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Dicks sets priorities for Puget Sound

As the director of the newly formed Puget Sound Partnership, David Dicks outlined the partnership’s priorities for the next year at the Harborside Conference in Bremerton Thursday morning.

“We’ve got a list of things to get done, but I think we’re up to it,” Dicks told a standing-room-only crowd.

The partnership’s goals have clearly been outlined in the recently passed Washington State Senate Bill ESSB 5372, which was sponsored by State Sen. Phil Rockefeller (D-Bainbridge Island), Dicks said.

“I think it’s vital that we get off to a quick start,” he said.

Because of the time-ordered, timeline and deadlines set by the Legislature developing the group’s action agenda as soon as possible is critical to the group’s success, he said.

“It’s not a question of if we’re going to do it, it’s how we’re going to do it,” he said.

The challenge for the group is going to be breaking down all of the complexity associated with the clean-up of the Puget Sound and putting it into actual actions that can be taken by local governments and agencies, which will be tasked with the real steps to improve the environment, he said.

“We need to do a good job of awareness on what the issues are with the Puget Sound,” he said.

Many people don’t believe anything is wrong with the Sound, when the reality is the Sound is facing serious issues that must be addressed, he said.

That awareness along with public education are critical to any efforts to restore the Puget Sound, Kitsap County Commissioner Jan Angel said.

“One of the things the partnership needs to look at is keeping public education at the forefront,” Angel said.

Educating average citizens about the reality of the issues facing the Puget Sound is important if the Sound is to be saved, she said.

“I think education is going to be important so you can get the next generation involved,” Angel said.

Partnership chairman Bill Ruckelshaus agreed with Angel’s premise that education is going to play a pivotal role in the latest effort to restore the health of the Sound.

“We need our education system to develop citizens who understand the value of a healthy ecosystem,” Ruckelshaus said. “There’s no question our education system is going to have a role to play in that.”

If that knowledge isn’t passed onto future generations, then the health of the Sound may start backsliding, which is something no one wants to see happen, Ruckelshaus said.

While education is an important part of the equation, Washington SCUBA Alliance President Mike Racine said his group is ready to do its part in increasing public awareness.

“One of the things we can do is tell people what we see and what we’ve seen in the past, but it’s gone,” Racine said.

The Sound has an awareness problem and the alliance is more than ready to start doing its part, he said.

“We can share the story with people, and we’re ready to go now,” Racine said.

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