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Students "dig in" to protect Liberty Bay

By JOE IRWIN

Senior Reporter

LEMOLO — “Partners never do anything alone.”

This was the resounding message of Kathy Barrantes as she addressed a crowd of 100 or so students and local residents that gathered at Lemolo to show their support of the community and its environment.

The large group included more than students from Sound Academy, Northwest College of Art and members of Eagle Scout Troop 1571 and various state and county officials — it embodied a true sense of the word “team.”

Working together to restore the nearshore habitat of Liberty Bay to its former grandeur, hundreds of plants were placed in the soil Thursday by young green thumbs eager to give something back to nature. Smiles were as numerous as dirty shoes.

“Partnerships make or break these types of projects,” added Barrantes, who is coordinating the Nearshore Habitat Evaluation and Enhancement Project. “Without this we couldn’t leave a better place for our children and our children’s children.”

She was the first of several speakers to address the masses, who sat cross-legged on the grassy ground, listening attentively. Dr. Chris May, environmental engineer and watershed ecologist, also commented on the state of Liberty Bay and pointed out that the project had the potential not only to benefit salmon habitat along the shoreline but to also restore shellfish harvests.

Dr. May stressed the fact that improved water quality was beneficial “not only for salmon but for people as well.”

But it has a ways to go before being considered pristine, explained Stuart Whitford of the Bremerton Kitsap County Health District.

“The water quality is not good,” he said, noting that 75 percent of the health district’s eight water testing stations in Liberty Bay failed to meet the state standards.

While the shellfish harvests have “pretty much gone down the tubes,” Whitford did offer something the community could aim for — improvement. This effort, he noted, should not be limited to the nearshore areas though and should also effect the estuaries that feed into its waters.

“If we can get Dogfish Creek cleaned up we’re on our way to getting Liberty Bay cleaned up,” he said.

Others, like Jim Bolger, a marine biologist with Washington Sea Grant from the University of Washington, coastal geologist Jim Johannessen and Brent White, teacher of the natural resources class at NW College of Art told the “outdoor classroom” that the work they were doing went well beyond just improving the local environment. It was also a giant step in the right direction for the entire watershed.

United States Rep. Jay Inslee was the last to address the group, much of which was itching to get planting.

Inslee touched on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on America before congratulating the local environmentalists on their positive efforts.

“It’s really exciting for me to be here,” he explained. “It’s worth it to fight for our liberty and it’s worth it to fight for Liberty Bay.”

“This is something we all own together. This isn’t government in action — this is community in action,” Inslee added.

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