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Congressman Denny Heck

Representing the 10th District of Washington

Kilmer, Heck Legislation Would Help Slow Stormwater, Stop Pollutants that Harm Salmon, Orca, Other Vulnerable Species from Entering Puget Sound and Watersheds Nationwide

Oct 11, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC—Today, Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Denny Heck (D-WA)co-chairs of the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus, announced the introduction of H.R. 7041 the Preventing Pollution through Partnership (P3) Act, legislation that would help communities and businesses do their part to slow, filter and catch stormwater, the leading cause of pollution in Puget Sound.

“Washington’s economy and identity are directly tied to the fate of the orca and the health of our salmon and shellfish,” Kilmer said. “Congress should make it easier for state and local governments to invest in private sector ideas that will catch and clean stormwater. This bill creates new financing options for businesses that will lead to more partnerships that protect Puget Sound.”

“As the rains return to Western Washington, we see every day how much polluted stormwater runoff flows through our streets and into Puget Sound,” Heck said. “Stormwater is the biggest source of pollution in the Sound, and combating it requires all of us to step up and do our part. That’s why we need to make it easier for communities to invest in green infrastructure, for the benefit of all Washingtonians who call Puget Sound home.”

According to the Puget Sound Partnership, stormwater runoff is the largest source of pollution in the Sound. Last week, a new study from WSU identified tiny bits of car tires that have washed into streams throughout the region as a prime suspect in the deaths of coho salmon as they swim upstream to spawn.

Stormwater runoff is even more hazardous during periods of heavy rain. In a downpour, stormwater flows so quickly and at such a high volume that it overwhelms sewage systems. That means, in addition to carrying pollutants from roadways, stormwater can also carry human waste into the Sound.

For example, The Seattle Times reported in February that heavy rains and high tides overwhelmed King County’s wastewater treatment plant in Seattle and led to 150 million to 200 million gallons of wastewater to flow into the Sound.

One way to reduce these hazardous events is by investing in more green infrastructure projects like permeable pavement, green roofs and rain gardens that mimic nature and slow down the flow of stormwater before it reaches the Sound.

Kilmer’s and Heck’s legislation would create a new category of tax-exempt Private Activity Bonds (PABs), which state and local governments can use to finance projects completed by private entities that serve a public benefit.

Currently developers can use PABs to finance new hospitals, airports or affordable housing units at rates lower than typically offered by banks or through other forms of financing. The P3 Act would allow governments to use PABs to finance private-sector development projects that build green infrastructure.

Green infrastructure often mimics nature and slows the flow of stormwater. For example, under this bill, municipal governments could finance a project built with private sector money to retrofit an old strip mall parking lot with permeable pavement that absorbs water rather than letting it flow into the sewer system and ultimately Puget Sound.

The bill’s introduction comes after a series of fatalities within the Puget Sound’s population of Southern Resident orcas. According to The Seattle Times, scientists widely attribute the population’s struggles to a shortage of chinook salmonThe New York Times also cites pollution from wastewateras a reason orcas carry some of the highest levels of pollution of any marine animal.

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The Nature Conservancy, a non-profit advocacy group, has created a heatmap that allows viewers to visualize the region’s sources of stormwater runoff. It is available here.