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Elected Leaders Deliver,
But More Swift Action Needed

by Editorial Board
Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber, March 8, 2022

We know what is possible when leaders step up to lead.

Map showing location of 4 lower Snake River dams and reservoirs being considered for removal Last Friday, Gov. Jay Inslee signed a 16.9 billion transportation package, called "Move Ahead Washington," that many have extolled as an expression of visionary progressive goals.

The package includes funding for four new hybrid-electric ferries, tens of thousands of new EV charging stations, 25 transit electrification projects across the state, and (can it really be true?) free fares for passengers 18 and younger on all public transportation.

The bill will also require that all new vehicles sold or registered in Washington be electric in a mere eight years -- the blink of an eye, and yet, the climate crisis leaves little time to waste or room for error. The biggest trick of this plan, of course, is to also address the huge environmental cost of creating lithium batteries needed for this kind of electrification. But for now, Inslee is strongly establishing a timeline for moving away from energy that comes from fossil fuels.

"Transportation is our state's largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. There is no way to talk about climate change without talking about transportation," Inslee said at the bill's signing. "This package will move us away from the transportation system our grandparents imagined and towards the transportation system our grandchildren dream of."

The package also includes a significant infusion of funding for removing hundreds of fish passage barriers along state highways that block approximately 650 miles of habitat for salmon and steelhead.

We hope that Inslee takes the ecological next step, in the coming months, to fully embrace the growing public support and momentum for the removal of four federal dams on the Snake River -- a measure supported by regional scientists and long advocated by Northwest tribes, sport and commercial fishing groups, people of faith, outdoor recreational enthusiasts' associations, and national, regional and Tacoma-area conservation organizations. (See "Islanders join rally, urging lawmakers to restore Snake River," page 1.)

The urgency of the environmental crisis demands bold action by lawmakers -- a point underscored by Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal's visit to Vashon last week.

Meeting with island environmental leaders from Vashon Nature Center, Vashon-Maury Island Land Trust, King County and Save Our Wild Salmon, Jayapal spoke about how the federal infrastructure bill will benefit local communities like Vashon by directing "billions of dollars" into green building projects, and removing fish passage barriers and culverts to assist in salmon restoration.

She also touted her own pending legislation, the Climate Resiliency Workforce Act, which would bolster the development of regional, state, local and community-based climate resilience plans.

Vashon, of course, already knows a thing or two about community-based resilience -- read this week's report from VashonBePrepared (see "Keeping an eye on BA.2, COVID response team looks back, page 1) providing a capsule of the work of the affiliated groups of people who have led Vashon's COVID-19 response in the past two years.

The results of their work speaks for itself: Vashon's public health education program, coupled with testing, contact tracing, and vaccination yielded strong results. Vashon's cumulative COVID case rate for the two years of the pandemic is half that of King County as a whole, and our death rate is one-third of the county's rate.

We know what is possible when leaders step up to lead.

Of course, politics can still also be -- for lack of a less Trumpian term -- the art of the deal, as islander Paul Queary points out in his commentary on this page about some of the sausage-making that went into the passage of Inslee's transportation package.

And in her town hall meeting on Vashon, even Jayapal acknowledged the difficulty of deep and swift change, in the face of a 50/50 split in the Senate.

Still, she urged islanders not to give up, and to believe that bold progressive change is possible.

All that is required, she said, is more work.

"There are so many people in the history of this world who have gone through so many difficult things to change what seemed impossible to change," she said. "And they never gave up."

Editorial Board
Elected Leaders Deliver, But More Swift Action Needed
Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber, March 8, 2022

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