Kilmer, Heck, Reichert Call on Trump to Support Puget Sound Cleanup

President’s proposed budget for EPA would eliminate Geographic Programs which invest in cleanup for Puget Sound, Great Lakes, and Chesapeake Bay

Tuesday, U.S. Representatives Derek Kilmer (WA-06), Denny Heck (WA-10), and Dave Reichert (WA-08), members of the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus, called on President Trump to not eliminate investments in iconic bodies of water. In a letter to the President signed by 33 other members, they warned the President should reconsider his budget proposal that would completely eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency’s Geographic Programs that provide cleanup funding for Puget Sound, the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, and other major bodies of water. 

“Puget Sound is an iconic body of water that is vital to our economy and to who we are as Washingtonians,” said Kilmer. “Clean water and good jobs are important to our region. We can’t have them without a healthy Sound. This proposal would be devastating to local efforts to restore shellfish beds, revitalize salmon runs, and recover Puget Sound for future generations can enjoy its waters. The federal government should be a partner in this effort and that’s why we are calling on the President to not abandon our Puget Sound.” 

“Washingtonians have spoken loud and clear—we need the EPA’s help to save our Sound,” said Heck. “This funding is the foundation of our efforts to restore Puget Sound, helping our state, cities, and tribes clean up our waters and shorelines. In order to protect the thousands of jobs that depend on a healthy Puget Sound, as well as iconic Pacific Northwest species like the orca and salmon, the President must restore this funding.”

“The health of the Puget Sound is critical to Washington’s economy and local jobs, the safety of the food we eat, and the countless species that call the Sound home,” said Reichert. “The cleanup and rehabilitation efforts funded by the EPA’s Geographic Program, such as salmon recovery efforts, have proven to be well worth the investment.  Eliminating this funding would have a ripple effect across the state and impact the marine and seafood industry across the country. I urge the Administration to reconsider and recognize that protecting our environment is not just the right thing to do, but it is economically wise.”

Clean water in Puget Sound is essential to support 3,200 shellfish jobs that generate $184 million in revenue each year. 80 percent of statewide tourism and recreational dollars are tied to Puget Sound. The state’s marine industry – which includes fishing fleets, ports, and seafood processors – generates $30 billion annually.

The Puget Sound Geographic program provides grants to state, local, and tribal governments to implement projects to improve water quality, enhance fish passage, increase salmon habitat, and protect shorelines. Every EPA dollar spent on Puget Sound recovery efforts has leveraged more than $24 in matching funds from other federal agencies and local partners, including the state, tribes, and non-profits.

Congressmen Kilmer and Heck co-founded the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus in 2013 as part of their ongoing commitment to preserving Puget Sound. The three priorities of the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus are: preventing pollution from urban storm water runoff, protecting and restoring habitat, and restoring and re-opening shellfish beds.

Full text of the letter follows.

The Honorable Donald J. Trump
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20500
Mr. President,

We write to express our strong and unified support for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Geographic Programs, including the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), Puget Sound, Chesapeake Bay Program, Long Island Sound, Gulf of Mexico, and others. 

The lakes, estuaries, and shorelines protected by these programs are truly national treasures.  The Great Lakes are the largest freshwater system in the world, holding roughly 18 percent of the world’s fresh water supply and 90 percent of the United States’ fresh water supply.  The Puget Sound and the Chesapeake Bay watersheds are the Nation’s two largest estuaries, encompassing more than 48 million acres of rivers, bays, beaches and shorelines that support some of the Nation’s most valuable fisheries.

These iconic bodies of water are also crucial economic drivers that support millions of jobs and billions of dollars in economic impact across the country.  In Washington State, the marine industry – which includes fishing fleets, ports, and seafood processors – generates $30 billion annually, and is directly tied to the health of the Puget Sound.  Likewise, more than 1.5 million jobs and $62 billion in wages are directly tied to the Great Lakes.

Collectively, the EPA’s Geographic Program funds have been used by state, local, and tribal governments to implement thousands of on-the-ground projects to improve water quality, protect and restore native habitats, enhance fish and shellfish populations, and combat invasive species.  Although every region has shown significant improvement as the result of these investments, there is still a great deal of work to do. 

For example, in 2014 a toxic algal bloom in Lake Erie forced 400,000 residents in the Toledo area to go without home water service for three days.  Similarly, in 2015 the Puget Sound experienced the largest toxic algae bloom ever recorded off the West Coast which closed shellfish and crab fisheries throughout the region. Likewise, the annual “dead zone” in the Chesapeake Bay, the result of algal blooms feeding off nutrient pollution, causes significant stress to the Bay’s ecosystem and strains the populations of commercial species such as the iconic blue crab.

The economic impacts from these algal blooms reverberate throughout these regions.  Grants from the EPA’s geographic programs have been critical to funding research and monitoring efforts to improve predictions of these blooms, but it is clear that much more work remains in order to protect the health of our citizens and our local economies.

Similarly, in South Florida, the EPA’s geographic program funds have been critical to supporting efforts to monitor and reduce the impact of point- and nonpoint-source pollution on the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.  These efforts are key to protecting indigenous populations of corals, shellfish, fish and wildlife, and recreational activities which are all critical economic drivers for the region.

We know that you are strongly in favor of growing the economy, protecting clean water, and creating jobs. The federal funding provided through the Geographic Programs does just that.  A peer-reviewed study of the Chesapeake cleanup plan demonstrated that the Chesapeake provides benefits of more than $107 billion annually to the region, which will grow by more than $22 billion annually once the cleanup plan is complete.

Likewise, the GLRI has accomplished four times more clean-up and restoration work in the last six years than was undertaken over the previous 22 years.  This progress has helped rejuvenate the hunting, fishing, and birding opportunities which support 217,000 tourism and recreation jobs throughout the region.  Furthermore, in Washington State alone, every EPA dollar spent on Puget Sound recovery efforts has leveraged more than $24 in matching funds from other federal agencies and local partners, including the state, tribes, and non-profits.  That’s an enormous return on investment.

Given the sweeping economic impacts of the Geographic Programs, we ask that you continue to include robust support for these programs in your Fiscal Year 2018 budget request and beyond.  The health of our communities and the strength of our economies depend on it.

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