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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

November 11, 2008 at 3:22 PM

Puget Sound restoration

Penalize dirty cars

Hurray for the Puget Sound Partnership draft action agenda [“Partnership releases blueprint for restoring Puget Sound,” News, Nov. 6].

Now let’s really get to it. My experience as an activist/volunteer for Washington State University Extension, Marine Resources Committee and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has taught me that the talk and planning don’t mean much until the dirt goes under the nails.

In Warren Cornwall’s story about the release of the draft plan, he points out that the problem is not about a lack of ways to tackle the challenges. I have a modest proposal for one of the most pervasive problems: the stormwater runoff that flushes at least 52 million pounds of petroleum, toxic metals and other pollutants into the Sound every year, according to David Dicks, the partnership’s executive director.

It is very simple: As vehicle license registration renewals come due, require the cars to drive through a “no drip” inspection using a strip of recycled paper to detect obvious leaks. This process would be low-tech and low-cost. If the car does not pass, their registration will not be renewed.

I am confident that fines from noncompliance could easily fund a good share of the expense; it could be rolled out in a matter of a few months and would deliver a measurable change within one year. Instead of spending billions and trying to find ways to expand the plan, let’s take a simple step. Cheap, fast and effective.

— Steve Bailey, Bellingham

Follow the second path

I read the news of the Nov. 6 release of the Puget Sound Partnership’s plan [“Draft plan released for Sound recovery,” News, Nov. 7] with interest, but without much optimism. The Partnership has done a commendable job of identifying many of Puget Sound’s most severe problems and recommending measures to address them.

What is lacking, however, are specific prescriptions as to what agencies must take, what actions by what dates, how compliance will be enforced and how much money will come from what sources to pay for it all.

If it is true that those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it, then we should recall that we are supposed to be well on the way to healing the Sound.

In 1985, facing abundant evidence of an environmental crisis, our state government created the Puget Sound Water Quality Authority with the mission of charting a path back to health. In 1996, the Authority was recast as the Puget Sound Action Team. The problem was that the Authority never had adequate authority, and the Action Team took little meaningful action.

Consequently, Puget Sound is in worse condition today than in 1985, and another decade of reports and unenforceable recommendations will not reverse the decline. It’s crunch time. The state of Washington must take a hard look in the mirror and decide whether we are going to continue business as usual and accept the death of Puget Sound, or invest the funds and establish the enforceable standards necessary for the Partnership to achieve its stated goal of restoring it to health by 2020.

The first path is easier, but the second is right.

— C. Thomas Schaefer, Seattle

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