What we've accomplished
Nowhere else in the country is there a resource quite like Puget Sound, with its unique beauty, and the tremendous resource it provides to human and animals alike. This is why I have made the cleanup and recovery of Puget Sound one of DNR's highest priorities. Once of the biggest challenges I faced when I took office in 2009 was to address the difficult situation my predecessor left behind on Maury Island. The incumbent granted Glacier Northwest a lease enabling the corporation to build a 305-foot barge-loading pier across state aquatic lands, facilitating its plans to dramatically expand its sand and gravel mining operation at its 325-acre site on eastern Maury Island.
Once in office, my staff and I diligently reviewed the plans to see if they were compatible with the Maury Island Aquatic Reserve Management Plan. We concluded that they were not, and that they were counter to our agency's efforts to recover the Sound to health by 2020. The expansion was not allowed to proceed, and I a pleased to report that today the aquatic reserve is in pristine condition, and orcas have been seen less than 50 feet from the shoreline, traveling along a route that would have taken them right by the intended gravel mine. I'm proud that we prevented this ill-advised use of public shoreline and protected this crucial habitat for the species that depend on it.
Also during my time in office, we have nearly doubled the number of aquatic reserves along Puget Sound and finally created a management plan for the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve, which had languished for many years. The aquatic reserve program promotes the preservation, restoration, and enhancement of state-owned aquatic lands that are of special educational, scientific, or environmental interest. Through these efforts, we can protect critical marine environments and habitat for the species that depend on them.
Cleaning up the Sound can also be a great way to get Washingtonians back to work. Recently, we celebrated the launch of the Puget SoundCorps, which was created to get young people and veterans working on the restoration of Puget Sound. I proposed legislation to create SoundCorps in 2011 and was proud to see it pass with strong bi-partisan support. The first crew started work November 10. Members will be removing invasive weeds and replanting hundreds of native plants at the nine-acre Gog-le-hi-te wetland park in Tacoma.
I'm particularly proud of our work on SoundCorps, because of how quickly we were able to put our plans into action. In less than a year we took a good idea and brought it all the way to fruition. Now there are boots on the ground doing the crucial work of recovering the sound to health. In these tough economic times, veterans have often found it difficult to find work when they return home from serving our country overseas. The SoundCorps is an excellent way to get them working on a vital state mission, preserving our natural resources for generations to come.
Priorities for next term
The protection of Puget Sound will remain among my highest priorities if elected to a second term in office. I will focus on key watersheds in Puget Sound where we can make a real difference improving water quality and habitat. We have many tools at our disposal; from land acquisition, to job creation, to aquatic reserves, to pulling out creosote pilings. Using science and the latest research to tell us where on the landscape we can deploy these tools to get the biggest bang for our buck will be a top priority.
We have had many successes, but there is more work to do if we are going to meet the state's objective of recovering the sound to health by 2020. We launched SoundCorps and got our first crew working, but there are many more restoration projects to complete and many young people who remain out of work. I am committed to helping SoundCorps grow and flourish over the next four years.
Another major initiative will be the completion of a Habitat Conservation Plan for our state's aquatic lands. This 50-year plan will protect endangered species and ensure that a vibrant, marine based economy can thrive in Washington and that our state's 2.6 million acres of state aquatic lands are managed sustainably.