Friday, the House Committee on Appropriations voted to approve a $5 million increase in 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, which Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06) fought to secure as a member of the Appropriations Committee, brings total funding for the program to $38 million for fiscal year 2021. The action rejects a Trump Administration proposal to eliminate the program altogether and represents an increase of more than 15% above the current funding level.
“Puget Sound is an iconic body of water that is critical to the environmental and economic future of our region,” said Rep. Kilmer. “Securing additional funding to restore the Sound is a big deal if we’re going to recover our salmon populations, ensure future generations can dig for clams, and respect tribal treaty rights. Another increased investment this year to the Puget Sound Geographic Program is important to local jobs, and to our local economy, as we work to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and build a better future for our region.”
“We were initially told that an increase in Puget Sound funding would be impossible this year. But the Sound, its wildlife, and the communities it sustains are running out of time, and need these resources now. That’s why I kept pushing for funding increases for the Puget Sound Geographic Program,” said Rep. Denny Heck (WA-10). “I applaud the subcommittee for recognizing the urgency of this issue, and I thank my friend Congressman Kilmer for his partnership in advocating for this funding. I will continue to work with Tribal, local, and state governments to support their efforts to promote a healthy, thriving Puget Sound. I am grateful for the work our Tribal partners, state agencies, and the Puget Sound Partnership have put into restoring the Sound, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure this boost in funding becomes law.”
“This vital increase in funding for the Puget Sound Geographic Program will drive conservation and restoration projects and help us achieve our twin goals of Puget Sound recovery and economic recovery. We know that every $1 million spent on watershed restoration produces $2.5 million in total economic activity and approximately 16 new or sustained jobs. Increased investment in Puget Sound restoration and salmon recovery yields real and lasting benefits for people and our economy. With this increase in federal funding, we will continue to make progress towards a healthy and vibrant Puget Sound,” said Laura Blackmore, Executive Director of the Puget Sound Partnership. “We are thankful to our strong delegation for fighting for the protection and restoration of Puget Sound. Special thanks go to Congressmen Kilmer and Heck for leading the Puget Sound caucus and working to build bipartisan and national support for Puget Sound recovery. We are also grateful for the dedication and advocacy of our partners, who have worked to ensure that investing in Puget Sound recovery to achieve economic recovery remains a top priority for the federal government.”
The bill approved by the Committee also included a $2 million increase in the National Estuary Program, the Environmental Protection Agency’s nationwide effort to protect and restore the water quality and ecological integrity of estuaries of national significance, including Puget Sound, the nation’s largest estuary by volume. This funding supports ongoing efforts to monitor the impacts of Harmful Algal Blooms and other water quality challenges which represent a serious threat to jobs and economies across the country.
Rep. Kilmer spoke in support of the fiscal year 2021 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies bill, which passed out of Committee Friday by a vote of 30 to 19.