TIDAL LIFE | Drifting to where Puget Sound starts — here and there

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The other day Tom needed to write a letter and I needed to work on this column. We hunkered down at desks until the sunshine got the better of him and he had the brilliant idea of a Boat and Breakfast Writing Workshop.

We took our notepads, got in our kayaks and paddled out just far enough from shore to let the breeze blow us north while we jotted notes and drank orange juice.

Tom stuck to the program, but I got distracted right away, taking pictures for my blog.

The tide was low and I could see masses of starfish and moon snails having a feeding frenzy. The eelgrass that disappeared a couple of years ago, causing such panic, was back, waving in the current. It’s clumpy, not the meadow we once had, but it has returned and I’m profoundly glad.

Drifting with the Sound is not as easy as it sounds. There are obstacles. I ran up against Diva’s mooring buoy and had to paddle around the boat itself. Likewise the neighbor’s dock. Then I passed a jury-rigged mooring made from a dozen plastic milk jugs strapped together with black electrical tape and had momentary confusion as to whether that was good or bad for the Sound. It’s good that the milk jugs are being reused, it’s bad that they will probably break apart during some storm, spin off in all directions and become junk.

Sometimes it feels like you just can’t win. Then the wind came up and I had to paddle again to avoid being blown onto the beach.

As I dug in and headed back south, I ruminated that ebb and flow around obstacles is what being involved with the water is all about. Lately though, it seems like there are more obstacles than flow.

The Puget Sound Partnership has worked for several years to come up with a plan for protecting the health of the waters that we in the Puget Sound region all find ourselves immersed in. This July, the partnership’s action plan was approved by the EPA.

Funding followed, including some stimulus funds that have already been put to work hiring divers and boats to clear ghost nets and other derelict fishing gear that routinely kills aquatic life and fouls boat engines.

Volunteer organizations have been working on this for years as limited manpower allowed. Now, with a bit of funding, the problem is going to be cleaned up in one year instead of ten.

A few days ago, the partnership went public with the message that “Puget Sound Starts Here.” The campaign is aimed at helping people understand that the border of Puget Sound is not where we wade in the gentle wavelets that lap the soft sand. The border of Puget Sound is in the Cascades and Olympics, where rain and snow begin their descent through our watersheds into the Sound.

The border of Puget Sound is at our kitchen sinks and our storm drains, where whatever we pour in can make its way to marine waters.

On cue the obstacles have popped up. One of the saddest is the notion that not enough scientific evidence has been gathered to support the need to protect the Sound. This came out the same week the story about MRSA being found on some of our beaches hit the media. One critic turned around and accused the scientists of using MRSA-contaminated equipment to do the testing.

Indeed, it does seem sometimes that the game is rigged. No matter what you do you can’t win. Now there’s not enough scientific data to justify taking action.

But not too long ago science (in the case I’m thinking of, it was volcano monitoring) was called “pork.”

Or the science that is done is labeled flawed. Under the circumstances it can be tempting to pull in the paddle and just drift. But that’s what got us here, just going about our daily lives without thinking too much about the Sound beyond where it can take us in our boats.

Like any other thing in our lives — our car, computer, teeth or kitchen floor — the Sound needs care and maintenance in order to keep doing its job day in and day out. We just need to keep it in mind. Maybe that slogan “Puget Sound Starts Here” should be written across our foreheads.

For more information:

Puget Sound Starts Here: click here.

Ghost net removal project: click here.

Questions or comments for Tidal Life? E-mail tidallife@whidbey.com. Check out the Tidal Life Blog: click here.

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