At a hearing of the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday with U.S. Environmental Protect Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan, U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06) continued his push to ensure the Biden Administrations steps up to invest in Puget Sound recovery and restoration. As co-founder of the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus, Rep. Kilmer has worked to ensure the federal government assists regional efforts to restore salmon and orca populations, restore and re-open shellfish beds, prevent pollution from urban storm water runoff, and uphold tribal treaty rights.
“Puget Sound is our region’s most iconic body of water, a place on which generations of Washingtonians and Native Americans have built their lives and made their livelihoods. The Sound supports more than 150,000 jobs and fishing and shellfish harvesting the maritime industry. There are 19 federally recognized tribes that have made Puget Sound their homes since time immemorial, including 17 with tribal treaty rights to harvest fish and shellfish. And the federal government has a trust responsibility to support Puget Sound recovery and uphold those treaty rights,” said Rep. Kilmer during the hearing.
He continued, “I believe that now, more than ever, there is real opportunity for Congress and the federal government to adopt policies that will protect our planet for future generations. And as our nation continues to adjust to our new normal, it’s clear that major federal investments will be needed to restart our economy and get folks back to work.”
Administrator Regan committed to ensuring the federal government steps-up to help restoration and recovery efforts.
“First and foremost, we believe that the work that we’re doing there will enhance water quality, which is critical, a critical part of our mission. The economic vitality of the Sound is important to you, important to us, to demonstrate that environmental protection and economic prosperity are not mutually exclusive. They go hand in hand. And in this case, there is a direct connection to the work that we want to do in terms of our investments in water infrastructure, especially in the area you identified, which is if we’re going to improve in the area of storm water and flooding, we’ve got to take a look at what we’re doing on the side of working with Puget Sound and looking at some of the natural remedies that we can begin to invest in. And so, we look forward to continuing to partner there,” Administrator Regan said.
During the hearing, Rep. Kilmer also pushed for Administrator Regan to build a stronger federal partnership with state, local, and tribal governments and support the PUGET SOS Act of 2021, legislation Rep. Kilmer introduced with Puget Sound Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Marilyn Strickland (WA-10) to enhance the federal government’s role and investment in the Puget Sound. The legislation passed out of the House Transportations and Infrastructure Committee with bipartisan support earlier this year.
“Absolutely. I’ll assure you and commit to you that we look forward to the partnership,” said Administrator Regan. “As a former state secretary, I know that state and locals know their communities much better than the federal government ever could. We have to have an effective partnership, and I look forward to thinking through how we can leverage state, federal and local resources so that we’re using the resources and the investments in the most impactful way to preserve the environment but grow the economy and create economic stimuli at the local level.”
The omnibus spending bill signed into law in December of 2020 made important investments in restoring Puget Sound, including $33.75 million for the Puget Sound Geographic Program, which provides critical grant support to state, local, and tribal governments to implement projects to improve water quality, protect shorelines, and enhance fish passage and salmon habitat. The increase over the Fiscal Year 2020 enacted level, which Rep. Kilmer fought to secure as a member of the Appropriations Committee, rejected a Trump Administration proposal to eliminate the program altogether. Supporters of Puget Sound recovery lauded these investments as critical in the effort to recover iconic species, like salmon and orca, and continue to improve the health of the Sound.
The Puget Sound Recovery Caucus, founded in 2013 and currently co-chaired by Reps. Kilmer and Strickland, focuses on recovering Puget Sound through steps like preventing pollution from urban storm water runoff, protecting and restoring habitat, and restoring and re-opening shellfish beds.