Thursday the Promoting United Government Efforts to Save Our Sound (PUGET SOS) Act, H.R. 2247, passed through the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee by voice vote.
Puget Sound is the nation’s largest estuary and the heart of Washington state’s identity and economic engine. But four salmon and steelhead stocks are on the endangered species list; the iconic Southern Resident orcas are on the verge of extinction; and the shellfish industry faces growing threats of ocean acidification and water pollution. In order to save our Sound, state, tribal, and local entities need a strong partner in the federal government.
The PUGET SOS Act, first introduced by Reps. Denny Heck (WA-10) and Derek Kilmer (WA-06) in 2015, addresses this need in three ways.
First, the bill establishes a Puget Sound Recovery National Program Office in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to coordinate protection and restoration efforts related to Puget Sound.
Second, it codifies the establishment of the Puget Sound Federal Leadership Task Force, which was first created through a 2016 Memorandum of Understanding by executive action. The Task Force consists of representatives from various agencies that have a role in Puget Sound recovery.
Third, the bill authorizes $50 million per year to carry out the provisions above.
“I am encouraged that the PUGET SOS Act received bipartisan support in committee,” said Rep. Heck, “and I am heartened by the momentum building behind the bill. Puget Sound is the centerpiece of our region, and its health is crucial to the vitality of Western Washington and the strength of our local economy.”
“In our region, we know how important Puget Sound is to our identify and our economy – so it’s exciting to see the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee unanimously advance legislation to enhance the federal government’s role and investment in Puget Sound,” said Rep. Kilmer. “Taking action now to protect and restore the Sound is a big deal if we’re going to recover our salmon populations, ensure future generations can dig for clams, and protect critical species like the orca. I’m proud to partner with Representative Heck to make meaningful progress for the future.”
Reps. Heck and Kilmer co-founded the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus in 2013 as part of their ongoing commitment to recover and preserve Puget Sound. The three priorities of the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus are preventing pollution from urban stormwater runoff, protecting and restoring habitat, and restoring and re-opening shellfish beds.