Thursday, June 7, 2012

On Saving Puget Sound

PHOTO: KKennell
Dan Chasan wrote a thoughtful analysis in yesterday’s Crosscut [ After 5 years, Gregoire's Puget Sound progress is uncertain ] about the progress toward saving Puget Sound.

I think he’s more charitable than I am about the leadership shown by the first chair of the Puget Sound Partnership Bill Ruckelshaus and its first director David Dicks. You can’t blame everything about the zombie-like progress of Puget Sound recovery on the economic downturn. Ruckelshaus and Dicks chose to coordinate rather than lead and choose to re-study the problem and re-invent solutions, and the Partnership squandered a tremendous amount of social capital, not to mention just plain dollars, in the early years of the campaign.

That said, what next? What or who keeps the save Puget Sound ball in play as we move forward?

It’s true that unless people care about the health of the Sound, there isn’t a political constituency for the Sound. Telling people Puget Sound is sick when they don’t think it’s sick, doesn’t get you anywhere. Let’s try telling people Puget Sound is a pretty nice place and there are pretty neat steps being taken in land use, runoff control, waste reduction and restoration to keep it OK. But make sure to say there’s an urgency to keep it OK.  To make that message heard, it takes a large-scale marketing effort, systematically carried out and more substantial than the feel good of the Puget Sound Starts Here-kind of campaign.

We have to enforce laws already in place to protect the health of the Sound. Enough drinking of the “voluntary compliance” and “mitigated determination of non-significance” Kool-Aid where nobody shows up to enforce laws. On any action affecting the Sound, it might help if the burden of proof was to show how the action will benefit the Sound rather than having to show how it will hurt the Sound. And let the punishment fit the violation to make sure there are consequences to illegal actions.

We need to put real money into local efforts in land use, runoff control, waste reduction and restoration that benefit the health of the Sound. Virtue doesn’t have its own rewards; we need to promote and publicize these good works. And use these good works to build local support and constituency to do more good works.

A reader earlier wrote: “I just recently finished the intensive WSU Beachwatcher Training here.  We had numerous presentations about all aspects of Puget Sound - many by people from agencies and groups that are ‘part of’ the Partnership.  Not one of them even mentioned it and the Partnership itself had no-one come speak to us.  The public outreach has been sporadic and not too effective.”

Who will lead the save Puget Sound charge and keep it front and center on the political agenda?

Norm Dicks won’t be around to bring federal bacon home for Puget Sound recovery. And it doesn’t seem that either candidate for governor has any fire in the belly to make Puget Sound recovery one of his agenda items.

Among conservation groups, the foremost champion of saving Puget Sound was People For Puget Sound, whose leadership presence has waned since founder Kathy Fletcher’s retirement.  Puget Soundkeeper Alliance and Washington Environmental Council have leadership presence but have much more limited Puget Sound agendas.

Maybe Peter Goldmark, Commissioner of Public Lands, an elected official in his own right, can take a leadership role in saving Puget Sound.

Someone better step up and lead this parade— or more people will be finding that Puget Sound is not OK any more.

--Mike Sato

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Mike. I think you point out several difficulties the Partnership has not dealt with well, particularly the perception by the "Public."

    A while back I struggled through a book called A Conflict of Visions by Thomas Sowell about the differences between the "left" and the "right." For me it boiled down to this - The left believes that wise and moral experts could solve problems if not for their evil opponents. The right believes that the so-called experts do not have nearly enough knowledge to be dictating to everyone else.

    I feel like the Puget Sound Partnership is a device of the "left" (in very simplistic terms)but without much of a "master at the helm." I fear that we may be in for a swing to the "right" where Puget Sound (and the Salish Sea) will become a target of "Every man for himself."

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