Puget Sound would be hurt by proposed EPA cuts
The Environmental Protection Agency’s funding for restoring Puget Sound would be almost wiped out under President Donald Trump’s proposed agency budget, according to a leaked memorandum documenting the cuts obtained by the National Association of Clean Air Agencies.
An EPA spokesman in Seattle on Friday declined to comment on the proposed budget cuts.
Under the proposal the EPA funding would be slashed by 93 percent, dropping from nearly $28 million in the current fiscal year to $2 million. The money, in years past, has been used to help finance a wide range of projects to help restore the Sound, such as purchasing farmland to convert to wetlands, restoring floodplains and removing fish passage blockage.
“We really poured our heart and soul into Puget Sound recovery, and to see that abandoned at a critical time would be tragic,” said Dennis McLerran, who served as EPA regional administrator during the Obama administration.
These proposed cuts are part of a broader EPA downsizing that would reduce agency funding by 25 percent and shed some 3,000 jobs.
Trump is expected to send his budget plan to Congress later this month and its details could still change.
William Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, said Trump has talked about transferring responsibilities from the EPA to the state, but his actions would reduce grant funding for local governments, he said.
The proposed gutting of the Puget Sound funds also has drawn protests from Western Washington congressional representatives.
In a statement released Friday, Reps. Derek Kilmer and Denny Heck, both Democrats, opposed the cuts to funds that have been a source of grants to state, local and tribal governments.
“The federal government should be a partner in making the Sound healthy again … I will fight back against this completely irresponsible proposal,” said Kilmer, who serves on the House Appropriations Committee.
Chris Wilke, executive director of Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, said the proposals appear to be poorly thought out, and EPA regional staff have not been able to answer questions about the plan.
“These funds are critical to clean water in the Sound,” Wilke said.