As kids, we all learned that the hip bone’s connected to the thigh bone, and the thigh bone’s connected to the knee bone…our bodies are a system of interconnected parts. The same is true for Puget Sound: it is a large system of interconnected bays, each with specific issues and challenges. Any cleanup must look at the body as a whole, considering how an action in one bay might affect another.
As part of the Puget Sound Initiative, the Washington State Department of Ecology has worked to expedite the cleanup of contaminated waterfront sites in several Puget Sound bays that have been given higher priority. Though there are well-developed public participation requirements for similar state programs, there hasn’t been a model for participation that incorporates all of a specific bay.
Until now, that is! EnviroIssues joined the Ecology team to help develop a model for bay-wide community engagement, moving beyond the typical approach that is specific to a project or small geographic area. Our efforts engaged and educated residents in all Puget Sound communities about the need for waterfront cleanup and restoration and provided avenues for citizens to get involved in efforts which will have an impact on our state for generations.
EnviroIssues developed information materials, collaborated with local businesses, governments, tribes and other stakeholder groups, and facilitated multiple public conversations about how we establish priorities and how we coordinate cleanup and restoration efforts across a wide part of our state. It’s a different approach to public engagement: creating a wider context to guide conversations about each individual component of a beautiful, distressed and vital part of our Puget Sound community.