Northwest NEWS

July 31, 2000


Clean, plentiful water is crucial to Washington

by Gov. Gary Locke
   Summer is the time we appreciate Washington's water resources more than ever whether we are swimming, fishing, rafting or boating.
   We enjoy and use water from our high mountains, as well as lowland lakes, fast-running streams, majestic rivers, Puget Sound and the ocean.
   All year, this same water we count on for recreation also supports transportation, irrigation and commerce, as well as household, garden and many other uses.
   In other words, plentiful supplies of clean water are crucial to the state. Yet we are taking them for granted.
   Today, we face unprecedented challenges in preserving and protecting these waters. Water shortages and pollution stifle economic development and threaten wild salmon. And, if our waters are too polluted for salmon, they're too polluted for us.
   Adequate amounts of clean water are a high priority to me. We are moving aggressively in several areas to accomplish this goal.
   We have levied nearly $3 million in water pollution fines a 75 percent increase over the previous administration since I took office. We will continue to enforce clean water laws rigorously.
   To address water quality problems on forested lands, we negotiated and secured funding for the Forests and Fish Agreement, the only agreement of its kind in the country. It protects clean water on eight million acres of private forests and covers 60,000 miles of streams. It also provides regulatory certainty to the timber industry.
   We are negotiating with the agriculture community to produce a similar pact: the Agriculture, Fish and Water Agreement. My goal is to reach a comprehensive agreement that will maintain a robust farming industry while meeting the requirements of the federal Clean Water and Endangered Species Act laws.
   Because agriculture consumes 75 percent of the water in this state, achieving this agreement will be a major step toward reaching our clean water goals.
   It also is time to restore common sense to the way we build and develop around lakes, streams and marine waters. Our state's existing shoreline management guidelines, established by a vote of the people, are 28 years old. Since that vote, the state's population has grown by 2.5 million people. Recognizing this situation in 1995, the Legislature directed the Washington Department of Ecology to review and update these guidelines by this summer.
   It's important to do this. Since 1994, Washington has had five major flood disasters involving 38 of our 39 counties. Many acres of farmland were washed away, hundreds of homes were destroyed, and at least $1 billion in private property and five lives were lost. Important areas of our rivers that supply spawning and rearing spots for wild salmon have been lost.
   If we don't bring these shoreline regulations into the 21st century, we could face federal takeover of our economic development and land use decisions. It is critical to note, however, that these rules must be phased in and funds provided to help implement them.
   In addition, no current activities will be disrupted: no farming will cease or be affected, no docks or bulkheads removed, no houses torn down.
   These proposed rules do mean that future use of property must be sensitive to the maintenance and restoration of habitat. They mean we have to give our rivers and streams a little breathing room and let them work for us, not against us.
   Gary Locke is governor of Washington.