Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Weekly News Conference: Puget Sound
July 9, 2003

Good morning. Thank you for coming. I am joined today by Tom Fitzsimmons, director of the Washington State Department of Ecology, and Brad Ack, chair of the Puget Sound Action team.

Five months ago, I shared our plans to improve the health of Puget Sound. The environmental protection and conservation efforts on that agenda included orcas, groundfish and marine birds. I also discussed salmon recovery efforts and the battle against toxic contamination.

I am proud to be here today to share our progress in these areas.

We’re making progress in protecting orcas. We’re increasing our role in this international effort with $90,000 from my office’s emergency fund and $10,000 from the Puget Sound Action Team. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife is coordinating its recovery efforts and plans with NOAA and the Canadian government.

And we have good news. Two orca calves were born this spring, bringing the resident orca population to approximately 82.

We’ve made progress in securing long-term funding for a rescue tug to protect Puget Sound from oil spills. The legislature approved funding a rescue tug at Neah Bay for the winter months through 2008.

We’re making progress in salmon recovery. Salmon recovery depends on protecting and restoring the marine and estuary habitats of Puget Sound. This requires improvements to local shoreline management programs.

The budget I signed in June includes funding for local jurisdictions to update their shoreline plans. I am also committed to restoring and protecting the nearshore. This is an important habitat for salmon and many other species in the Sound.

We’re making progress in other areas, too. At my request, the Legislature funded $402,000 to the Department of Fish and Wildlife to work on declining marine bird populations. We also took action to ban products containing mercury, which is toxic to our fish and waterfowl. And a Department of Ecology advisory committee will provide recommendations on policy issues for local governments to manage stormwater runoff. Also a Department of Agriculture task force will work on reducing livestock waste polluting streams, shorelines and shellfish.

But progress requires broader steps. And much of the progress our state is making is due to the work of thousands of people with one thing in common: they want to protect and restore the environment of Puget Sound.

These volunteers assemble, coordinate and train others to learn to help our Sound. Their dedication and grassroots citizen action is essential to preserving the Sound for future generations.

I would like to talk about a few of these hardworking heroes who typify the spirit of citizen conservation.

Betsy Peabody from Bainbridge Island is helping people learn the fun and value of growing their own gardens of shellfish. Betsy has put in community shellfish beds or farms in Whatcom and Thurston counties.

Geoff Menzies has worked with Betsy to forge good partnerships with businesses such as the Trillium Corporation and to set up the operations of the Drayton Harbor community shellfish farm.

Susan Berta and her volunteers at the Orca Network provide critical and timely information about orcas and other whales. The Orca Network uses its Web site and extensive email lists to share updated information about the approximately 82 resident orcas here in Puget Sound, as well as neighboring shared waters in the Georgia Strait.

Leslie Banigan works with Kitsap County Health District to clean up streams and shorelines across the county, including Purdy Creek, Burley Lagoon and Cedar Cove.

I want to thank each of you on behalf of the people of Washington state. I also invite you to join me today to meet with the Puget Sound Action Team and its advisory organization, the Puget Sound Council.

The Action Team brings agencies together to work on a common agenda, break down bureaucratic barriers, focus on the highest priorities, and build the bridge between state government and its critical partners in conservation, restoration and land use.

Today we’re meeting to set strategic direction and priorities. The strategic priorities we should put our collective efforts toward are:

· Toxics clean up and prevention
· Stormwater and sewage management
· Critical habitat protection and restoration
· Species protection and recovery

These are the most critical priorities for a healthy Puget Sound.

Better focus and stronger collaboration will achieve our vision for a healthy and sustainable Puget Sound. We must make sure that future generations will enjoy the beauty and unique diversity of life in Puget Sound. Together, I am confident that we will succeed.

Thank you.
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