From: Rachel La Corte, Associated Press
Published October 13, 2006 12:00 AM

Task Force Finds Puget Sound Needs Billions

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- It will take billions of dollars and targeted efforts to restore dwindling habitat and reduce pollution if Puget Sound's biggest problems are to be solved by 2020, a state task force said Thursday.

In a summary of a draft report to be released to Gov. Chris Gregoire on Friday, the Partnership for Puget Sound said the state needs to improve not just the sound, but the entire ecosystem that surrounds it.

"We must manage our complex Puget Sound ecosystem holistically to ensure that we stop harm and protect the connections within the ecosystem itself," the report summary read. "Ecosystem-based management will help us grapple with the potential trade-offs inherent in balancing the needs of people and the environment that we share with other species."

The partnership was created in late 2005 by Gregoire, who has ordered the group of business, education, environment and government leaders to come up with a detailed recovery plan for Puget Sound.

The task force has proposed eight priorities for the state to address, including protecting the existing habitat, reducing toxins entering the sound and managing stormwater runoff.

Within each priority the group suggested actions, such as increasing money to protect freshwater and marine habitats, cleaning up all Superfund and high priority sites, and increasing public education.

In a July report to Gregoire, the partnership warned that many people living in the region had an overly optimistic view of the sound's health _ two-thirds of people contacted for a survey rated the sound's health as "good."

"The lack of public awareness on Puget Sound conditions contributes to the lack of support for the personal and public policy actions needed to restore the sound's health," the summary read.

The task force also recommends the creation of a new Puget Sound Ecosystem Partnership to oversee the actions taken and to monitor results.

Puget Sound Partnership said that several billions of dollars over the coming decades will be needed to achieve the level of protection and restoration needed.

The report says cleaning up contaminated sites over the next 12 years will cost more than $500, salmon recovery plans will cost more than $1.6 billion, and stormwater impacts will run more than $2 billion.

The group said that increased money from the state, the federal government and private sector will be necessary to meet all of the goals.

Source: Associated Press

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