NOAA's Response and Restoration Blog

An inside look at the science of cleaning up and fixing the mess of marine pollution

From Community Rescuers to Co-Workers: Reflections on World Oceans Day

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Within my first couple of hours on the job at NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration, I realized how much my life had already crossed paths with this organization. I grew up in Eagle Harbor, located in Puget Sound, Washington, and my house looked straight across at an old creosote plant that polluted my piece of the ocean.

A ferry in Eagle Harbor, Washington

A ferry pulls into Eagle Harbor, Wash., which was essentially my backyard growing up. Credit: Joe Inslee.

Little did I know then that I would someday work for the office that evaluated the marine environmental damage from activities conducted at this very plant. The office also restored beaches in the harbor that I still use when I return home.

After high school, I headed north to Bellingham, Wash., where the memory of a tragic pipeline explosion was fresh in the minds and hearts of the community. As a result of a pipeline leak, over 200,000 gallons of gasoline flowed into a creek that ran through downtown Bellingham. After igniting, the explosion severely damaged the creek’s ecosystem and tragically killed three community members.

Very early in my new job at NOAA, I was amazed to learn how closely my office was involved in dealing with that incident. My co-workers acted quickly to provide scientific support to response agencies and are still involved in returning the creek environment to its pre-spill state through such actions as restoring salmon habitat and improving public access to the creek.

Why do these experiences and realizations carry such significance to me as I sit in my cube in D.C. years later? Quite simply, they are my ultimate motivators.  I know first-hand how the multiple communities I have lived in have benefited from my co-workers’ efforts. I completely understand how environmental restoration projects can help a community recover from environmental damage.

It can be easy for us who sit in cubicle-land to slowly become removed from the natural resources we are charged to protect and restore. Fortunately, my personal connections with this office help me maintain this connection today and every other day.

Author: Joe Inslee

Joe Inslee is a policy/outreach analyst with NOAA’s Assessment and Restoration Division. His work helps raise the visibility of the critical scientific work his office conducts after a hazardous release.

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