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Connelly: Trump budget has zero money for Puget Sound recovery

Feb 13, 2018
In The News

All federal money to clean Puget Sound, and other major American waterways, would be eliminated under the 2019 budget proposed from the Trump administration.

The elimination of recovery programs, from Chesapeake Bay to the Great Lakes to Puget Sound, are part of a massive 23 percent cut proposed for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA's budget would plummet from $8.2 billion to $5.7 billion.

Congress kept cleanup money in the current year's budget including $28 million for programs in Puget Sound.

"Jobs in our region's fishing and tourism economy depend on a healthy Puget Sound," said Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., whose district includes the Olympic Peninsula and Kitsap Peninsula, and much of Washington's inland waterways.

"Unfortunately, the president's budget does not invest in those jobs," Kilmer added. "We've successfully fought in the past to protect this (money) because the folks in our region depend on it to promote a healthy sound."

Before arrival of the Trump administration, Puget Sound was climbing to coequal status with the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay as national priority areas for recovery of water quality and assessment of pollutants.

The state's congressional delegation has argued on economic as well as environmental grounds, stressing that 3,200 shellfish jobs and $184 million in revenue are directly dependent on a clean marine environment.

As well, money spent by the EPA on Puget Sound recovery has generated matching funds and grants from the state, tribes, non-profits and other federal agencies.

"We've told (Trump) and shown him that there is bipartisan support for federal investments in Puget Sound recovery, and his budgets should reflect that:  Americans want clean waterways and the EPA's Geographic Programs are an important part of that commitment," said Rep. Denny Heck, D-Wash.

Heck represents a district that includes the south end of Puget Sound.

The cleanup, officially known as the Puget Sound Geographic program, provides grants to state, local and tribal governments to put in place projects that improve water quality, increase and restore salmon habitat, enhance fish passage and protect shorelines.

The public can see what is at stake, and what can be accomplished, at the Billy Frank Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, just off I-5 between Tacoma and Olympia.

In 2009, dikes were removed, reconnecting 752 acres with the tides of Puget Sound.  It is the largest salt water estuary recovery in the Puget Sound area, and a major enhancement of salmon habitat.

Reps. Heck and Kilmer have founded a Puget Sound Recovery Caucus, whose main job has become recovering recovery money that Trump wants to eliminate.