Kilmer, Heck seek funding for Puget Sound recovery programs

Interior Appropriations Bill includes a $3 million increase in Puget Sound Geographic Program

U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer and Rep. Denny Heck, both Washington state Democrats, said on May 20 that they have proposed funding increases for Puget Sound recovery in the recently released the fiscal year 2020 Interior, Environmental and Related Agencies funding bill, which was being considered this week by the House Appropriations Committee.

“Puget Sound is an iconic body of water that is critical to the environmental and economic future of Washington state,” Kilmer said in a news release issued by the Congressional Puget Sound Recovery Caucus.

“Securing additional funding to restore the Sound is a big deal if we’re going to recover our salmon populations, if we’re going to ensure future generations can dig for clams, and if we’re going to respect tribal treaty rights. As co-chair of the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus and a member of the Appropriations Committee, I’ll keep fighting to ensure that the federal government steps up and makes investments in the continued restoration and clean-up of this vital body of water.”

The FY 2020 Interior Appropriations Bill includes a $3 million increase in the Puget Sound Geographic Program, which provides grants to state, local and tribal governments to implement projects that protect jobs and local economies by improving water quality, enhancing fish passage, increasing salmon habitat and protecting shorelines.

The total funding level of $31 million included in the FY 2020 bill is more than a 10-percent funding increase from past years and is a larger proportional increase than the Great Lake Restorative Initiative — 2 percent — and the Chesapeake Bay Program — 6 percent.

Additionally, each of the 28 National Estuary Programs received a $100,000 increase over the FY 2019-enacted level, as well as a $3 million increase for competitive grants, according to the news release. The Puget Sound National Estuary Program is an Environmental Protection Agency place-based program to protect and restore the water quality and ecological integrity of estuaries of national significance, including Puget Sound, the nation’s second-largest estuary.

The FY 2020 Interior appropriations legislation includes $37.28 billion, an increase of $1.73 billion over the 2019-enacted level, and includes funding for programs within the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency and other related agencies, including the Indian Health Service.

Kilmer and Heck co-founded the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus in 2013 as part of their ongoing commitment to preserving Puget Sound, the release stated. The three priorities of the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus are to prevent pollution from urban stormwater runoff, protect and restore habitat, and restore and reopen shellfish beds.