"Marine committee a welcome additionIsland County needs another committee like Carter’s needs more liver pills, right? In most cases, true. But in the case of the new Marine Resources Committee we’ll make an exception.The committee was formed to keep a protective eye on Puget Sound, that great natural resource that surrounds us and that we tend to take for granted. The Sound isn’t in pristine condition, but it’s still an ecological wonderland that provides sustenance, beauty and recreation to the millions of humans who surround it and dwell on its islands. It certainly deserves the attention of at least one committee.The Marine Resources Committee was created by Rep. Jack Metcalf, R-Langley, and Senator Patty Murray, a Democrat. Their joint study of Puget Sound’s needs resulted in a “local control” approach to preserving and protecting the Sound.There are similar committees in the other counties surrounding Puget Sound, as well as a regional committee with representatives from all. It’s called the Northwest Straits Commission.The Island County committee’s 13 members face a formidable task of studying the Sound’s ecology along our shores and identifying threats such as overfishing, non-point pollution, improper development and oil spills. The committee has no legal teeth -- it can only propose voluntary efforts to protect the Sound. But a healthy Puget Sound is crucial to everyone, from kayakers to business boosters, so obtaining cooperation for reasonable protective measures shouldn’t be difficult. If legislation is required, ideas could be referred to the Legislature.Protecting Puget Sound is something that will take continual attention and action for the foreseeable future. It’s about time we had a committee to help protect our portion of it.Take closer look at transit faresIsland Transit’s policy of not charging fares deserves some open-minded scrutiny before voters are asked to approve a sales tax increase to make up for the drastic funding shortfall caused by voter approval of I-695.For years, the free ride policy has made sense. It takes more cars off the road, and for a small transit system collecting fares can cost as much or more than those fares bring in.But I-695 requires fresh thinking from public servants. There are many thoughtful people in Island County who believe there is no “free lunch,” and transit users should have to pay directly to support the service.At last week’s Clinton meeting on fare-free transit, there was no serious look at the alternatives. One “expert” panned the idea of fares, and based figures on such minuscule fares as 25 cents, 40 cents and 60 cents. For heaven’s sake, this is almost the year 2000, not 1956 or 1970. At least the proposed fares should take inflation into account.Community Transit in Snohomish recently hiked fares to $3. Island Transit should show us some numbers based on similar charges -- perhaps one dollar for a ride on South Whidbey, or $2 if going farther north. Ticket books could be sold to give frequent users a break and expedite fare collections.It may well turn out that charging fares of any sort is counter-productive for Island Transit. But at least give the decision makers some realistic numbers to work with before people are asked to approve a sales tax increase."

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