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U.S. House of Representatives adopts Heck idea to study successful stormwater mitigation programs

Jul 27, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday during debate to determine federal funding for energy and water programs, the U.S. House of Representatives adopted a proposal from Congressman Denny Heck (WA-10) which provides the Army Corps of Engineers a $500,000 increase for their operations and maintenance budget in order to encourage an examination of the latest, most cost-effective technologies and techniques to reduce stormwater runoff. 

Before the amendment was adopted by the House for inclusion in the final Fiscal Year 2018 Energy and Water Appropriations bill, Congressman Denny Heck addressed his colleagues on the House floor:

“My amendment is about tackling a problem that affects every one of us and every single one of our districts, and that is stormwater. Most of us probably don’t think about it very much, but when rain falls – it does a lot of that in the Northwest – and flows through our streets and off the shoulders of our highways, it picks up all sorts and kinds of pollutants.  And we’re talking about really nasty stuff: toxic chemicals like arsenic and flame retardants, as well as oils and pesticides.  

“Stop and think: the single largest contributor of water pollution in the United States of America is stormwater runoff– up to 80 percent in some places. Toxic stormwater runoff harms our rivers and our lakes and our waterways. But it not only harms our environment; it harms our businesses that depend on clean water, like shellfish industry of Washington state, which employs thousands of people. In Puget Sound – the largest estuary in America – stormwater runoff can kill a salmon in a few hours. Salmon and other fish are our way of life in Washington, to the tune of a $30 billion economy.  Salmon also serve as a vital resource of immeasurable value for the 19 federally recognized tribes in Puget Sound. Salmon is their way of life. They are called the salmon people.

“If we fail to address the problem posed by stormwater, these resources will continue to decline, and our communities will continue to pay an avoidable price. So, what are we doing right now to stop this from happening?

“Well, the answer is: A few things, but nowhere near enough. If we are going to truly address the problem, the federal government needs to do the basic, and that’s set an example. And the good news is that Congress has recognized this in the past. About 10 years ago, this body passed a law which requires federal agencies to reduce stormwater runoff when they develop or redevelop property. That’s a commonsense requirement. But we can’t stop there.

“Research shows that the most cost-effective and efficient way to reduce stormwater runoff is through what’s called ‘green infrastructure’ or ‘low impact development.’ Things like rain gardens, permeable pavement, and green roofs. You probably won’t be surprised when I share that the largest stormwater research center in the United States of America is in my district, at our land-grant university Washington State University’s extension campus in Puyallup. I’m a witness to the promise and the potential of this approach. This amendment provides funding for the Army Corps of Engineers to determine to what extent they’re using these technologies and techniques to comply with the requirements already imposed by Congress.

“Mr. Chairman, if we’re going to help communities and businesses impacted by toxic stormwater runoff, it’s crucial that the federal government set the example and lead the way. So I ask you to join me as responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars and ensure that federal agencies are using the latest and most efficient technology to manage stormwater runoff.”

More information on Congressman Heck’s work to reduce stormwater runoff and restore the Puget Sound can be found at