Sunday, May 24, 2009

Are the watershed programs and ecosystem-level plans sufficient to clean the Puget Sound Basin?

People are waiting to see the nature of watershed programs and ecosystem level plans that could help us clean the Puget Sound Basin. A Washington State inaugural watchdog council set as its agenda the provision of a blue print on watershed programs and ecosystem-level plans that would speed up the processes to the year 2020. Some of their initiatives had been incorporated into several other environmental, energy and green house bills that had been funneled through both houses of legislature in the current open session in Washington State. Pollution clean up in the marine waters of the Hood Canal, Whidbey island, Strait of Juan de Fuca, San Juan Islands, South Puget Sound and, North and South Central Puget Sound, had formed the basis of many of the council deliberations. The council had been both visionary and circumspect as regards how law makers treat their ideas and had made effort to present some recommendations that is flexible for adoption into bills on the floor of both houses. How effectively the councils's recommendations had been integrated into some bills and to what extent they had impacted budget line item of government departments effecting the programs and plans are still up in the air.

Some of the programs and plans recommended deserve more scrutiny considering the fact that they are now part of State laws, while others are waiting to be passed and some will not see the light of the day. The question is: why were some recommendations able to make it to be law of the state, others petitioned and others tagged along to some other bills in queue. Many Washingtonians who are tired of the pollution in the basin, want to find out what exactly are these programs and plans going to accomplish. One famous proposal was the development of watershed and ecosystem-level plans that could help in the following: clean-up of contaminated aquatic lands and shoreline; management of all Puget Sound estuaries and habitat; and, recovery for salmon, orca and other specie in the Federal endangered specie list. Can these laws, bills or recommendations actually accomplish all these tasks, or are they just a wish list?

A good barometer of the prevailing relevance of some of the recommendations on the watershed programs and protection plan for marine environment is the portion of the state budget recommended to effect the programs and plans. We all understand that we are working under tight budget situation. We also understand that without money many of the great ideas may not get off the ground. We however believe that money set aside for some of the recommendations must be judicially spent under the guidelines of the office of management and budgets if we are to see some laudable change in the basin. Programs and plan managers must justify their actions in saving the estuaries and marine waters by applying themselves to result-oriented and useful investments in cleaning up the Puget sound. If they don't and the public don't encourage them to do so, the effort of the council and the opportunity which they have offered in recommendations and in support of some state laws, or future laws of the state, would have been in vain.
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