Office of Reps. Derek Kilmer and Marilyn Strickland announcement.
On Monday, January 23, U.S. Representatives Derek Kilmer (WA-06) and Marilyn Strickland (WA-10), Co-Chairs of the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus, celebrated their new law, the PUGET SOS Act, which passed the House and Senate as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2023.
The new law, signed by President Biden on December 23, aims to enhance the federal government’s role and investment in Puget Sound, the nation’s largest estuary by volume and the heart of Washington State’s identity and economic engine.
At a press conference in Tacoma, Laura Blackmore, Executive Director of the Puget Sound Partnership, joined Reps. Kilmer and Strickland to celebrate this milestone for Puget Sound recovery.
“When President Biden signed our PUGET SOS Act into law, that moment marked progress that was years in the making – and it demonstrates the federal government stepping up and treating Puget Sound the same way other bodies of water of national significance are treated,” said Rep. Kilmer. “And it’s a recognition that it’s not just about environmental protection, but about our region’s economy as well.”
Kilmer continued, “it’s also about ensuring we can continue to use the Sound for recreation, that we can continue to dig for clams, and that we continue to see Southern Resident Killer Whales in Puget Sound not just today but for generations to come.”
“As Co-Chair of the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus, protecting and restoring the Sound is a top priority,” said Rep. Strickland. “Puget Sound is a key natural resource for the South Sound and the entire state, accounting for hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions in economic impact. And now it is getting the federal recognition it deserves as one of our nation’s great marine ecosystems.”
“Our governor, state legislature, local elected officials, tribal elected officials, and our network of organizations around Puget Sound have proven their commitment to restoring it,” said Laura Blackmore, Executive Director of the Puget Sound Partnership. “We needed commensurate investment at the federal level, and today, I’m very pleased to say that the newly enacted PUGET SOS bill demonstrates that federal commitment.”
Blackmore continued, “the PUGET SOS Act aligns federal brainpower and resources to focus on Puget Sound, and makes sure that our federal partners are coordinated, that they’re setting goals, and that they’re holding each other accountable – and this alignment and accountability will increase our effectiveness and provide yet another boost to Puget Sound recovery.”
Now law, the PUGET SOS Act will help build a stronger partner in the federal government for critical Puget Sound recovery and restoration efforts by establishing a Puget Sound Recovery National Program Office in the Environmental Protection Agency to coordinate protection and restoration efforts related to Puget Sound and codify the Puget Sound Federal Leadership Task Force, created through a 2016 Memorandum of Understanding by executive action.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act, the fiscal year 2023 government funding legislation signed into law by President Biden on December 29, includes $54 million for the implementation of these provisions – a nearly $20 million increase from last year’s funding level.