February 05, 2020

PUGET SOS Act Passes House by Voice Vote

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Promoting United Government Efforts to Save Our Sound (PUGET SOS) Act, H.R. 2247, passed the House by voice vote, unopposed and with bipartisan support.

Puget Sound is the nation’s largest estuary by volume and the heart of Washington state’s identity and economic engine. But four native fish stocks are listed as endangered or threatened; the iconic Southern Resident orcas are on the verge of extinction; and the shellfish industry faces growing threats of ocean acidification and water pollution. State, tribal, and local entities need a strong partner in the federal government if we are to save our Sound.

The PUGET SOS Act, first introduced by Reps. Denny Heck (WA-10) and Derek Kilmer (WA-06) in 2015, addresses this need in three ways.

First, the bill establishes a Puget Sound Recovery National Program Office in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to coordinate protection and restoration efforts related to Puget Sound.

Second, it codifies the Puget Sound Federal Leadership Task Force, which was first created through a 2016 Memorandum of Understanding by executive action. The Task Force consists of representatives from various agencies that have a role in Puget Sound recovery.

Third, the bill authorizes $50 million for five years to carry out the provisions above.

“I’m heartened that the House passed the PUGET SOS Act earlier today,” said Heck. “With strong federal leadership and smart investments, we can help recover Puget Sound and preserve its ecological, economic, and cultural significance for generations to come. I hope the Senate will act quickly to pass the bill so that we can move the needle on recovery efforts.”

“In our neck of the woods, we all understand how important Puget Sound is to our region’s identity and our economy,” said Kilmer. “Generations of our friends and neighbors have built their lives and made livelihoods on the Sound. But if future generations – including my little girls – are going to have those opportunities, we've got to take action now to protect and restore the Sound. I’m proud to see the House do that today by passing the PUGET SOS Act, a bill I worked on with my friend Denny Heck to help us make meaningful progress towards these goals.”

“The Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission applauds the U.S. House of Representatives for the passage of H.R. 2247,” said Lorraine Loomis, Chairperson of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. “Congressmen Heck and Kilmer have proposed a very common-sense approach to better coordinate federal agency work in order to reinvigorate and expedite much-needed Puget Sound recovery work, and we are heartened that the House of Representatives also approves.

“The western Washington treaty tribes’ reserved-rights to harvest and manage salmon, shellfish and other natural resources is inseparable from the health of Puget Sound. Unfortunately, Puget Sound continues to face mounting threats of lost habitat and increased pollution that are driving waning salmon populations and lost shellfish harvest opportunities. H.R. 2247 is an important step toward ensuring that federal agency efforts are aligned with our collective investment in salmon and Puget Sound recovery. Through this effort, we can work to turn the tide of degradation, and at a minimum, avoid further enabling its continued decline.”

“We applaud Congressman Heck and our congressional delegation for championing the passage of the PUGET SOS bill through the House,” said Laura Blackmore, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership. “Scientists say we can save Puget Sound if we act boldly now. This is an important first step in building the political will and funding we need to protect this national treasure.”

Reps. Heck and Kilmer co-founded the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus in 2013 as part of their ongoing commitment to recover and preserve Puget Sound. The three priorities of the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus are preventing pollution from urban stormwater runoff, protecting and restoring habitat, and restoring and re-opening shellfish beds.