Updated: October 30, 2009
by Dean Kahn, The Bellingham Herald
OLYMPIA - It's official in Washington state: The name "Salish Sea" now has the stamp of approval for use in Washington state maps, documents and other materials when referring to the inland marine waters of Western Washington and southern British Columbia.
The proposal came from Bert Webber, a retired professor of marine ecology at Western Washington University.
The Washington Board of Geographic Names approved his idea, 5-1, on Friday, Oct. 30, at its meeting in Olympia.
Salish Sea is a new name, not a replacement for existing ones.The bodies of water involved Puget Sound, the Strait of Georgia and the Strait of Juan de Fuca will keep their current names.
Salish Sea will be used when referring to the connected marine areas, but there’s no requirement that maps or other materials include the name.
Webber lobbied for the name to reflect, and promote, public awareness of the common problems of the inland waters, and the need for cross-border approaches. The bigger question, he said, is whether official sanction for "Salish Sea" will foster greater protection for the three bodies of water.
"What does it mean now that we have this name?' he asked after Friday's vote.
Salish Sea is a new name, not a replacement for existing ones. The bodies of water involved - Puget Sound, the Strait of Georgia and the Strait of Juan de Fuca - will keep their current names.
Public comment ran strongly in favor of the idea. As of Oct. 29, 105 comments had been received by the state board, with 68 in favor, 15 against and 22 having no objection.
State staff said many of the people who opposed the idea mistakenly thought Salish Sea would replace the name Puget Sound, and other existing names.
The British Columbia board that deals with geographic names earlier endorsed the idea.
With approval from Washington state, the name is scheduled to be considered next month by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names. Approval by the federal board is needed before Salish Sea could be added to U.S. maps and other materials, but use of the name on Washington state materials is now assured, regardless of the federal vote.
Salish is a term used by linguists to describe the peoples and languages of tribes in the Pacific Northwest.
Webber first suggested the name 19 years ago, but officials then said there was little support for the notion. Since then, the name has won growing acceptance and use by businesses, educators, marine scientists and other people and groups.
"The credit really belongs to all those people," Webber said. "I haven't been trying to publicize it for the last 20 years."