Opinion

Share the pain of Puget Sound cleanup/Ballot time

The locals call them “the old men” – affectionately, of course – and these stately neighbors do indeed enjoy their daily repose.

“The old men” are a collection of herons and other seabirds that congregate in rows on old wooden pilings in the waters off South Beach Drive and Fort Ward State Park. Remnants of long-gone ferry docks or military piers, the moldering pilings provide a front porch of sorts for the broad-winged avians, a safe spot upon which to idle away languorous afternoons. You can see them roost there pretty much every day, usually in good numbers and always ripe for an anthropomorphizing chuckle; locals like to imagine them as feathered geezers in rocking chairs, chatting about the news of the day, sharing petty medical complaints or just swapping tall tales, probably involving fish.

One wonders what “the old men” will make of the news that state and local officials want to pull up the pilings upon which they perch, to stop the creosote-treated wood from leaching contaminants into island waterways. We don’t really know the science here (other writers on this page argue that the ecological threat from 70-year-old pilings isn’t all that bad), and we assume it will get a rigorous airing soon. Still, while it aims at an easy target – likely to upset only historians, sentimentalists and a few lazy birds – piling removal should be seen in the fuller of context Puget Sound restoration.

Last December, the governor’s office embraced a report from the Puget Sound Partnership advocating serious measures to restore the health of Washington’s signature inland waterway; some $220 million was allocated over the next two years for projects toward that end. Goals included better stormwater and septic management; fewer “armored” shorelines and bulkheads; and cleanup of some 60 specific contaminated sites around the region. Old creosote pilings are on the hit list too, but they represent the ecological failures of the past; let’s not lose sight of the present. As important as restoration is prevention.

Will we accept more sewering on Bainbridge Island, to prevent the creep of waste discharge from our shoreline homes? Will we fund more stormwater maintenance by the city, to better manage pollutants carried soundward with each rainfall? Will we give up chemical use on our lawns, the very source of many such pollutants?

We’d hate to see the city and state yank up picturesque old pilings, then go no further. If “the old men” can be asked to give up their perches for the cause of a cleaner Puget Sound, shouldn’t the rest of us feel some pain too?

Ballot time

A reminder for last-minute voters: primary ballots for two contested City Council races must be sent back to the Kitsap elections office by Aug. 21.

For those short a stamp, a ballot drop box will be at the Bainbridge Performing Arts building Tuesday 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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Correction

• Cara Wogrin’s name was misspelled in a Wednesday article on the Island Music Guild’s Rock Camp.

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