Opinion

Your Turn: Puget Sound pollution makes a mind-boggling mess

By Gene Foster, Northeast Tacoma resident

In late 2005, Gov. Christine Gregoire proposed a $42 million spending plan and creation of a panel of accomplished Washingtonians to accelerate protection and restoration of the Puget Sound and Hood Canal ecosystems.

In response, the Legislature created in 2007 the Puget Sound Partnership, a coalition of local, state, federal, tribal government and educational institutions.

They are charged with creating an “action agenda” by this September that will define how the clean-up is to be accomplished by 2020.

The challenge is mind-boggling and the projected costs to the taxpayers are astronomical.

Currently, a series of workshops and “community conversations” are being held to involve the public and gain the benefit of their collective ideas.

It is pretty much agreed that the number one contributor to the Puget Sound mess is stormwater runoff.

Pollution sources abound in the modern environment and they permeate urban stormwater. Retention, controlled release and comprehensive treatment of stormwater should be the first order of business.

Solutions to this problem are beginning to emerge, but they are not currently well-defined or cost-effective. There will be resistance to the added economic burden when solutions are available.

Unfortunately, installation of effective safeguards will be a long and tortuous process.

But here’s a way to close the barn door before all the horses are gone: Why not a moratorium on all new development that would dump substantial stormwater into Puget Sound?

This would serve two purposes:

1. Installation of new stormwater retention/treatment systems would be deferred until more effective technology is developed and codified. It makes little sense to continue installation of stop-gap systems knowing full well they will have to be replaced in the near future.

2. The continuing escalation of future retrofit costs to the taxpayers as new, under-designed systems are installed would be halted.

The Puget Sound Partnership seeks your opinion. If you agree with the above idea or have an even better one, let them know. You can e-mail them at

actionagenda@psp.wa.gov.

Now is the time to speak out. It will be too late when the damage is done and the upgrade bills began to arrive in a few years.

Gene Foster is a resident of Northeast Tacoma.

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