This year's Earth Day brought a new ally to Puget Sound, as U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR-04), Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee, announced that he will become an official member of the Congressional Puget Sound Recovery Caucus. Rep. DeFazio is the first member of Congress from outside the state of Washington to join the Congressional working group that pursues policies to protect the environmental and economic vitality of the Puget Sound region.
Rep. DeFazio's membership follows a meeting with stakeholders and Puget Sound Recovery Caucus co-founders, Rep. Denny Heck (WA-10) and Rep. Derek Kilmer (WA-06) on Friday, April 11, in Tacoma to learn more about the Puget Sound recovery efforts.
Ranking Member DeFazio said, "The Puget Sound is a critical economic engine, not just for Washington State, but the entire Pacific Northwest. I am happy to join the fight to preserve family wage jobs, boost economic activity, and protect and improve the health of the Sound and I congratulate Reps. Heck and Kilmer for highlighting the Sound as a nationally important issue."
Representative Kilmer said, "This is great news for everyone who cares about the future of Puget Sound. The Sound is important to our economy and is a big part of our state's identity. Today's announcement represents progress in our efforts to raise national awareness about the need to protect the Sound and put it on a level field with other treasures like the Chesapeake Bay and Great Lakes."
Representative Heck said, "I am excited about this momentum and optimistic that the discussion will soon involve more voices from around the country and all political backgrounds."
On April 1, the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus sent a formal funding request to the House Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations to restore the Environmental Protection Agency's Geographic Program for Puget Sound restoration in the Fiscal Year 2015 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill.
The letter states:
"Unlike the Chesapeake and other water bodies like the Great Lakes, the Puget Sound lacks formal "program' status under the Clean Water Act, which helps ensure consistent federal funding. Therefore, it is critical that we work together to ensure consistent federal attention is directed towards protection and recovery efforts in the Sound.
"Restoration efforts generate jobs, goods, and services in the short-term and help to ensure our economic livelihood in the long-term. Restoring the health of Puget Sound -- our nation's second largest estuary -- must remain a priority for our region, state and nation."
Representatives Heck and Kilmer co-founded the Congressional Puget Sound Caucus last year to reflect their commitment to preserving the Puget Sound. The caucus is the only Congressional working group devoted exclusively to promoting Puget Sound cleanup efforts, and builds on the legacy left by former Congressman Norm Dicks, a longtime advocate for the health of the Puget Sound.
Caucus priorities focus on preventing pollution from urban stormwater runoff, protecting and restoring habitat, and restoring and re-opening shellfish beds. Representatives Jim McDermott, Adam Smith, Rick Larsen, and Suzan DelBene also signed up as charter members of the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus.