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Inspirational conference helps meet Puget Sound needs


Last updated 5/31/2019 at Noon

Councilmember Diane Buckshnis, left, with Sen. Patty Murray and Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling in Washington, D.C.

I have been to many good conferences in my four decades of working in the financial and regulatory sector, but I must admit a recent conference for “Puget Sound Days on the Hill” was the most inspirational ever.

The four-day conference, hosted by the Puget Sound Partnership (PSP), provided a myriad of historical, educational and environmental aspects, legislative updating, and an overall communal discussion on how can we save our Puget Sound, hence our salmon and, by extension, our orcas.

I attended as a representative of WRIA 8 (Water Resource Area Inventory 8) and the City of Edmonds, as a councilmember. This was PSP’s fifth year of having this conference, and the group has grown from a mere 20 to now over 75.

I met a number of members of Congress, and have included some of their quotes that inspired me. I have been on WRIA 8 for nine years, and have learned a tremendous amount about our local Watershed 8 – so it was wonderful to meet other representatives from state and federal agencies, state universities, state, county and local officials, and commissions and leaders from Gov. Inslee’s office.

To summarize the week, I emailed Joe Scordino, a former NOAA official who heads up the Save our Marsh, Edmonds Stream Team and Students Saving Salmon.

“Good morning, Joe,” I wrote in the email.

“This is been a wonderful experience for me, being on the environmental side of life. As you know, being in the financial world as a banker/regulator, I was always around numbers people for years, and that really was not invigorating. We can get that Willow Creek Marsh daylighted and it will happen within the next couple years.”

I did have some funny moments in D.C – like trying to act like a scientist and use the term “turbidity” in front of the Honorable Sen. Maria Cantwell and staff and, for the life of me, I could not get that word out of my mouth correctly.

But I was happy that Maria is Rose Cantwell’s daughter, who I know through the Edmonds Senior Center, and I am sure Maria knew I was just tired from a long week of walking, talking, meeting, greeting, and learning more about our Puget Sound, near-shore estuaries and our rivers.

Sen. Cantwell has worked tirelessly on preserving our pristine waters, and is a leading advocate on ocean acidification science. She understands the impact of tourism on Washington’s economy and how the environment is a key factor.

She thanked me for the nine years of work that I have done for WRIA 8, and asked: “What can I do to help you with the Edmonds Marsh estuary restoration?”

What follows are a few quotes and ideas I jotted down when our federal representatives visited our forum for a quick question and answers session.

Rep. Denny Heck opened by thanking the PSP and all of us by saying, “We have made great progress – but we have a long way to go. This place is broken right now, but we are working on infrastructure issues and stormwater resolutions.”

He later quoted the inscription on the late Billy Frank Jr.’s gravestone: “Time is running out.”

To summarize the impact Billy Frank Jr. had on local tribal rights, our watersheds and rivers in one paragraph would be difficult, but he committed his life to protecting his Nisqually people's traditional way of life and to protecting the endangered salmon, whose survival is the focus of tribal life.

The "fish-ins" and demonstrations Frank helped organize in the 1960s and 1970s, along with accompanying lawsuits, led to the Boldt decision of 1974, which restored to the federally recognized tribes the legal right to fish as they always had. He remained a tireless advocate until his death.

Shortly after he died, in 2014 at age 83, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor.

Rep. Derek Kilmer thanked us for the hard work on behalf of all children.

“While I cannot give specifics, Puget Sound Days is and has been a great success, and we will see federal funding increases in Puget Sound and our near-shore stuaries, so keep up the good work.”

He also made reference to Billy Frank Jr., and joked that he has a picture of him in his office behind his desk, and when meetings got terse or tense, he would say – “Now what would Billy Frank say?”

Sen. Patty Murray, who has been a tireless advocate for our Puget Sound, complimented our work and spoke about how it does take a village to get movement. She said in closing: “Thank you for your tenacity regarding this very important issue. It’s all about our future generations to come, and this work will pave the way for our environmental future.”

Rep. Suzan DelBene opened with saying: “Washington State has been a leader on climate change, and this issue is still not bipartisan.”

She added that the most important thing is that we must continue to bring people together and move forward in the areas of common ground, which is clean water. “Everyone knows we need clean water,” she said.

Rep. Kim Schrier said: “Even though I am a pediatrician and am in health care – the health of the environment is much like human health care and, for this reason, I am adding my name to the Puget Sound SOS Act today.”

The Puget Sound SOS Act was introduced into the House this year by Reps. Heck and Kilmer, and would designate the Puget Sound as a nationally significant body of water (like Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes) under the Clean Water Act, and align federal agencies for its protection.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal fired up the room with her enthusiasm for Puget Sound Days on the Hill and the importance of the conference to bring individuals together to help create change.

“Environmental issues are so core for humans’ rights and that advocacy needs to continue,” she said. “So please do not give up on the urgency of this scale.”

She said it’s important for federal budgets to not only look at the environment and infrastructure, but also to uphold tribal rights.

“Stories do matter, and you are changing the narrative.”

Gov. Jay Inslee sent policy director Robert Duff to highlight the recent bills that have passed in the Washington Legislature for orca and salmon recovery. “We should all be taking victory laps for the overwhelming legislative support for our Orcas and Puget Sound,” he said, with a big smile.

So, in closing, we are all making a difference, and I will continue to help Edmonds achieve its environmental goals and work with fellow colleagues on our state initiatives as well.

It was a wonderful trip, and PSP representatives did a wonderful job making this week eventful and educational and inspirational.

I can hardly wait until next year!

Diane Buckshnis is a member of the Edmonds City Council.


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