Dear Friends, 

Earlier this week, Washington was the center of the baseball world!


Starting on Saturday, Seattle hosted Major League Baseball’s All-Star Festivities – the HBCU Swingman Classic, the All-Star Futures Game, the Celebrity All-Star Game, the 2023 MLB Draft, the Home Run Derby, and the All-Star Game!


In the Home Run Derby, we also got a chance to see our own Seattle Mariner Julio Rodriguez compete!



While Julio did not wind up winning the Home Run Derby, during the first round he set a record for the most home runs hit in a single round at 41! Truly a historic performance, and an incredible display for the hometown Seattle crowd.


This was an incredible week for Seattle, and I am so glad we were able to highlight our wonderful fans for a larger audience. Thank you to everyone who helped put this incredible event on, and everyone who attended and made this week so special!


Keep reading for more on this Fantastic Friday. 

“Stay Safe, Stay Healthy” 
Rep. Debra Lekanoff


Neilson Powless in the Tour de France!


Staying in the world of sports, the always exciting Tour de France is happening right now!


The annual event started earlier this month and will run for another ten days. At the moment, the riders are more than halfway through the grueling race, and I want to take a second to highlight one cyclist in particular.


Neilson Powless!



Last year Neilson made history as the first Native person to ride in the Tour de France, and this year he is currently leading the King of Mountains competition, meaning he is at the front of the pack as the best climber in this year’s Tour!


Neilson is of Oneida descent and grew up in California. He has been an incredible inspiration for years now, and I am so happy to see him competing for this prestigious honor in the Tour de France.


If you want to learn more about the Tour, or follow along as they progress, click here.



New Rule Protecting Southern Resident Killer Whales


While we have talked in recent months about the importance of protecting our Southern Resident orca whales, legislation has been moving slowly in the Peoples’ House.


Today, however, I am happy to let you know that the Department of Fish and Wildlife have issued an emergency rule, increasing the distance commercial whale watching vessels must stay away from the 11 orcas by 300 yards to either side and 400 yards in front and behind, to about 1,000 feet on all sides.


This is an important step to take to protect the beautiful creatures who call our shores home. We know from generations of experience living alongside these Killer Whales – and from a 2022 Report from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife – that bringing our boats and ships too close to the Southern Residents can have incredibly harmful effects.


We have observed that these Orca are heavily impacted by noise and disturbance. Female Killer Whales will stop hunting and feeding their babies when there is too much noise in the surrounding water, instead taking the time to move and try to find a quiet place to nurse and hunt.



While this is a fantastic move in the right direction, we will continue working to pass a counterpart to SB 537, which passed the State Senate and would require that recreational and commercial boats follow the same regulations that whale watching boats are required to follow.


An important point to mention as this bill is considered – tribal and commercial harvest fishing vessels will be exempt while harvesting, as it would be dangerous for the fishing boats and whales if abrupt action needed to be taken while gear is in the water.


It will take a strong 40th team – and I am glad to have my colleagues from the 40th alongside me in Olympia for this important mission – to save our Southern Resident Killer Whales, and I am confident we will have real bipartisan support as this makes its way to Governor Inslee’s desk.



New MMIP Regional Program 


Over the years we have done so many incredible things together, and some of the work I am the proudest of is our efforts to combat the ongoing crisis around Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples.


During my time in Olympia we have taken many great steps forward to making sure our loved ones are safer, including the creation of a first of its kind alert system, similar to amber alerts, that help us bring our missing Indigenous brothers and sisters home.


Now, I am happy to say that there is a new federal program coming to Washington!



At the end of last month, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced “the creation of the Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP) Regional Outreach Program, which permanently places 10 attorneys and coordinators in five designated regions across the United States to aid in the prevention and response to missing or murdered Indigenous people.”


Here is what Attorney General Merrick Garland said about the new program:


“This new program mobilizes the Justice Department’s resources to combat the crisis of Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons, which has shattered the lives of victims, their families, and entire Tribal communities. The Justice Department will continue to accelerate our efforts, in partnership with Tribes, to keep their communities safe and pursue justice for American Indian and Alaska Native families.”


The five regions include the Northwest, Southwest, Great Plains, Great Lakes, and Southeast Regions, and the Northwest office will come here to Washington State.


You all know how important this issue is, and I am excited to have this new office coming to assist our ongoing efforts. I will be sure to keep you updated as we work to coordinate and collaborate to find the best path forward.



New Project in the Skagit 


A new project to expand fish habitat in an unnamed tributary to Carpenter Creek under State Route 534 near Conway started last week.


The Washington State Department of Transportation is undertaking this $4.6 million project to remove a concrete pipe under the roadway and install a new fish passable structure. 


This work will impact travelers using SR534 – here is what the Department of Transportation has said should be expected:


  • Work hours are from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, through late fall 2023.
  • Weekday daytime shoulder closures in the work zone.
  • Single-lane closures with flaggers alternating eastbound and westbound SR 534 traffic.
  • An around-the-clock closure of SR 534 at milepost 0.5 for up to five days in early August. A signed detour using SR 538, Interstate 5, SR 9 and SR 530 will move people around the closure, but people should plan for extra travel time. WSDOT will announce the dates for the closure on the project webpage once they become available.


For more information about the project, click here.