Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Agenda For Puget Sound
February 12, 2003
Good morning, and thanks for joining us today.
Our state is a postcard collector’s dream. We enjoy one of the most remarkable natural environments on Earth: From the Olympic Rain Forest to fertile agricultural valleys to the Cascades to the mighty Columbia to the Pacific Ocean beaches. At the center of this scenic beauty is Puget Sound, home to orcas, migrating salmon, and the Great Pacific Octopus.
We’ve made significant progress in protecting and cleaning up the Sound over the past decade. We’ve stopped raw sewage from being dumped into our waters. Industries have reduced the levels of chemicals polluting the Sound. The recently negotiated Shorelines Agreement will help protect and restore our fragile shorelines as part of shoreline development.
But we continue to face many challenges. We’re concerned about the future of our marine life. Significant areas of Puget Sound are off limits to shellfish, despite our progress. The Southern Resident orca population is declining. We also have depressed populations in several groundfish species, and declines in several species of marine birds.
We’re concerned about keeping Puget Sound unpolluted. Thousands of underwater acres of sediments are contaminated with heavy metals and chemicals. Storm water carries pollutants into the Sound. And we still do not have a year round, permanently funded emergency tug at the entrance to Puget Sound. Just one ship against the rocks can do a lifetime of damage.
Today, we renew our commitment to preserving and protecting Puget Sound.
I have appointed Brad Ack as the new chair for the Puget Sound Action Team. Brad comes to us from the Grand Canyon Trust, where he was Senior Program Director. I’ve asked Brad to focus on high priorities, to innovate, develop new opportunities to promote the health and well-being of Puget Sound, and to get results. He’ll work in partnership with others from state and local government, the tribes, stakeholders, and private citizens.
Two weeks ago, I authorized $90,000 from the emergency fund to increase our role in international protection of the Puget Sound orca population. Specifically, we must determine immediately whether to list this population under our state Endangered Species Act. We must develop a recovery plan for our Puget Sound orcas.
In my budget I have included $1.4 million for a rescue tug at Neah Bay.
But this is only a temporary solution.
Today I ask that the Legislature work with the various stakeholder groups to develop a long-term solution to protecting our waters, while still preserving marine commerce. We cannot allow our annual debates over funding sources and response options to continue to place our fragile ecosystems at risk.
We also need to move more quickly on a groundfish conservation plan. Today I am asking the Department of Fish and Wildlife for an interim progress report by the end of this year, and a final conservation plan by 2004.
Last week I met with the leaders of Shared Strategy for Puget Sound. We discussed our plans and strategy for salmon recovery in Puget Sound, another major area we must address. The shoreline agreement announced several weeks ago is a good start, and we’ll continue to work with Shared Strategy for a consensus-based recovery plan. I also fully support the Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration Project. This is a joint state and federal Corps of Engineers project to restore some of Puget Sound’s natural shorelines. Restoration of this habitat will be good for salmon and good for the Puget Sound ecosystem.
My budget proposal for Puget Sound includes three provisions I’d like to highlight. First, I’ve proposed an increase in funding for marine bird surveys and analysis of the reasons for the decline in population. Second, I’ve proposed continued funding for the Department of Ecology to implement the chemical action plan for mercury. We must eliminate the introduction of this contaminant into the Sound. Finally, my budget proposal directs Ecology to develop a new chemical action plan for Dioxin, a water and air pollutant common to pulp and paper operations. We must act against these deadly chemicals and stop contaminating underwater sediments. Today I urge the Legislature to join me in protecting Puget Sound by approving the funding for these items as soon as possible.
Clearly, we have much to do. And this effort can only succeed as a partnership between the state, the tribes, local governments, stakeholders, and citizens. But we all want the same thing—a healthy Puget Sound that will always be one of the great natural wonders of the world. Working together, I am confident we will succeed.
And now I’d like to introduce the new chair of the Puget Sound Action Team, Brad Ack. For the past ten years Brad served as Senior Program Director of Grand Canyon Trust, a regional conservation organization focused on the Colorado Plateau in Arizona. He has worked on environmental policy, natural resource conservation and sustainable development in Washington, D.C. and throughout Latin America and in the Western United States. Please welcome Brad Ack.