Dear Friends, 

Earlier this week, we saw the return of a timeless and beautiful event as the 2023 Canoe Journey got underway!


The Canoe Journey is an annual event that sees tribal canoe families set off through the Salish Sea to local communities all throughout the pacific Northwest, eventually meeting at the Muckleshoot Community Center.



This is the first year since before the COVID-19 pandemic that we are seeing a Canoe Journey, and I am so thrilled that is has returned!


We have come so far since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with each passing day we are seeing the return of things we thought lost – whether they are little, everyday things, or cultural touchstones like the Canoe Journey.


For more information about the Journey, click here.


Congratulations to everyone who is taking part in this tremendous event!


Keep reading for more on this Fantastic Friday. 

“Stay Safe, Stay Healthy” 
Rep. Debra Lekanoff


The State of Washington’s Economy 


Earlier this week, I received an update from State Treasurer Mike Pelicciotti updating us on the current state of Washington’s economy and credit – and everything is looking fantastic.


During this year’s legislative session, as we were developing out the state budget my colleagues in Olympia and I made sure to follow the guidance of the Treasurer’s Office, who keeps us our credit rating strong.


Due to our ongoing work to ensure that our economy remains robust, we are able to identify investment opportunities that provide us the funding to support the vast number of programs and services that Washingtonians enjoy and utilize.


For example, the Treasurer’s office recently sold $1.1 billion in new bonds to fund capital and transportation budget projects, bringing important improvements throughout our great state.


I am so grateful to all of the dedicated individuals in Olympia – both my colleagues in the legislature and those working in the Treasurer’s Office – who work so hard to ensure that we are set up for success tomorrow, and beyond.



Addressing the Teacher Shortage in Washington

As we have discussed previously, all of our work today must be founded in the strong belief that it is our responsibility to create a better tomorrow for our children.


This starts by helping provide the best possible education for generations to come, and we must work to support teachers however we can. They are in the classroom every day with the next generation of Washingtonians, and supporting their efforts will benefit us all.


Unfortunately, Washington is also suffering from the nationwide teacher shortage.



According to the National Conference of State Legislators:


“Every year, the U.S. Department of Education collects teacher shortage areas from all 50 states and territories in order to:


  • Highlight the specific staffing needs in states and territories by subject areas and disciplines, grade levels, and/or geographic regions.
  • Serve as a resource for educator professionals about potential opportunities in each state and territory.
  • Serve as a resource for advising federal student aid recipients of the potential to reduce, defer, or discharge student loan repayments by teaching in certain areas.”


They created an interactive map to look at teacher shortages by region, and Washington has a teacher shortage in several subjects: Career and Technical Education, Elementary Education, Language Arts, Mathematics, and Special Education.


As we look ahead to 2024 and beyond, supporting our teachers must be a priority for all of us in Olympia. I will always work to ensure that our teachers are compensated fairly, and that we create an environment here in Washington that attracts the best tutelage for our children.


Keep an eye out for future work on this vital issue.



Setting Our Students Up For Success 


This week I want to touch on a number of issues related to education – in addition to the teacher shortage, I feel it is necessary for us to discuss the new education standards approved last week by the Florida Board of Education.


These new standards bar instruction in public schools that suggests anyone is privileged or oppressed based on their race or skin color, doing an incredible disservice to the students of Florida.



Ensuring that we have a strong education for our youth is a priority of mine, and I will always work to ensure that Washington’s students are well rounded and set up for success.


In 2015, Washington put into place Senate Bill 5433 modifying the original 2005 legislation, now requiring the Since Time Immemorial: Tribal Sovereignty in Washington state or other tribally-developed curriculum be taught in all schools.  The use of the Since Time Immemorial curriculum has been endorsed by all 29 federally recognized tribes in the state of Washington.


Properly educating our children is the strongest tool we have to create a better tomorrow, and any standards for tutelage that restrict what our teachers can teach will only have negative impacts on our students.


Here in Washington, we will always work to ensure that our students are taught in a way that sets them up for success their entire lives, and I am proud of the work we have done strengthening the Since Time Immemorial curriculum.



Official Drought Declaration 


Friends, earlier this week the Washington State Department of Ecology officially declared a drought in 12 watersheds around the state, escalating a situation that has been ongoing for months and needs our attention.


The Department of Ecology has $3 million to give to public entities to help with fish and wildlife preservation, as well as to increase water supplies for farms and cities. The department is currently accepting applications for funding.


Both Whatcom and Skagit county were included in the declaration, and the Nooksack River Basin is currently operating on emergency status.


About 350 water customers are affected, according to the Department of Ecology, and that number will only grow as this emergency unfolds.


It is up to us to do our part and help ease the situation – both by conserving water wherever possible, and taking concrete action to address environmental issues that are plaguing not only Washington, but the entire world.


 In the coming weeks we’ll dive deeper into the drought, its impacts, and what we can do moving forward. For now, if you are looking for additional information, click here.



How Climate Change Impacts Our Salmon 


As we stand witness to the increasing impacts of climate change around the world, there are mounting effects right here in Washington that need our attention.


One of those is the growing need to address climate change in order to save our native salmon population, who find their natural habitats increasingly threatened by the rising temperatures and shrinking glaciers.



The average annual air temperature in Washington rose by 1.77 degrees Fahrenheit between 1960 and 2020, with no signs of slowing down. As we continue to emit substantial amounts of greenhouse gases, we will only see the temperature rise, and the rate of change increase.


As the temperatures in Washington and around the world have risen, we are watching our glaciers shrink and mountain snowpack become smaller every year.


Our native salmon population return to Washington streams every year, expecting cold and plentiful water. Instead, as the glaciers and snowpack shrink, we are seeing smaller and smaller amounts of water that are warmer than the salmon expect.


Without direct action, we slowly ruin the natural habitat of this vital creature, reducing the overall population and the locations that they can call home.


This is just one of the many lasting and deep impacts of climate change that it is our responsibility to address. My work will always be founded on creating a world in which my grandchildren’s grandchildren can thrive, and that starts by making sure that the natural beauty if this world is protected.



Restoring Whatcom Creek


Finally, this week I’m happy to let you know that the Washington State Department of Ecology has submitted the Whatcom Creek Bacteria Total Maximum Daily Load water quality improvement plan to the Environmental Protection Agency for approval!


The plan will work to lower the overall bacteria levels in Whatcom Creek and its primary tributaries. The bacteria in Whatcom Creek has had negative impacts on fishing, shell fishing, and other recreational uses.



The goal of the plan is to identify which areas of the Whatcom Creek need the most attention, and developing systems to improve the water quality to levels that would allow swimming and other recreational activities for Washingtonians.


This is a great step forward to restore our natural world to its original splendor, and I am thrilled that this process is underway! My hope is that soon we will see our children enjoying the water on hot summer days, with the animals who call Whatcom Creek home thriving and healthy.