Pacific County resident honored by Department of Ecology
Pacific County resident Russ Lewis is being honored with an Environmental Excellence Award for his efforts to keep Washington beaches clean.
The Washington State Marine Debris Task Force formed to respond to marine debris along Washington beaches from the 2011 tsunami. Before 2011, Lewis had already been removing marine debris from beaches almost daily for years.
According to the Washington Department of Ecology, in 2012 Lewis assisted the Task Force by; supplying nearly daily reports on conditions along the coast, reporting to Ecology about potentially hazardous materials washing up on beaches, monitoring potentially invasive aquatic species attached to debris, and helping to prevent debris from entering Snowy Plover nesting areas.
Terry Egan, the state’s Marine Debris Task Force lead, said: “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.”
“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.” said Sally Toteff, Ecology Southwest Region Director, “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 in 2011, bringing 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.