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Welcome to ‘Our Water Ways,’ a blog about Puget Sound and all things water-related

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Welcome to “Our Water Ways,” a new blog I’m writing for the Puget Sound Institute with a name that will sound familiar to some. For the past 12 years, I’ve been writing a blog called “Watching Our Water Ways” for the Kitsap Sun. Now, my blogging efforts will have a new home.

Puget Sound from space // Photo: NASA enhanced image

I’ve outlined the reasons for the move in a farewell blog post on the “Watching Our Water Ways” website. It makes sense to publish my blog on the PSI website, where I have been writing in-depth stories about Puget Sound for the past four years as part of “Salish Sea Currents” and the “Encyclopedia of Puget Sound.”

My goal for the blog is to bring you news and information based on my reporting efforts for PSI and selected quick-hit investigations — including insights that you may not see in other reports. I’ve been encouraged by PSI managers to keep writing as I have been for the Kitsap Sun without constraint on any topic related to Puget Sound. So please take a moment and subscribe to this blog for email notification of blog posts and occasional items from PSI.

As I have in the past, I will use “Our Water Ways” to explain scientific phenomena, delve into policy matters and reveal political entanglements. The blog can tackle small issues that I stumble upon in my longer reporting efforts — especially when issues don’t seem to fit the narrative of a larger story. I will take questions from readers and seek answers from regional experts.

At times, I will even delve into social values, trying to understand how people feel about Puget Sound and the Salish Sea, which extends into Canada. Human well-being — a major goal of the Puget Sound Partnership — can be defined in many ways. For the sake of Puget Sound and those who live here, it is important to understand the emotional connections, financial incentives and spiritual values that come into play in the effort to save orcas, salmon and the entire food web.

As the name “water ways” implies, I believe it is important to understand the style and manner in which people think about these complex ecosystem challenges.

As for funding, my writing for PSI is often financed as part of a large operating grant provided by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. PSI’s mission is to conduct original research, synthesize diverse scientific information for policymakers, and help the public understand problems affecting the health of Puget Sound. When I joined PSI, I found myself writing stories in a newspaper style and looking at issues from all sides, just as I would do if employed by a newspaper. I’ve felt a clear sense of independence at PSI.

My new blog will become part of my job at PSI, with some blog posts covered by the federal grant for helping people understand the “implementation strategies” for protecting and restoring Puget Sound. Others may not, and PSI has independent funding for those blog posts.

For those interested in my history, I graduated from Washington State University in 1974 with a degree in biochemistry, followed by a second degree in communications-journalism in 1975. I began my reporting career in Idaho Falls, Idaho, where I became the first environmental reporter for the Post-Register. My coverage area was rich in natural resources, and I honed my reporting skills on environmental controversy — from the phosphate mines of Southeast Idaho to the grizzly bears of Yellowstone National Park.

I joined the Kitsap Sun in 1977, covering North Kitsap as a general reporter, followed by government reporting, then moving into an investigative reporting role. I was the first reporter at the Sun to cover environmental issues as a full-time beat, and I remained in that role for 28 years until my retirement in 2014. (Former Seattle Times reporter Eric Sorensen captured the flavor of my work in a piece he wrote for Washington State Magazine.) In 2015, I was hired as a half-time “senior writer” for the Puget Sound Institute.

If you aren’t familiar with the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound, please take a moment to peruse the multiple topics listed on the opening page. I think the website has much to offer those who would like a deeper understanding of the science and challenges facing our region. It seems to me that the site would be a good resource for science teachers and for students seeking some of the latest discoveries in Puget Sound — and I know some teachers and students who are using it.

I welcome suggestions and comments from people who would like to offer story ideas, ask questions, share thoughts or take issue with something reported. You can email me at dunagc@uw.edu.