B.C. approves "Salish Sea" proposal

That is, if Washington and the U.S. follow suit. The name would enhance but not supplant existing names for inland waters on either side of the border.
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The world has a new sea, the Salish Sea

That is, if Washington and the U.S. follow suit. The name would enhance but not supplant existing names for inland waters on either side of the border.

The proposal to designate the inland waters of the Pacific Northwest, from Desolation Sound in British Columbia to Puget Sound in Washington, as the "Salish Sea" has taken a major step forward.

In a decision made in August, but only made known to the Washington State Board of Geographic Names this month, the British Columbia Geographical Names Office has endorsed adopting of the name by the Geographic Names Board of Canada, if Washington and the U.S. do the same.

Because the the body of water lies on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border, getting sign-off from both countries is seen as essential to final adoption of the name. Both the B.C. and Washington Names boards have been working cooperatively to gather input for making a decision. The Washington Board meets Oct. 30 to make a final call on adopting or rejecting the proposal. Input in favor of the name has been stronger than that against, according to Caleb Maki of the Washington Department of Natural Resources. The B.C. approval will likely weigh heavily and favorably with the Washington Board.

One major difference between this proposal and some previous is that the name Salish Sea would not replace any existing names: Puget Sound would remain that, as would Haro Strait, Georgia Strait, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and other well known features. The best comparison is that it is akin to the "Great Lakes," which refers to a collection of lakes in the U.S. and Canada, but does not supplant Lake Michigan or Lake Superior.

In the B.C. Names Office's recommendation, dated Aug. 7, Janet Mason, B.C. member of the Canadian Names board, cites the fact the the "Salish Sea" is already in common use among resource management professionals; is already in general public use; has been endorsed by the Coast Salish Gathering, a regional tribal organization; has generated positive public feedback, and would not alter existing names.

A quick survey of feedback gathered by the B.C. and Washington boards indicates that most objectors to the idea — setting aside the misconception that names like Puget Sound would be changed — consider it a waste of time or an attempt to ride the "hobby horse," as one complainant expressed it, of political correctness.

Boosters hope the new name will help tie the region together around greater awareness of the Salish Sea ecosystem, and argue that it gives recognition to indigenous inhabitants of the region. Northwest tourism businesses in the area already use the name frequently to promote cruises, whale watching and other activities.


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About the Authors & Contributors

Knute Berger

Knute Berger

Knute “Mossback” Berger is Crosscut's Editor-at-Large.