Public understanding of the need to protect the beauty and physical integrity of Puget Sound has gained ground, though the understanding that it already needs to be cleaned up for its (and our) long term health is less understood. It looks beautiful, so how can it be “dirty” or have pollution in it, some may say?

This increased awareness has occurred through efforts over the past year such as the Seattle PI’s investigative series “The Sound of Broken Promises” plus some initial notoriety and public outreach from the governor’s Puget Sound Partnership panel. People for Puget Sound and Puget Soundkeepers Alliance has performed a very important ongoing role for years, though their efforts have resulted more in maintenance of awareness levels (especially among those already interested, and some in the media) than significantly increasing awareness levels among the general public in large numbers. This new mass media coverage and big government focus will help these organizations expand their influence.

The recent Elway Poll regarding Washington state residents’ perceptions about the health of Puget Sound – and what they are willing to do to improve its health – was interesting if not surprising. There was a large divide of support depending upon proximity to the Sound itself, with increased willingness to make legislative changes (and pay for them) on the west side of the Cascades than on the east side. Of course. The real test is when changes affect people’s pocketbooks and their own back yards.

The most cost effective and timely changes may not be changes at all, except in execution. An important first step may just be tightening up on existing policies and regulations already in place or under consideration. This responsibility resides with the Department of Ecology and the Environmental Protection Agency, and I expect to hear more recommendations along those lines from the Puget Sound Partnership in the future. More than that will be needed, but it’s a first step that can move in parallel while others are being diplomatically crafted through the halls of politics and public opinion.

As a waterfront home owner, you can contribute in your own way and feel good about protecting your “front yard” (all that water out in front there). Increase filtering vegetation at your bulkhead, decrease paved surfaces and rain water run-off into your sound or lake, eliminate fertilizers and pesticides in your yard, and take a little bag or bucket with you next time you walk the beach to pick up just a few easy items of plastic and trash.

Sea kayaker in Puget Sound by Normandy Park

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