Community Government

Gig Harbor is second city to recognize rights of Southern Resident orcas

Posted on December 16th, 2022 By:

Gig Harbor became the second Washington city to recognize the rights of the Southern Resident orcas when Mayor Tracie Markley read a proclamation at Monday’s city council meeting.

The local recognition, suggested by Councilmember Jeni Woock, comes a week after a similar move by Port Townsend in Jefferson County.

The proclamation recognizes that Southern Residents are “culturally and economically important to the people of Washington State and the world.” Just 74 of the iconic Southern Residents remain.

It recognizes that the “rights of the Southern Resident orcas include … the right of life; autonomy; free and safe passage; adequate food supply from naturally occurring sources; and freedom from conditions causing physical, emotional or mental harm, including a habitat degraded by noise, pollution and contamination.”

The proclamation further urges action by governments to protect orcas.

Twila Slind of Legal Rights for the Salish Sea thanked the mayor and council for the proclamation, saying “recognizing the inherent rights of our Southern Resident orcas is a first step towards reversing their decline.”

Twila Slind of Legal Rights for the Salish Sea, left, and Gig Harbor Mayor Tracie Markley after the mayor read a proclamation on legal rights for Southern Resident orcas on Monday, Dec. 12.

Council rescinds COVID-19 emergency measure

The city council rescinded a 2020 emergency measure in response to COVID-19.

In addition to public health and safety measures, the emergency action also allowed the city to forgive late charges on utility bills; delayed a ban on single-use plastic items like utensils or straws; and allowed the city to conduct remote instead of in-person meetings.

Along with plastic forks and straws, items like single-use plastic or Styrofoam containers and other non-recyclable items will be prohibited in the city as of Jan. 12, 2023.

City staff will reach out to utility customers about the end of forgiveness for late payments, according to City Administrator Knutson.

Other business

  • The council approved the sale of a $4.25 million limited tax general obligation bond. Proceeds from the bond will help the city but 24 acres off Burnham Drive, adjacent to Cushman Trail. The property, once purchased from Richard H. Shaw and David Warren Properties, will be conserved.
  • The council received a $50,000 donation from the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation, on behalf of the Gig Harbor Land Conservation Fund. The money is for acquisition of land for the North Creek Salmon Heritage Site. The city purchased the land in September. Councilmember Robyn Denson announced that the city will host an “un-groundbreaking” ceremony on Jan. 14 to celebrate the purchase of the Phase 3 parcel that’s located immediately north of Donkey Creek.
  • The council approved an agreement to establish a Sister City relationship with Milna, Croatia. The city cemented a similar relationship this year with Bodø, Norway.

The next council meeting is scheduled for Jan 9.

Holiday decorations adorn the Gig Harbor City Council chambers on Monday, Dec. 12, 2022. Charlee Glock-Jackson