The Task Force – consisting of the state Military Department’s Emergency Management Division (EMD), Ecology and several other state agencies – was created by the Governor’s office to work with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) to coordinate state, federal, tribal and local activities. Volunteer efforts along beaches always have been key to keeping shores clear of marine debris.
Terry Egan, the state’s Marine Debris Task Force lead, said: “Innovative partnerships with everyone, from citizens like Russ to local communities and volunteer groups to state and federal agencies and Tribal governments have been essential in addressing this issue. Russ’ efforts have saved the state thousands of dollars while providing extremely valuable information. It is unlikely state agencies would have been able to monitor conditions along the coast at the same level without his support.”
Sally Toteff, Ecology Southwest Region Director, said: “Russ is an excellent example of how individuals quietly contribute to the extraordinary quality of life of Washington’s coastal communities and elsewhere in our state. Even before the tragic Japan tsunami, Russ and his neighbors were often spending countless hours scouring the Long Beach Peninsula and picking up marine debris, using their own resources. While he’s had noteworthy assistance from various local folks, Russ’ efforts extend well beyond removing debris from beaches. That’s why we are recognizing him with this award of excellence.”
Marine debris has been an ongoing issue for decades, but concerns were elevated after the earthquake and tsunami claimed nearly 20,000 lives, destroyed countless homes and structures and swept 5 million tons of debris into the Pacific Ocean. While 70 percent of the debris likely sank near Japan’s shore, the remaining 1.5 million tons of debris dispersed in the ocean.
The Environmental Excellence Award is the Department of Ecology’s highest award for recognizing environmental excellence in the state of Washington. The department issues the award to individuals, businesses, and organizations that have shown leadership, innovation or extraordinary service in protecting, improving, or cleaning up the environment.