Editorial: Salish Sea unites area

Washington’s Board of Geographic Names may have taken some kidding for “creating” an new body of water, but in fact its decision earlier this week to make “Salish Sea” official will serve to bring the waterways of the Pacific Northwest more together.

The newly-named Salish Sea encompasses Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Georgia Strait. Technically speaking, Whidbey Island is now surrounded by the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound, which are part of the larger Salish Sea, which we now share with Bellingham, the San Juan Islands and Victoria, B.C., for example.

The name Salish Sea reminds us that we area all connected by a single body of water and we are all charged with maintaining and improving its water quality. What once seemed like it was none of our business now can unite us in common celebration. For example, Victoria, B.C., recently decided to spend $1.2 billion to -- finally -- treat its wastewater before dumping it into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which is now part of our Salish Sea. It’s a success for the whole region, and good news for salmon, killer whales and other sea life. When Oak Harbor eventually upgrades its outdated wastewater treatment plant, it will benefit the entire Salish Sea community, from Olympia to Victoria.

The Salish Sea naming effort was spearheaded by Bert Webber, a retired professor of marine ecology at Western Washington University in Bellingham. He was hoping the common name would make it easier to come up with cross-border solutions to water quality problems. It was a great idea, and one that the Board of Geographic Names commendably adopted.

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