|PHOTO: Darren Stone (Times-Colonist)
The Leadership Council meets in Skagit County this coming Wednesday and Thursday at the Padilla Bay Reserve. Its staff (still under interim director Mark Daily— nobody seems to want the job since Tony Wright resigned in January) will report on how well Puget Sound recovery is meeting goals in the critical areas of eelgrass, nearshore and shoreline habitat. They’ll also discuss fish consumption science and monitoring, a legislative agenda for the 2014 session, and what’s next for the Puget Sound Starts Here campaign.
Are we recovering the health of Puget Sound? Like most of you, these days I only know what I read or hear or see in the media and saving Puget Sound has become one of the better kept secrets eclipsed by climate change, ocean acidification and coal export. I admit to having a bias towards communications, primarily because I take government transparency and public participation seriously. If one of the big problems with Puget Sound recovery is that ordinary folks don’t know what’s at risk and are not participating in its recovery, then keeping Puget Sound’s health a secret is taking us nowhere fast.
In the last few months, there have been ample opportunities for the Partnership and its leadership to say something about our Sound’s health. With two deaths in our resident orca L-pod, we are now down to where we were 10 years ago with a low of 82 Southern Resident killer whales. The state’s inability to come up with fish consumption standards continues to allow toxic pollutants to be discharged into the Sound and puts residents at risk from eating fish. Research showing a decrease in the number of creatures living in the sediment of the central Puget Sound was called a “wake up call” then it seemed everyone went back to sleep.
Are the issues complicated? Sure they are but they require a public discussion sparked by more than picking up dog poop and washing one’s car on the lawn. Can the issues be understood by voters? They had better be— otherwise kiss the recovery of the Sound goodbye.
Governor Gary Locke’s pronouncement about saving our salmon-- that “extinction is not an option”-- only ended up being hollow as we waited and waited for actions to protect critical habitats and reduce and eliminated toxic pollution. It will be a shame if Governor Chris Gregoire’s pronouncement that, by 2020, the Sound will be “fishable, swimmable, diggable” became a toothless tiger because no leader would say clearly and loudly what needed to be done and who needed to do it— and hold them accountable for getting it done.
Partnership, Leadership Council, Governor Inslee— your play.