Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Lower Columbia River Estuary Plan Signing Ceremony
October 20, 1999
CLEANER RIVERS FOR BETTER LIVES
Thank you and it’s great to be here with Governor Kitzhaber, Charles Findlay and Mayor Pollard.
First off, I just want to thank the Policy Committee, the Management Committee, and the Estuary Program staff. The work you have done over the past three years is just incredible. And we also want to express our appreciation for EPA, which has generously contributed to funding the planning work during this time. Let’s give them all a big round of applause.
The committees have put in over 8,000 hours, and have really done a fantastic job in their outreach efforts. They held 24 public meetings, ran three full-page ads in 14 newspapers, created research groups, performed a comparative risk ranking with the public, and held 62 meetings with constituent groups. They left no stone unturned in their effort to determine the best way to improve and ensure the health of our Columbia River. These committees are models for all future collaborative decision-making. Let’s give them another hand—they deserve it.
Washington was the first state in the nation to begin one of these management plans, and our Puget Sound program was the first estuary plan in the nation to receive EPA approval. We moved from planning to implementation in the late 80s, and look at the Puget Sound now! We’ve cleaned up shellfish beds, we’ve reduced the discharge of toxic pollutants, and we’ve reduced the release of storm water from urban areas. It’s cleaner now than it was over fifty years ago!
The Lower Columbia River Estuary Program is different because this time we are joining with another state to save our waters. The Lower Columbia River Estuary Program embodies all of the principals of watershed management by removing traditional political boundaries and even state boundaries to provide our children and their children a clean and healthy river. Our waters don’t understand the concept of state boundaries, and it's about time that we, too—citizens and political leaders—transcend the boundaries of state lines and work together to protect the regional treasure of the Columbia River.
We all know the importance of protecting our natural resources, particularly our waters and the essential habitat they provide. Our rivers are the veins and arteries of our earth. They feed the heart of our land, the bodies of our wildlife, and the souls of our people.
Some of my earliest memories are of my aunt and uncle taking me to the river to fish. I remember how invigorating it was to run around in the fresh air and to play in the water. I also remember my first trip to China in 1991. I witnessed rivers that were beyond help. No sane parent would allow their children to play in those waters, and no one would dare eat a fish from those waters. Because of your teamwork, the Lower Columbia River and its estuary will be saved and my own Emily and Dylan will be able to have the same kinds of experiences all of us have had on our rivers as children, as will all of the children of Washington and Oregon.
You’ve worked tirelessly to identify 43 actions that will increase habitat and habitat functions, prevent toxic and conventional pollution from contaminating our river, improve land use practices and protect ecosystems, and to monitor the river for long term impact of actions.
I can’t thank you enough for the work you have done to protect the Lower Columbia. I look forward to my administration being an active player in implementing this plan. Thank you all very much for the work you are doing to make Washington State a better place to live, to work, and to raise a family.