SHERI TONN, Co-Founder, Citizens for a Healthy Bay

Who is Your Hero

Sheri Tonn was one of the founders of Citizens for a Healthy Bay (CHB) in 1990, now working for over 24 years to clean up, restore and protect the waters of Commencement Bay and South Puget Sound. She served as board president for many years, and continues to serve on CHB’s board today chairing the organization’s Policy & Technical Committee, a volunteer group made up of chemists, attorneys, engineers and government officials. Sheri played a key role in overseeing the Superfund cleanup of Commencement Bay in the early 90’s. She holds a Ph.D. in chemistry and she is Vice President for Finance and Operations at Pacific Lutheran University. In addition to her service with Citizens for a Healthy Bay, Sheri was one of the founding board members of People for Puget Sound and she served on that organization’s board for many years.

CHB enlists the participation of more than 500 volunteers each year, representing every segment of its community’s population, in restoring natural habitat areas around the bay, removing litter and debris from shorelines and educating people about the importance of protecting the community’s biggest resource, its waters.

Their work is important not just to citizens but also to the health of the different species of salmon that migrate down the Puyallup River as fingerlings and search out places to shelter before heading to the open ocean. CHB’s many natural habitat sites serve as ideal temporary hideouts to help the salmon avoid predators and find food to sustain them until they are ready for the next stage of their journeys.

How has your nominee’s efforts made a difference for the better?

Thanks in large part to the work of Sheri Tonn, Citizens for a Healthy Bay has played a lead role, since the early 90’s, in engaging citizens to work cooperatively with businesses and government agencies to transform Commencement Bay from one of the most polluted bodies of water in the country to a thriving and valuable recreational resource for everyone.

CHB’s current work focuses heavily on educating people throughout the Puyallup River Watershed about how everyday activities of all kinds of people have become the biggest source of pollution threatening Puget Sound. CHB staff members are working in Buckley, Orting, Sumner and Puyallup, educating people why it is important to pick up and properly dispose of their pet’s waste, wash their cars on their lawns or at a car wash instead of in the street, quit using so much fertilizer on their lawns, and fix their leaking vehicles. CHB teaches these things to middle school students and their teachers, right on the banks of the puyallup River. The students teach their classmates, friends and families about what they’ve learned and, gradually, the message is being understood and behaviors are beginning to change.

Through CHB’s efforts, hundreds of acres of shoreline have been resorted to natural habitat, thousands of citizens throughout the Puyhallup River Watershed, young and old, have learned how to prevent water pollution, hundreds of businesses have learned to operate without polluting, thousands of boaters have learned how to protect their waters from contamination and millions of salmon have had a better chance of surviving and reproducing.

How will being recognized as a YachtWorld Hero further your nominees cause?

Sheri’s recognition as a YachtWorld Hero will help CHB, a small, highly effective, grass roots environmental organization gain a great deal of visibility. CHB devotes almost its entire budget to expenses directly associated with its programs and services to its community. CHB must rely on its website, newsletter ad social media to bring its water pollution prevention messages to its constituency, which includes hundreds of boaters and yacht club members. The reach of YachtWorld’s website, with its 2.5 million visitors each month, would be a huge boost to CHB’s visibility. This would not only greatly enhance the organization’s ability to reach its target audiences but would also help in attracting new funding sources to support its work.

Please share any website or online articles about your nominees activities.

Sheri Tonn was nominated by James Nolan of James Nolan Associates, in the category Defending Our Oceans.

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