Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Ocean restoration in Puget Sound

Puget Sound borders Seattle, and it's time to see whether we're up to the task of restoring our degraded sea.

Yesterday, our Governor signed legislation establishing the Puget Sound Partnership, a cooperative effort that will be headed by Bill Ruckelshaus, head of EPA under Nixon and Ford.

The same day, Puget Sound steelhead were listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, joining chinook salmon and orcas

Lest anyone doubt whether this task is possible, remember the "impossible" task of restoring Seattle's huge urban lake, Lake Washington. It was once a problem and now it's clean and healthy, and the pride of the city.

Check out Saving Puget Sound by John Lombard, a guide to what must be done. Come on Washington, let's show everyone else how it's done.

I'm optimistic, because the track we're on is an attempt to build a shared investement in a better future, BACKED UP with some actual regulatory teeth due to ESA listings. Voluntary efforts alone would leave me doubting the commitment.

I watched Oregon Governor Kitzhaber try to build an all-volunteer effort to restore Oregon's endangered coho salmon in the mid-1990s, and credibility was lacking. The real goal of the plan was to avoid an ESA listing. At first, the Governor said he would evaluate the plan when it was done and if it was inadequate he would personally request a listing. When it was done, I got a leaked copy of an internal evaluation from the Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife that said the plan was insufficient to do the job.

When the Governor met with fish advocates, I asked the Governor how he would review his plan for adequacy and decide whether he would request a listing as promised if the plan was inadequate. In response, he stormed out of the meeting. He never did a public review and didn't support a listing. No credibility.

This plan smells better.

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