Saving Our Sound.

Did you know that the Puget Sound is the largest estuary in the United States?

By water volume, that is. While its beauty and economic activity brings much-deserved attention to our area, ecosystem decline remains a serious concern.

Approximately 70 percent of the Puget Sound’s original estuaries and wetlands have disappeared due to urban and agricultural development, and more than 8,000 acres at the bottom of the Sound are dangerously contaminated, resulting in closed swimming beaches and shellfish beds.

Fish and marine life struggle to survive in oxygen-starved dead zones in the South Sound and Hood Canal.

Populations of salmon once numbered in the millions are listed as endangered or threatened.

The Puget Sound has a rich history in the maritime development of the region and country. The Sound helps drive approximately $9.5 billion in travel spending, including 88,000 tourist-related jobs that bring $3 billion in income to the state.

Restoration efforts in the Puget Sound generate jobs, goods, and services in the short-term and help to ensure our economic livelihood in the long-term. Restoring the health of Puget Sound must remain a priority for our region, state and nation.

In the legislative spirit of former Washington Congressman Norm Dicks, and the advocacy of Pacific Northwest leaders like the late Billy Frank Jr., the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus carries on the legacy of improving the body of water for future generations.

Unlike the Chesapeake and other water bodies like the Great Lakes, the Puget Sound lacks formal “program” status under the Clean Water Act, which helps ensure consistent federal funding.

Image for post
Image for post

In April 2014, House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Peter DeFazio of Oregon’s 4th District became the first member of the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus outside of the state of Washington. Rep. DeFazio joined the Caucus following a meeting in Tacoma with stakeholders about Puget Sound recovery efforts.

“The Puget Sound is a critical economic engine, not just for Washington State, but the entire Pacific Northwest. I am happy to join the fight to preserve family wage jobs, boost economic activity, and protect and improve the health of the Sound and I congratulate Reps. Heck and Kilmer for highlighting the Sound as a nationally important issue.” Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR-4)

In Summer of 2014, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy joined the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus to discuss the importance of recovery initiatives and tour Commencement Bay.

“Today we affirmed the need to protect our nation’s home, the Puget Sound, because it defines our history, culture, and economy.” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy

On March 25, 2015, the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus held its first Puget Sound Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill.

In meetings with Members of Congress and other federal stakeholders, participants reiterated Puget Sound’s importance on a national level, the need for robust levels of federal funding to keep recovery efforts on track, and how federal actions can be more coordinated with existing restoration activities.

In a field hearing on September 3, 2015, stakeholders from the Puget Sound Partnership, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, tribal leaders, local leaders, and other organizations currently involved in Puget Sound recovery gathered to hear the latest plans for a new coordinated effort to Save the Sound.

Goals of the new plan included:

Federal recognition of Puget Sound as a body of water of national significance.

Increased coordination between federal, state, local, and tribal governments.

Greater accountability to ensure all recovery partners are involved and contributing resources to the effort.

Protect tribal treaty rights by ensuring federal agencies are honoring existing treaty obligations.

At the 23rd Annual Salmon Homecoming in Seattle, Rep. Heck and Rep. Kilmer unveiled the

Promoting United Government Efforts to Save Our Sound (PUGET SOS) Act

The PUGET SOS bill, H.R. 3630, would enhance the federal government’s role and investment in the Puget Sound, integrating and aligning federal restoration efforts with the ongoing efforts of state, local, and tribal governments.

To enhance national awareness and contribution, the bill amends the Clean Water Act by adding a new section dedicated to Puget Sound recovery, providing lasting and structural recognition of the Puget Sound as a waterbody of national significance on par with the Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes. The bill also designates a Puget Sound Recovery Office at the Environmental Protection Agency.

“As Washingtonians, we all understand the importance of the Puget Sound. Generations have enjoyed the ability to swim and fish and dig for clams in this iconic body of water. They’ve built lives and made livelihoods on the Sound. But if future generations — including my little girls — are going to have those opportunities, we’ve got to take action. That’s why I’m proud to join my colleague Representative Heck in introducing the Puget SOS Act.” Rep. Derek Kilmer

The PUGET SOS Act would:

1. Amend the Clean Water Act by adding a new section dedicated to Puget Sound recovery, providing lasting and structural recognition of the Puget Sound as a waterbody of national significance on par with the Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes.

2. Establish a Puget Sound Recovery Program Office in EPA Region 10 to better coordinate recovery efforts within the EPA and between Federal, State, local, and Tribal partners.

3. Require Federal agencies to ensure their activities are consistent with the Puget Sound Action Agenda upon its adoption as the Federal Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan (CCMP) for Puget Sound. This consistency obligation includes permitting and regulatory activities.

4. Protect Tribal treaty rights by reaffirming the supremacy of Federal treaty obligations and creating new requirements for the EPA to certify the CCMP supports and is consistent with treaty rights.

5. Codify the existing Puget Sound Federal Caucus by creating an interagency Puget Sound Federal Leadership Task Force , which will coordinate recovery efforts amongst Federal agencies and between Federal, State, local, and Tribal partners.

6. Require biennial reports to Congress, the President, and the Governor of Washington, detailing the progress of Federal efforts to restore the Puget Sound.

“The Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission applauds Representatives Denny Heck and Derek Kilmer for their efforts to bring greater recognition to the need for Puget Sound Recovery. This legislation will help ensure those efforts are better coordinated and aligned with the protection of tribal treaty rights for future generations.” Lorraine Loomis, Chairperson of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.

This increased coordination will optimize current recovery efforts, ensure the Federal-Tribal trust responsibility is upheld, and prioritize Puget Sound recovery in a way that is commensurate with its national significance.

“The rate of damage to Puget Sound continues to exceed the rate of healing. That’s a pattern we need to change. This bill effectively aligns federal work already underway with effective state, local and tribal work for the greatest recovery benefits in the fastest period of time. A big thank you to Congressman Heck and Congressman Kilmer for their leadership and vision in recognizing the value and urgency of this collective work. We invite the nation to come visit this incredible ecological and economic treasure that appears pristine to the eye and yet is so urgently imperiled in reality.” Sheida Sahandy, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership

Other original cosponsors of the bill include Reps. Peter DeFazio (OR-4), Suzan DelBene (WA-1), Rick Larsen (WA-2), Jim McDermott (WA-7), Dan Newhouse (WA-4), Dave Reichert (WA-8), and Adam Smith (WA-9).

What next?

Share this and get the word out about our Puget Sound.

Encourage friends and family in other parts of the country to contact their Member of Congress to sign on to #SaveAmericasSound

Written by

Proudly representing #WA10 in U.S. Congress. Husband, dad, @GonzagaBulldogs fan & @Seahawks #12thMan. Advocate for veterans, family-wage jobs & economic growth.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store