, very real decisions that harm Puget Sound, where are the lofty sentiments and the concern for our grandchildren?
One of the black clouds hanging over the Puget Sound Partnership’s celebration the other day was the bleak budgetary outlook. Optimism about the new plan is tempered by the knowledge that money will be hard to come by.
What would help improve the Action Agenda, says Fletcher, would be more state support for local governments and more resources for educating local residents about the importance of restoring the Sound. In addition, she would like to see the halt of any additional, preventable pollution from entering the sound. Referring to a recent decision to allow the construction of a gravel export operation on the shores of the Maury Island Aquatic reserve, she wrote:
Not to sound too naive, but since it’s expensive to undo the harm that we’ve done to our Sound over the years, why would we proceed to do more?
Working to restore the health of the Sound is a monumental undertaking. It is a hopeful sign that the state government has chosen to take on the role of outlining a vision for the Sound as well as steps for its recovery. But it will be important, as Puget Sound residents, to remain engaged with the debate, understand the issues and speak up for our ecosystem.
So stay informed! Sign up for Puget Sound Partnership updates to find out what actions they are taking next. Or, keep in touch with what's happening in the Sound by signing up for the People for Puget Sound's newsletter.
Feature Image credit: Wikipedia