December 20, 2022

Landmark Puget Sound Recovery Legislation Led by Kilmer and Strickland Heads to President’s Desk

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representatives Derek Kilmer (WA-06) and Marilyn Strickland (WA-10), Co-Chairs of the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus, announced that their legislation, the PUGET SOS Act, passed the House and Senate as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2023. The bill, which President Biden is expected to sign into law this week, aims to enhance the federal government’s role and investment in Puget Sound, the nation’s largest estuary by volume and the heart of Washington State’s identity and economic engine.


“This is good news. Puget Sound is our region’s most iconic body of water. It’s a place on which generations of friends and neighbors have built their lives and made their livelihoods. But if future generations are going to have those opportunities, we've got to act to protect and restore the Sound,” said Rep. Derek Kilmer. “We’ve been working toward getting the federal government to be a better partner on Puget Sound recovery since then-Representative Denny Heck and I first introduced the PUGET SOS Act in 2015. Together, with Representative Strickland, the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus, and many regional partners, we got this done to restore salmon and orca populations, ensure future generations can dig for clams, uphold tribal treaty rights, and so much more.”


“As Co-Chair of the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus, protecting the Sound has been one of my top priorities,” said Rep. Strickland. “Puget Sound is a key natural resource for the South Sound and the entire state, accounting for hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions in economic impact. This critical legislation elevates Puget Sound to its rightful place as one of our nation's great marine ecosystems while enhancing our region's ability to honor tribal treaty rights, revitalize our economy, and restore our Sound.”


The PUGET SOS Act will help build a stronger partner in the federal government for critical Puget Sound recovery and restoration efforts by establishing a Puget Sound Recovery National Program Office in the Environmental Protection Agency to coordinate protection and restoration efforts related to Puget Sound and codify the Puget Sound Federal Leadership Task Force, created through a 2016 Memorandum of Understanding by executive action.


The Consolidated Appropriations Act, fiscal year 2023 government funding legislation released today, includes $54 million for the implementation of these provisions.


“EPA appreciates the leadership of Representatives Kilmer, Strickland, and the rest of our strong Puget Sound Recovery Caucus in passing this important legislation,” said Casey Sixkiller, EPA's Regional Administrator for Region 10. “The PUGET SOS Act builds on and reinforces the important responsibilities that the federal government has to protect and restore Puget Sound as a national priority ecosystem and our obligations to uphold tribal treaty rights. We look forward to working with all of our partners to continue this critical work to recover one of our nation’s most iconic bodies of water.”


“The Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission is thankful for Representatives Kilmer and Strickland's hard work to shepherd the bill through Congress,” said Ed Johnstone, Chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. “The Act encourages agencies to better align their efforts with Puget Sound and salmon recovery. We will never recover salmon and Puget Sound until we are all pulling in the same direction and this Act moves us closer to that goal.”


“We know we can save Puget Sound if we act boldly now, and the passage of the key provisions of the PUGET SOS Act is a watershed moment for Puget Sound recovery and our region,” said Laura Blackmore, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership. “This accelerates the work of federal agencies and supports vital work on the ground. Recovery is a long-term effort and this sets us on the right course for decades to come. I’m grateful to Rep. Kilmer and Rep. Strickland for their dedication and bold leadership with the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus and to our entire delegation for bringing these resources to the table.”


“Passage of the PUGET SOS Act comes at a critical time,” said Mike Stevens, Washington State Director for The Nature Conservancy. “As our salmon and Orca face continued challenges, this bill will help ensure that federal agencies are showing up as strong partners to implement recovery efforts, advance Tribal treaty rights, and ensure a resilient, sustainable future for our region. We are grateful to Reps. Kilmer and Strickland for championing Puget Sound recovery and for securing final passage of the bill.”


“We’re grateful to Washington’s Congressional delegation for their tenacious efforts to ensure that Puget Sound and the Salish Sea are formally recognized as nationally significant waters with coordinated federal actions. We as a society need to do even more to ensure that Tribal Treaty Right obligations are upheld and that future generations can enjoy our precious environment for generations to come. Clean water and healthy habitats are essential for the health and well-being of people, salmon, and orcas,” said Alyssa Macy, CEO of Washington Environmental Council/Washington Conservation Voters.


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