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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
06-20-2012

Four "Puget Sound Champions" honored in Hood Canal for protecting and restoring Puget Sound

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KINGSTON – Today the Puget Sound Partnership honored four “Puget Sound Champions” in Hood Canal for their exceptional work protecting and restoring habitat, cleaning up polluted waters, and engaging the community in implementing the Action Agenda—the Partnership’s regional plan to cleanup Puget Sound. The ceremony occurred at the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribal Center, located in Kingston.

The Puget Sound Partnership is the state agency coordinating the regional cleanup of Puget Sound. “The Puget Sound is connected to our quality of life, economy and our environment. It is our greatest natural asset,” said Gerry O’Keefe, Executive Director of the Partnership. “It’s important we work together, invest in the highest priorities, and celebrate success.”

The honorees are partners with the Hood Canal Coordinating Council, one of ten local watershed-based groups the Partnership works with to help set priorities for local programs and projects. The Hood Canal Coordinating Council has been working since 1985 to address community concerns about water quality problems and related natural resource issues in the watershed.

Gerry O’Keefe and Ron Sims, a member of the Partnership’s Leadership Council and former King County Executive, presented the awards.

The honorees are:

Hood Canal Regional Pollution Identification and Correction (PIC) Program for addressing water quality issues critical for protecting and enhancing human and ecological health and shellfish industry resources. The program is a successful regional collaboration between jurisdictions in the Hood Canal Watershed, including Mason, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties, and the Skokomish and Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribes. Keith Grellner, Kitsap County Environmental Health Director, accepted the award on the group’s behalf.

“In order to restore Puget Sound, we need to know what’s polluting it and where the pollution comes from,” said Rep. Steve Tharinger (D-Sequim). “The establishment of the Hood Canal PIC program will have a positive impact on cleanup efforts, and brings together various jurisdictions who all share the same objective. I fully support their efforts.”

Kitsap Forest & Bay Coalition, for its community-wide effort to conserve nearly 7,000 acres of forest and 1.8 miles of shoreline on the Kitsap Peninsula for wildlife habitat, public recreation and cultural sustenance. The more than thirty coalition partners are working collaboratively and independently to conserve the land. Key leaders of the coalition include: Kitsap County, Pope Resources, Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe, the Suquamish Tribe, Great Peninsula Conservancy and Forterra.

Sandra Staples-Bortner, Chair of the Kitsap Forest and Bay coalition and Executive Director of the Great Peninsula Conservancy, accepted the award on behalf of the coalition. “The two dozen organizations that make up the Kitsap Forest & Bay Coalition are passionate about conserving the 7,000 acres,” said Ms. Staples-Bortner. “Our focus is on protecting critical wildlife habitats, ensuring continued public access to forest trails, and preserving the vital shellfish, fisheries, and water birds of Port Gamble Bay,”

Rep. Hansen was the sponsor of the tax-relief bill that passed the legislature this year and makes possible the transfer of the land from Pope. “This project has the potential to create tourism and recreation jobs in Kitsap County by establishing a pristine forest and waterfront park just a 30-minute ferry ride from Seattle,” said Rep. Drew Hansen (D-Bainbridge Island).

"We depend on the health of Puget Sound for our quality of life and the vitality of many of our businesses. By uniting the efforts of so many organizations and businesses behind conserving our shorelines, the Kitsap Forest and Bay Coalition is helping to preserve much of what makes our communities great, and I congratulate them on being named champions of the sound," said Sen. Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island).

 "Congratulations and thank you," said Rep. Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo). "Our beautiful 23rd district and the entire Puget Sound region are made better by your teamwork and your dedication to conserving our magnificent environment." 

The Skokomish Tribe and the Mason Conservation District for their efforts in restoring the Skokomish Estuary by removing three miles of dikes, which restored thousands of feet of tidal channels near the mouth of the Skokomish River and approximately 500 acres of estuary. This project represents the single most important habitat restoration project in Hood Canal. The estuary provides rearing habitat of the federally listed summer chum and Chinook salmon, bull trout and steelhead. Alex Gouley, Habitat Manager for the Skokomish Tribe and John Bolender, District Manager for Mason Conservation District accepted the award for the Skokomish Estuary Restoration project.

“Today’s honorees are to be congratulated for their ongoing work to improve water quality in the Hood Canal region,” said Rep. Fred Finn (D-rural Thurston County). “Their efforts are helping to secure a healthier future for the people and marine life that coexist here.”

"Restoring the Skokomish Bay estuary has been a huge undertaking, a long and important project," said Rep. Kathy Haigh (D-Shelton). "I'm very happy that the Puget Sound Partnership is recognizing the efforts of the Skokomish Tribe, the Mason Conservation District and others who are being honored today."

“The work of John Bolender and the Mason Conservation District on this important project is a making a real difference in the Hood Canal,” said Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlach. “Their efforts to restore more than 300 acres of the largest contiguous salt marsh complex along the Hood Canal are vital to restoring habitat for summer chum and Chinook salmon, bull trout and steelhead.”

Pat Pearson with the WSU Jefferson County Extension, for her 20 year career providing education, outreach and resources to thousands of individuals, non-governmental agencies and partners throughout the 12 Puget Sound counties and beyond regarding water quality and natural resources.
 
Gerry O’Keefe lauded all award recipients for their commitment to working with partners, community groups and citizens, and implementing priority actions that protect and enhance Hood Canal's environmental and economic health. “We value our partnership with the Hood Canal Coordinating Council,” said O’Keefe. “Your innovation and determination has helped us integrate planning efforts, focus mitigation funding on the highest priorities, prevent pollution at the source and evaluate progress through regional monitoring. Thank you for implementing the Action Agenda and being leader in Puget Sound recovery.”

 “The Hood Canal Coordinating Council has done impressive work, and serves as an excellent example of effective and strategic local coordination,” said Ron Sims. “Your work is significant locally, and regionally. Without your work on the ground, the regional Puget Sound recovery effort would exist only as a vision and plan, and not a reality.”

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The Puget Sound Partnership is the backbone organization connecting citizens, governments, tribes, scientists and businesses together to set science-based priorities, implement a regional recovery plan, and ensure accountability for results that cleanup Puget Sound. Since the Partnership was established through bipartisan leadership in 2007, more than 2,440 acres of habitat have been protected, 70 miles of streams and rivers have been restored, and game-changing restoration projects have been advanced.

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