Portland, OR - On Sept 18, The Governors of WA, OR, and CA announced an historic agreement to collectively address declining health of the ocean off the west coast. Surfrider was one of 5 environmental groups invited to attend the surprise press conference and provide comments to the media
Governor Gregoire and Governor Kulongoski in Portland (photo by Pete Stauffer)
Pacific state leaders unite to protect ocean
By Winston Ross
Published: Tuesday, September 19, 2006
PORTLAND - The governors of Oregon, California and Washington agreed Monday to join together to protect the Pacific Ocean, in much the same way the states teamed up earlier this year to fight greenhouse gases.
Conservationists said they were encouraged by the partnership, which could ramp up pressure on the federal government to enact a series of reforms the Pew Oceans Commission and U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy have recommended in recent years.
The Bush administration has been slow to act on the pleadings of both groups, who said that threats to the ocean require bold actions and millions of dollars in research into a body of water that's less understood than the surface of Mars.
At a press conference at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry on Monday, governors Ted Kulongoski and Christine Gregoire of Washington were joined by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger via teleconference. All pledged to oppose federal attempts to permit offshore oil and gas drilling off their coasts and ask Congress and the Bush Administration to fund research into pollution sources and ocean observation.
"It's harder for the federal government to ignore us if we speak with a common voice," Schwarzenegger said.
Kulongoski noted the work of the three governors in passing uniform tailpipe emissions laws, and said the ocean initiative could accomplish similar feats. He said that Oregon is the only one of the three states yet to establish a network of marine reserves <31>- areas of the ocean declared off limits to fishing and other potentially harmful activity - and pointed out that governors do have a say in what happens in terrestrial waters (up to three miles offshore.)
"There are things we can do collectively, which if we do individually have a marginal impact," Kulongoski said. "On energy policy, there's an attempt by the federal government to preempt states; they did it with (liquefied natural gas) siting and it's the same way with offshore drilling."
With traditional oil reserves growing ever more scarce, and high gasoline prices, pressure to find new sources of fossil fuels poses new threats, the governors said. While no specific proposals exist to open up Oregon for drilling now, there have been attempts to lease sites in the past, said Bob Bailey, ocean and coastal services division manager for the state Department of Land Conservation and Development.
Gregoire broached the idea of a West Coast-wide beach cleanup that could involve schoolchildren. She also said the teaming of scientists from the three states' universities could help garner grant money for much-needed research, and that a coastwide effort to find alternative sources of energy could help combat the purported need for offshore oil and gas drilling in the west.
Conservationists applauded the agreement.
'It's encouraging to see the governors identify this as a top priority," said Peter Stauffer, Oregon policy coordinator for the Surfrider Foundation, which has been pressuring officials here to identify sources of pollution that taint beaches. "I'll be interested to see some of the specific action items to come out of this agreement."
Oregon State University oceanographer Jack Barth said Tuesday he hoped the agreement would lead to a marine reserves or marine protected areas network, adding "the ocean doesn't really know anything about state boundaries."
Barth also said the agreement could lead to better communication between scientists, researchers and government officials in all three states, which would be helpful in understanding the hypoxic "dead zones" that have suffocated marine life in some areas of the Pacific in recent years.
"I think we can make a lot of progress talking about healthy marine ecosystems," Barth said.
Winston Ross can be reached at (541) 902-9030 or firstname.lastname@example.org.