Friday, December 6, 2019

Poor Old Puget Sound

Guest Blog by Pete Haase
The Puget Sound Partnership’s “2019 State of the Sound” document is out.  If you decide to give it a look-see and you get past the beautiful pictures that pop up, it is dismal.  Just about everything being measured is getting worse, not better, and has been for about the past 25 tears – I mean years – damn fat fingers.
If you do start to read, be aware there are three sort of rah-rah, well-meaning “call to action” pieces: one each from the Director, the Leadership Council, and the Science Panel.  As is my habit with this stuff, I parsed them with a “Readability Checker.” (There is one associated with the Word software I am using to create this piece.)  The first one takes a mid-college education, the second a college education, and the third an advanced college degree.  I know that all of you reading this qualify there, but I also know you really don’t get excited by wading through it.  You were recently convinced to give up more money buying a bunch of Amazon stuff with some short and catchy and well-aimed ads better than these words will be able to get across to you.
If you do burrow in, you will see that the current estimated need for dollars to get the job done is now FIVE times what the estimated need was about four years ago.  When I worked, I got to manage some projects and on one we would review it with the big boss about every three months.  There was a period of time where our “estimate to complete” kept increasing by several percent at each review.  Finally, the boss told us to just stop estimating.  I think the Puget Sound Partnership needs to stop estimating, too, since they clearly have not figured out how to do it accurately.
Actually, FIVE times the need sounds pretty good, relatively.  I attended the annual Northwest Straits Initiative Conference in Everett a few weeks ago and there were several very good presentations-- and every single one of them said they needed TEN times the funding to get their piece of the job done!
The State of the Sound Report is not exactly “fire-‘em-up” fodder for the masses.  Actually, the whole Puget Sound Partnership effort for years has been soooo lacking in such fodder for the masses.  Hard to fire us up when we see pretty pictures and happy success stories coupled with facts of failure.  There IS a brief section of what the “masses, aka public” can do.  (Spoiler - don’t go be rummaging up your pitchforks and torches and prepare to march on Olympia.)  No.  Plant a tree and help out with some community-sponsored science.  If you boat (all you public folk who boat, raise your hand) keep it quiet around whales.  Keep plastic out of the water and recycle.  Wash your car at a car wash and don’t change your own auto oil.  (All you public folk who even THINK about changing your own auto oil raise your hand.)  Oh – and drive less.
Since 2005, when the Puget Sound Partnership took over the “Save Our Sound” duty from the previous effort, the population around the Sound has grown by about 25% - almost 1 million people, perhaps more.  For a system already under stress, the continued decline since 2005 is pretty understandable.
I could go on, but won’t.  I hope my point – “until the masses are fired up and equipped to persuade the ‘Powers that be’ to get serious about fixing rather than wrecking we will just continue down the same old wrong-way road” – is clear here.
No government agency or collaboration can do that.  It will need to be a mighty collaboration of non-governmental and private/business entities.  It is so hard to imagine such a thing happening; there’s just not enough guts to do it.
But all is not gloom and doom!  With friends, I get to wade some local streams this time of year to document salmon returning to spawn.  Lots of us do this all around the Sound.  Our particular streams host Kokanee (land-locked salmon) that live in Lake Samish.  This year, about half way through the season, we have counted over 1,000 of these guys – and this in about ½ mile of stream that we are able to wade.  This is so great because last year and the year before there were only around 100 or less for the entire season.  So, there is magic!  A great white unicorn is always there to cheer us on. 
Don’t quit.  It’s worth it.  (Oh, and this article is about 8th grade reading level.)
(Pete Haase is a member of the Skagit County Marine Resources Committee and represents the MRC on the Northwest Straits Commission. He is a board member of the Padilla Bay Foundation and an avid volunteer for outside conservation activities.)

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