Opinion

Now’s the time to be bold about Puget Sound

The Puget Sound Partnership recently released its Action Agenda to restore Puget Sound, a pathway for fixing the problems that are causing Puget Sound’s slow death.

For the tribes, restoring Puget Sound is about our cultures and the food we eat. It was the same when we made treaties with the U.S. government. We gave up nearly all the land in western Washington, but we kept our rights to salmon, shellfish and other resources because these things feed us and our cultures.

An unhealthy Puget Sound means no salmon returning to our rivers; it means the few shellfish able to survive on our beaches will be too poisoned to eat.

With these cornerstones of our culture gone, it would be the end of us.

We need Puget Sound cleaned up because Puget Sound supports us and our cultures.

We also need bravery from the non-Indian leaders in this state. We can’t let the Puget Sound Partnership become the latest failed effort to finally turn this region around.

Words, plans and agendas are important, but they don’t matter without money and action.

We are encouraged by the Partnerships’s progress so far and we feel there are some places where the Action Agenda can be tightened:

Require that all water treatment plants achieve zero pollution discharge by 2020. We have the technology to do this; we need the political will to make it happen.

Take a close look at the permits that are issued to allow for stormwater runoff, and while we’re at it, examine Hydraulic Permit Approval permits issued by the state to allow builders and others to do work near salmon-bearing waters. Are these permitting programs consistent with our efforts to clean up Puget Sound?

I applaud all of the hard work by the Partnership during these past couple of years and I look forward to continuing our efforts.

When you’re at the edge, the next step is hard to take. We have to take that step – and the next one – because there is no more room to let the health of Puget Sound slide any further.

This is where we move forward and save Puget Sound or we stand and watch it die.

The Partnership’s Action Agenda is roadmap, but that’s all. We need money for fuel and all of us cooperating behind the wheel if we are going to make this journey.

We have the courage of our convictions to clean up Puget Sound. From that courage we must draw the bravery to do what needs to be done.

Now is not the time to play it safe. Now is the time to be bold and courageous.

Billy Frank, Jr. is chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.

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