Councilmember Clark left office on April 14, 2015.
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Market forces save salmon?

Here’s a cool thing I learned about yesterday. You know how we talk about market incentives for curing ills now? We’ll create incentives to save historic buildings, create affordable housing, and preserve art spaces. Incentives and credits are a huge part of our moves to cool global warming. Drive your car while you purchase off-setting actions carried out by someone else. A company has figured out how this could work in restoring habitat along the Duwamish River.

The Duwamish is Seattle’s poster child Superfund site. Seattle’s only river was added to the nation’s list of most contaminated places in 2001 after a century of dumping, spewing and dredging. The City, many businesses and river advocates are working to turn the tide, so to speak, but restoring a river to health is harder than messing it up in the first place. A company called Bluefield has made a proposal to the City that may help. Bluefield has smartly figured out that clean-up officials will require many companies and agencies that had a hand in polluting the river to pay not just for cleanup, but also for river restoration. For some companies this will be tough because they use all their property right up to the water’s edge. So, a business opportunity is born. Bluefield is proposing to restore habitat on publicly-owned properties along the river. They would lease street ends or other property from the City, for instance, and restore quality river habitat, creating “eco-credits” (maybe a certain number of credits for every acre of habitat created) that could be purchased by others along the river who will have restoration responsibilities to meet, but little opportunity to do actual restoration on their own property. It would be up to the cleanup trustees to determine how many eco-credits would be available for purchase as the result of a Bluefield restoration.

This proposal is now before the Environment, Emergency Management & Utilities Committee for consideration. It’s intriguing. The requirement for habitat restoration along the Duwamish may be 100-150 acres. Most businesses along the river don’t know habitat restoration. It’s not their business. Maybe the Bluefield deal is part of the answer. We get a head start on river restoration, salmon get some improved habitat, businesses get a way to meet their restoration obligations, and neighborhoods along the river get improved street ends. Score one for market forces?