The Green-Duwamish Watershed Symposium: Hope for a Healthier River

200 people attended the Inaugural 2016 Green-Duwamish Watershed Symposium on February 29, 2016. The event was sold out! Government agencies, non-profit organizations, industry, teachers and students were represented. Twenty speakers arranged in 5 panels spoke about their projects in the watershed. The Symposium was held at the Tukwila Community Center beside the Duwamish River on traditional Duwamish land. Symposium coordinators kept on schedule by blowing an elk bugle call when a speaker's 10-minute presentation time ran out.

The panels covered these topic areas:
  • Sharing Knowledge
  • Building Partnerships
  • Fostering Collaboration
  • Innovating Solutions
  • Connecting for Success
Here's the Symposium schedulePosters and exhibits offered more information.

King County Executive Dow Constantine welcomed the audience, encouraging efforts to come together, build alliances and collaborate to restore our environment. King County is promoting a broad understanding of restoration and preservation through the Green/Duwamish Watershed Strategy. The County Executive emphasized that the Green-Duwamish watershed is an integrated whole and the approach to restoration must be interconnected. One good thing is that all constituents have a shared desire to protect the environment and build a healthy watershed. 

Speaking of the watershed: The Green-Duwamish watershed is a 500 square mile corridor of water, industry, transportation structure, diverse communities and urban centers that stretches for 93 miles from the Cascades to Elliott Bay. Among the wide-ranging issues discussed at the Symposium were salmon, habitat restoration, planting trees, wetlands, water quality, stormwater, source control, remediation, farmland, parks, environmental justice, youth, careers, partnerships and funding.

Climate change was mentioned frequently and is a definite player in Puget Sound. But the Keynote Speaker, Guillaume Mauger, Research Science in the University of Washington Climate Impacts Group, said that climate change doesn't trump the other stressors; it's just a new issue that has to be integrated into all the other factors affecting Puget Sound.

The Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition's (DRCC) Community Outreach Coordinator, Paulina Lopez, and Carmen Martinez, DRCC Youth Program Coordinator, presented about the Duwamish Valley Youth Corps (DVYC). This is a grant-funded program that engages youth from South Park in paid internships to address health disparities and respond to community priorities. There are now 100 DVYC alumni. Youth Corp members learn about and help restore the Duwamish River.

Linn Gould of Just Health Action introduced the social determinants of health and JHA's eight Environmental Justice Lesson Plans which were piloted by the Teen Employment Project and Duwamish Valley Youth Corps.

University of Washington researchers Nancy Rottle and Mason Bowles from the UW Green Futures Lab offered their prototype floating wetlands and proposed trying them on the Duwamish River to improve habitat for juvenile salmon.

The presentations showed progress in restoring habitat for salmon, planting trees and native plants, filtering toxins through rain gardens and soil, improving parks, salmon recovery, and cleaning up legacy pollution. The tone of the day was hopeful and collaborative with lots of community involvement. It demonstrated the progress that's happening and was a welcome contrast to the contentious meetings about contaminants and cleanup a few years ago when the EPA cleanup plan was being negotiated.

At the end of a fast-moving day, James Rasmussen offered "The Long View". Rasmussen is Coordinator of the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition and a member of the Duwamish Tribe. James reminded us that it's spring, a time of renewal and change. He talked about changes on the Duwamish, from the ice age, to salmon runs that lasted year-round, to the opening of the Ballard Locks that dropped the water level in Lake Washington and dried up the Black River. Yet, amazingly, there is still a run of wild salmon on the Duwamish. Because of the cleanup, eagles, otters, heron, and egrets are returning to the watershed. Today there is more wildlife on the Duwamish than in any other part of Seattle.

Everybody wants the best, he said. We may sometimes find ourselves on different sides, but we must remember the goal and work together, staying open to new ideas. Do we still have time to save the salmon? Let's hope so. From the Native perspective, the Duwamish watershed is a living, breathing thing. It's important for us all that it survives.

More resources:
-- Marilyn Hair

No comments:

Post a Comment