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King County Executive, Council proclaim ‘Orca Action Month’ to highlight Salish Sea icons’ need for clean water, healthy habitat

Summary

Proclaiming June as “Orca Action Month” in King County, Executive Dow Constantine and County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles are urging everyone to take simple, everyday actions that help improve stormwater quality for the benefit of people, of the Salish Sea, and for the iconic but imperiled orcas.

Story

Protecting and improving orca_awareness_proc_web_pic waterquality is one of the most important steps we all can take to help recover endangered southern resident killer whales, and King County leaders are encouraging everyone to do their part for a cleaner environment. 

King County Executive Dow Constantine was joined by the King County Council in proclaiming June as “Orca Action Month” as a way to shine a light on our shared responsibility to be good stewards of the environment.

“Simple actions that all of us can take to prevent stormwater pollution will help improve water quality throughout the Puget Sound ecosystem, benefitting fish and wildlife – including endangered southern resident killer whales and the depleted salmon runs that they depend on,” Executive Constantine said. “While we proclaim June as ‘Orca Action Month,’ it will take year-round efforts to ensure these iconic creatures rebound and remain a vital part of our way of life.”

“As our region rapidly develops and changes in so many ways, the orcas that grace us with their beauty and majesty are a reminder of why it is so important for us to preserve and conserve the environment and wild beauty that surrounds us,” said Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles. “In order for us to continue to protect these whales that are so important to our northwest identity, we must act urgently to defend our waters from harmful pollutants, preserve and restore historic salmon runs, and grow as a region responsibly.”

The southern resident killer whale population has seen a dramatic decline recently, with only 76 individuals left of this unique population. 

A primary reason for the population decline is the continuing decline of Puget Sound chinook salmon – the orcas’ preferred food. Puget Sound chinook salmon have been listed on the federal Endangered Species Act for 20 years, and degraded habitat and water quality are considered leading causes for their decline.

Executive Constantine and Councilmember Kohl-Welles urge everyone to do their part to protect water quality, including:

 Fixing car leaks.

• Using Natural Yard Care practices to reduce the use of pesticides and other potentially harmful chemicals.

 Planting a rain garden to reduce stormwater runoff that leaves the property.

 Using native plants and vegetation for landscaping that don’t require additional watering.

 Removing noxious weeds to improve habitat quality for native species.

 Volunteering with habitat restoration efforts on public lands.

 Using free hazardous waste disposal programs.

 Reporting illegal dumping.

King County is implementing Executive Constantine’s Clean Water, Healthy Habitat agenda, ensuring its investments in stormwater, habitat and wastewater treatment are made in the context of the ecosystem and address the greatest threats first.

In the county’s 2019-20 biennial budget, Kohl-Welles was able to secure funding to commissions a study to research the impact wastewater effluent has on marine life in Puget Sound, including on southern resident killer whales and chinook salmon.

The county has also accelerated efforts to improve salmon and other fish populations through a  fish passage restoration program, including new funding to support 36 fish passage projects that will allow salmon to access more than 150 miles of high-quality habitat.

King County has traditionally proclaimed a “Puget Sound Starts Here Month” to share with residents how individual decisions and actions can have a positive effect on the stormwater quality that eventually flows into the sound. This year, Executive Constantine and King County Councilmembers are partnering to highlight the connection between improving water quality and orca recovery.

The Puget Sound Starts Here public awareness campaign connects more than 750 organizations across the Puget Sound region’s 12 counties. Partners in this campaign include federal, state and local governments, tribes and non-governmental organizations dedicated to protecting Puget Sound.

RELEVANT LINKS

Puget Sound Starts Here
• King County fish passage restoration program
• King County stormwater management
• Clean Water, Healthy Habitat


QUOTES

 

 

Simple actions that all of us can take to prevent stormwater pollution will help improve water quality throughout the Puget Sound ecosystem, benefitting fish and wildlife – including endangered southern resident killer whales and the depleted salmon runs that they depend on. While we proclaim June as ‘Orca Action Month,’ it will take year-round efforts to ensure these iconic creatures rebound and remain a vital part of our way of life.” 

Dow Constantine, King County Executive

 

 

As our region rapidly develops and changes in so many ways, the orcas that grace us with their beauty and majesty are a reminder of why it is so important for us to preserve and conserve the environment and wild beauty that surrounds us. In order for us to continue to protect these whales that are so important to our northwest identity, we must act urgently to defend our waters from harmful pollutants, preserve and restore historic salmon runs, and grow as a region responsibly.”

Jeanne Kohl-Welles, King County Council

 

 

Orca Action Month is a region-wide effort to celebrate and protect one of the region’s most iconic wildlife species, but also serves as a reminder that everything that is hurting our orcas hurts us too. Communities across Washington are suffering from unhealthy waterways, too many toxics in the Salish Sea, and not enough salmon. The plight of our orcas reminds us that our solutions are one in the same and we each and all have a role to play in their recovery.” 

Rein Attemann, Washington Environmental Council and member of the Orca Salmon Alliance

 


FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Doug Williams, Department of Natural Resources and Parks, 206-477-4543