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August 26, 2004

Message from the Governor

The return of rainy weather to many parts of our state this week may make it difficult to imagine the significant water supply challenges we face. While water is often plentiful during the rainy season, our summers can strain reservoir levels and slow streams to a trickle. The challenge is making water available for population and economic needs while maintaining enough water in streams for fish and healthy watersheds.

Fortunately, our water management reform efforts have been very productive. Thanks to legislation passed in 1998, locally-based watershed planning is underway in 45 of the state’s 62 watersheds. Two watershed plans have already been fully approved by their counties and are proceeding to implementation. Several others should be completed soon. These plans provide locally-based solutions to water management to meet the current and future needs of people and fish.

Another 22 water bills became law in just the last four years, including an omnibus reform bill in 2001. These reforms provided the framework for implementing local watershed plans, building on the watershed planning efforts that were launched in 1998. Over the past three years, we’ve slashed the backlog of water-right change applications by about 40 percent, secured water rights for growing communities, and increased water conservation.

We’ve also made progress on water storage, which involves capturing water during the rainy season and holding it in storage facilities so it’s available for use during the dry summer months. In the last few years, we have significantly increased the investment of state funds to identify new ways and places to store water. And we provided new grant funding to rescue small, failing public water systems—and better ensure a safe supply of drinking water for our citizens.

Quote of the Week
“We need abundant, clean and cold water in our rivers and streams for people, fish, businesses and farms. Our wild salmon—a sacred symbol of Native people and an icon for our state—are indicators of environmental quality. As we restore wild salmon runs, we will be enhancing the environment we so much cherish.”
—Governor Locke, August 26, 2004

Our water management efforts are very closely tied to another major effort in our state—salmon recovery. Effective water management includes preserving and protecting freshwater habitat for salmon. In 1998, we established the Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office to coordinate our state’s strategy for salmon recovery.

Restoration projects are gradually restoring the ecology of our region. These efforts take time and money. We must remain committed to investing both. We know these investments pay off.

For example, the Salmon Recovery Funding Board alone has issued grants and matching funds of more than $200 million, for more than 655 projects. All of these projects are habitat enhancement and restoration for salmon. This doesn’t include other projects by federal and state agencies, cities, counties and Tribes.

And these projects are yielding results. Nearly 11,000 acres of salmon habitat have been acquired since 1999. More than 1100 fish passage barriers have been removed. Some 1300 miles of stream have been opened to salmon.

We have long understood the need to protect and restore habitat and improve harvest management. Hatchery reform, as developed by the Hatchery Reform Project, is the other critical piece of salmon recovery. More than 70 percent of salmon and steelhead caught in Puget Sound are hatchery fish. Our hatcheries must complement what we are doing with habitat protection and restoration.

This year the Hatchery Scientific Review Group released its final report on reforming hatcheries in Puget Sound and coastal Washington. The report marked the culmination of four years of scientific inquiry, and will be the blueprint for future investments in the state hatchery systems. Last year I included $8 million in the budget for hatchery reform, and the Legislature approved it during one of the most difficult budget cycles in recent memory. This is a testament to the effectiveness of the Hatchery Reform project.

Sound water management and effective salmon recovery go together. Let’s continue our progress in both areas for a healthy and prosperous future.

Gary Locke
Gary Locke

Governor’s Priorities
News Highlights

State Tax Burden Shrinking
Tax cuts and a recession have driven state and local tax burdens to the lowest level since 1981, according to preliminary information recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau. Washington’s state and local tax burden relative to income ranked 32nd highest among the states. The Census data also compared property taxes, which in Washington dropped from $35.39 per $1,000 personal income in 2000 to $29.94 in 2002, reducing Washington’s property tax ranking from 18th to 28th highest. The rankings are based on dividing state and local taxes paid by total personal income. Per capita rankings and other information are available in the published report, Comparative Tax Statistics – 2002, available on the Department of Revenue’s Web site.

Preparing for Disasters
Governor Locke has proclaimed September as “National Preparedness and Weather Radio Awareness Month.” The Governor urges state residents to increase their knowledge and awareness of emergency preparedness actions they can take to make Washington safe and secure for the 21st Century. Governor Locke recommends that residents prepare themselves to be self-sufficient for at least three days following an act of terrorism or a natural or man-made disaster. He is also directing state agencies and state employees to prepare so they can continue to provide essential public services after a disaster and support the state’s disaster response and recovery mission. The Governor emphasizes that the use of information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric weather radios can reduce the loss of life and property from all hazards, including terrorism.

Funding for Water Projects
The state Department of Ecology is awarding $2.78 million in grants for nine projects that will look for new ways to store water in Washington. The 2004 legislature earmarked the money for crafting water-storage plans, evaluating how underground water systems function, developing engineering and financial reports, acquiring land and facilities, and completing other pre-construction activities. The city of North Bend in King County will receive the largest single grant, $500,000. This will help defray the cost of either pumping water from a nearby deep underground water source into the Snoqualmie River or constructing a pipeline to carry water from the Cedar River to the Snoqualmie. Visit the Department of Ecology web site for more information.

Success Story: Western State Hospital a Model for the Nation
After almost four years of watching over the treatment program in Western State Hospital’s forensic unit, national experts found that the mental health treatment facility has made remarkable improvements and no longer needs monitoring. In a closing conference held at the hospital, Dr. Joel Dvoskin, a national expert in forensic mental health, was very complimentary of the hospital’s changes to its forensic program. Dvoskin observed that Western State Hospital is now one of the top programs in the country. Dvoskin also said that he now cites Western State to other forensic programs around the country as a model for treatment and competency restoration.

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