Thursday, October 15, 2015

Wow! “Clean Up Puget Sound— Now”

(PHOTO: Elaine Thompson/Associated Press)
Hadn’t heard that in a while so it got me excited last Friday when I saw the Seattle Times editorial headline, “Stop political inaction, clean up Puget Sound — now. The problem, according to its editorial board, is — guess what? -- politics.

The solution, according to its editorial board, is — guess what? -- more politics. Specifically passing federal legislation elevating Puget Sound to the status of having “national significance,” which would “align federal efforts and coordinate a united recovery strategy with the state.” And presumably bring more federal dollars to Puget Sound protection and recovery.

Strange to put progress towards cleaning up Puget Sound in hoped-for action from a Congress more skilled in deadlock and now in majority-party disarray. Disheartening to have the loudest editorial voice in the Puget Sound region shift focus to the Never-Never Land of Congressional politics and away from scrutiny of the State’s own efforts— that of the Puget Sound Partnership— and progress towards making Puget Sound “swimmable, fishable and diggable.”

Getting results in governance doesn’t come from having good ideas. It comes from having people, lots of people, supporting an idea. That’s called a constituency, something that causes like gay marriage and legal marijuana and $15 minimum wage have. That’s the kind of constituency cleaning up Puget Sound needs.

In the not-so old days we used to ask, “Who speaks for Puget Sound and who holds accountable all those who are responsible for its protection and restoration?” Does Governor Inslee? Does the Puget Sound Partnership? Does the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance?

A lot of money and social capital has been spent by the state on defining what “swimmable, fishable and diggable” means.  So I’m sure someone can give a report on progress to that end that maybe folks will listen to.  But, as the editorial points out, folks don’t know Puget Sound is ill. And even if they did, how would it make a difference?

An environmental group board member once punctuated a discussion about the need to educate people about Puget Sound by saying, “Is that what you want? A bunch of educated people watching Puget Sound go down the toilet?”

No, what Puget Sound needs is an organized constituency that speaks for the Sound and holds accountable all those responsible for its protection and restoration. It is a constituency that demands action by saying, loudly and clearly, “Clean up Puget Sound— now!”

--Mike Sato


  1. On some levels it's TOO clean... and empty. There are needs like more big trees having slid into the water, and even more docks (and fewer sea walls)... because these things offer protection for small fish and marine invertebrates. The State is busy pulling old pilings and dock remnants away, because of the creosote on them. That's probably a good thing- on paper- but not many of the old pilings still leach creosote.
    I don't EVER see pile perch circling slowly around those great dock supports like I once did... and I'm looking, everywhere I can. Where ARE they? I DO see small schools of fish- herring, and poggies (aka "shiner" perch), around the docks and sometimes in the remnant kelp beds... but So MUCH that was here in the dirty old Sound ain't around... no schools of 'tomcod', no 'candlefish' with their hypnotic slow swaying way of swimming, no rainbow perch... etc. Lots of jellies, though... and huge algae blooms. is that part of "progress"? ^..^

  2. I have re-read this and wonder where will this constituency come from? As the Puget Sound Partnership spreads it's message it makes it seem like the Government has us covered here. Various non-government, or quasi government organizations mostly seem focused on specific things like save the salmon or save the whales or save the forage fish or save the birds and so have more focused constituents. Not a broad coalition yet ...


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