Puget Sound, a gem at risk

On a geologic time scale, Puget Sound is an infant. The Northwest’s inland sea was carved by the receding Vashon glacier 15,000 years ago. But the illusion of youth is simply that — an illusion.

Nearly 800 miles of amputating bulkheads wall off fish and wildlife habitat. That’s one-quarter of the Puget Sound shoreline. Habitat loss and other factors have whacked Chinook salmon populations, with recreational fishing days cut by 75 percent.

The economic fallout is massive. More than 70 percent of all Washington jobs (and that includes jobs east of the mountains) rely on a clean Puget Sound basin. The question is how to address problems in a science-based, must-be-measured fashion.

For advocates of restoring Puget Sound, there has been no galvanizing horror, such as choking seal pups or seawater that abruptly catches fire, like Ohio’s Cuyahoga River did in 1969. The sound is still a shining, sublime wonder.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s budget is a promising step forward, emphasizing unsexy infrastructural have-to’s. Think shoreline barriers and rivers of stormwater that gunk up the sound.

Inslee budgets $8.7 million to address urban run off and to manage stormwater from state highways. There is $80 million set aside for the Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration Fund to remove dikes and levees, replant stream banks and remove other barriers to fish migration.

There is also small stuff that collectively adds up to big stuff. There is $1.9 million for a statewide, low-impact development program. There is $188,000 to implement the “better brakes” law, which bans friction materials in brake pads that end up in stormwater.

Most of Inslee’s recommendations dovetail with the priorities of the Puget Sound Partnership, the state agency responsible for the Sound’s recovery. The partnership has become a lean, efficient bird-dog of state funds, ensuring oversight and accountability. Coordinating and leveraging federal dollars also falls on the partnership, as well as developing indicators of a healthy Sound consistent with its 2020 restoration goals. The partnership no longer gets scapegoated as too top-heavy or PR oriented, with an evolving bipartisan consensus. The reason centers on tangible results such as restoring shellfish beds previously off-limits because of contamination.

On Monday, Inslee signed his climate-action bill. The bill is a well-intentioned effort to tackle climate change, and it begins with a task force. That’s OK, but here’s betting the task force won’t advance proposals that haven’t already been floated. Better to leapfrog all the chin scratching. With climate change, as with Puget Sound recovery, deeds, not words.

More in Opinion

Editorial cartoons for Thursday, Oct. 19

A sketchy look at the day in politics.… Continue reading

Parker: How we keep #MeToo from being just another hashtag

If more women and men work to end sexual harassment and intimidation it won’t be just another tweet.

Editorial: Picks for Snohomish mayor and council

The editorial board endorses Guzak for mayor; Sanders and Merrill for council positions 3 and 4.

Editorial: Endorsements for Snohomish City Council

Continuing Tuesday’s recommendations, the editorial board endorses Redmon, Countryman and Dana.

Ignatius: Judging Trump through the lens of foreign leaders

Foreign governments are used to bullies, and they’re making policy decisions not value judgments.

Milbank: Trump the screaming chef in poorly run restaurant

Chez Trump offers up half-baked entrees by a celebrity chef and served by an inexpert wait staff.

Restore federal support for public transit projects

I hope our congressional delegation will reject the Trump administration’s proposals to… Continue reading

Why give young shooting suspect a platform?

I was sickened upon reading of yet another gang-related death of a… Continue reading

Everett mayoral race: Franklin a high-level leader

I have worked with Cassie Franklin for six years. I have been… Continue reading

Most Read