Innovation and collaboration are two things I care deeply about. And I have worked hard to integrate these themes at the state Department of Ecology, where I serve as director. To demonstrate how important they are to me and this agency, they are now represented in our vision statement.
When I took this job two years ago, I made one fundamental change to our vision statement, and that was to include two words — “innovative partnerships.” As a result, Ecology’s statement now reads: “Our innovative partnerships sustain healthy land, air and water in harmony with a strong economy.”
Our entire agency is committed to partnerships with our stakeholders, the public, industries and other governmental agencies. I believe we can have a healthy environment and thriving economy. Together, through innovative partnerships, we can find creative solutions to our toughest environmental challenges.
With our offices in Richland, Yakima and Spokane, we are working hard to build those partnerships throughout Eastern Washington. And we have a lot of work happening across the Tri-City area and regionally that provide opportunities for partnerships.
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Water is a hot topic throughout the west, and Eastern Washington is no exception. We are moving forward with important projects in the Yakima and Columbia basins that will support farmers during a drought, respect tribal treaty rights and respond to climate change while meeting needs for people, farms and fish.
We’re looking at the domestic groundwater supply regionally and across the state, and working to achieve local and legislative solutions.
Money is tight for these water projects, so we are lining up our priorities in conversations with the Columbia River policy advisory group and Yakima Basin Implementation Committee.
We’re also listening to the livestock community and working to build sustainable ways to protect our drinking water while supporting vital agricultural industries.
Through unique partnerships with local communities, we are developing programs to help protect and preserve shorelines across Eastern Washington and the state. These programs are designed to protect the environment, reserve appropriate areas for water-oriented uses and provide access to public land and waters.
Washington’s cities and counties with regulated shorelines are in the process of updating their programs. So far, 113 local governments, including Kennewick, have completed updates. And we’re working with Benton City, Pasco and Richland, along with Benton and Franklin counties, to develop programs that meet state and local needs.
By creatively working together, we will ensure future generations can enjoy the beaches, shorelines and waterways we cherish so much today.
I certainly can’t talk about Tri-City partnerships without mentioning Hanford. We continue to work with the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency to address the site’s toughest environmental challenges.
Hanford cleanup is one of my top priorities, and I meet several times a year with Hanford’s top managers to discuss key issues such as tank waste retrieval, groundwater treatment and vit plant delays.
Although we don’t always agree on the path forward, Ecology is committed to working with our federal partners and Tri-City community leaders to develop solutions that are technically feasible, economically efficient and environmentally protective.
Significant progress has been made on Hanford cleanup since the Tri-Party Agreement was signed 25 years ago. This success should be celebrated, even though some of the most complex and costly cleanup projects are not at the finish line.
Our work with water, shorelines and Hanford are just a few examples of the partnerships we are cultivating locally and regionally. I believe that supporting a strong economy and thriving business community should not be at odds with supporting a clean environment.
A clean environment brings benefits to Washington businesses and people engaging with those businesses. Our cooperation and our commitment mean that together we can unlock many doors and take big steps forward for our state.
This is the legacy we leave our children and grandchildren. It’s important that we work together to find creative solutions, and that we engage with each other.
I’m proud of the work we are doing, and I look forward to strengthening these partnerships as we work to achieve our shared goals.