Five questions about Puget Sound's health, future

August 6, 2006 

The questions

1)Can Puget Sound be cleaned up by Gov. Chris Gregoire's 2020 goal?

2)Can we add 1.4 million people by 2025, and still succeed?

3)Is the political will in place to clean up Puget Sound?

4)What's the greatest challenge to a restored Puget Sound?

5)What's the greatest success in past Puget Sound cleanup efforts?

Brad Ack, executive director Puget Sound Action Team:

1)It's going to be really hard and the effort will need to be sustained in perpetuity.

2)It's an open question whether we can grow that much and succeed. We'll need to grow more vertically.

3)There's great bipartisan spirit around this initiative.

4)Controlling and treating stormwater runoff is a first priority.

5)Improved wastewater treatment all through the Puget Sound basin.

Kathy Fletcher, executive director of People for Puget Sound:

1)It's certainly possible, but there's never going to be an end point to the effort.

2)The growth projections are scary, but it's possible if we grow smarter.

3)I've never seen this level of enthusiasm before.

4)Increased enforcement of water quality and land use laws.

5)Understanding that Puget Sound is an ecosystem.

Billy Frank Jr., Nisqually tribal elder and chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission:

1) No, the work will never be done.

2) No, we can't add another one million or two million people.

3) When we start asking for money, that will tell us if there is bipartisan support.

4) Restoring the Puget Sound food chain.

5) Habitat restoration work like what's happening in the Nisqually Delta.

Jim Buck, Republican state representative from the Olympic Peninsula

1) I doubt it. It is such a moving target. The real question is whether the people in major polluting areas step up to the bar and take on water quality.

2) It will be difficult. We have to start looking at new polluters and not pollute directly through runoff into the streams. We have to see the problems and determine the scope of work.

3) Yes, if we put the right people together and talk rationally. We did it with the Salmon Recovery Act.

4) The issue du jour. We have to make a leap of faith that what we're doing is right, and adjust it down the line -- and stick to it. There has to be a person to person commitment from everyone in the state.

5) I've seen movies of how bad Lake Washington was during the 1950s and 1960s. They'd stick a dinner plate on the end of a pole to measure the water quality.

Jeff Koenings, director of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife

1) Probably not, but it's important to set a goal because the Puget Sound is at the tipping point.

2) I don't know. We have to protect the baseline condition of the Sound -- and make it better. Will it be enough? I don't know.

3) I think so. The Salmon Recovery Act was bipartisan, and that gave us salmon recovery by watersheds, and we can use that as a model.

4) The biggest challenge is that 70 percent of the people in Puget Sound don't think it's a problem. We have to convince people that now is the time to take action -- and give them a sense of urgency.

5) Getting people involved with their local watersheds. Here in South Sound, people are talking about restoring the estuary at Heritage Park.

John Calambokidis, research biologist for Olympia-based Cascadia Research

1) There has been a lot of progress, but there is still lots left to do. Problems will still exist in 2020.

2) It's definitely something that is going to be working against every measure we take. That's why prevention has to take big leaps.

3) A bipartisan effort is needed. This has been a traditional Democratic cause, but Dan Evans and Ralph Munro have been Republican leaders in environmental protection. How much of that legacy survives in the Republican Party is not for me to gauge. I'm optimistic.

4) It's the population. It's already high, and it's growing. Impervious surfaces, shoreline development, septic runoff and clearing of land is part of that. Non-point pollution is a dominant concern rather than single-point industry. It's easy to solve single-point, but non-point is a death by a thousand cuts.

5) Greatest success? The reduction in PCBs are high up there. A lot of research on marine mammals focuses on PCBs. We've seen major recoveries of harbor whales and harbor porpoises.

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