Cleanup plan floated for Puget Sound

From the Associated Press

Gov. Chris Gregoire, declaring Puget Sound "sick," on Wednesday proposed a $220-million effort over the next two years as a down payment on restoring and preserving the state's inland marine waters.

Gregoire called the sound one of her most urgent priorities and said state, federal, local and tribal governments must fix it.

Gregoire's announcement came as the Puget Sound Partnership she appointed presented its final report on what needed to be done to restore dwindling habitat and reduce pollution. The report estimates the total cost to clean up and restore Puget Sound at nearly $9 billion between now and 2020.

"The Puget Sound is slowly slipping away from us," said Billy Frank Jr., chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission and co-chair of the task force with Gregoire and former Environmental Protection Agency chief William D. Ruckelshaus. "We've got to work together because we can't just let it die."

Gregoire said that to have the sound cleaned up, the state and its citizens need to act now.

"The sound has not become sick overnight ... so we're not going to turn it around overnight," she said.

Neither Gregoire nor the partnership has identified where the billions of dollars needed would come from.

However, the governor said that once people accept that the sound is in an environmental crisis and realize they share responsibility for the problems, they would be asked for more money.

"Some of my best childhood memories are of fishing and boating on the sound, but beneath the blue water, the fish and wildlife are sick," she said. "Many people are working hard to protect the Puget Sound, but they need more support."

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