Senate Environment Committee Approves Cantwell's Puget Sound Recovery Act

Legislation would authorize up to $90 million annually in federal grants to support Puget Sound restoration efforts

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell’s (D-WA) Puget Sound Recovery Act of 2009 was approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee. The bill would establish a dedicated funding pool, administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to provide grants to help address the impacts of pollution on Puget Sound. Senator Cantwell and Congressman Norm Dicks (D-WA-06) first introduced the Puget Sound Recovery Act in 2008.

“As the second largest estuary in the nation and the core of our region’s identity and prosperity, it is absolutely critical to restore and preserve this important body of water for generations to come,” Senator Cantwell said. “With the passage of the Puget Sound Recovery Act, the ongoing cleanup of Puget Sound will benefit significantly from the creation of a federal grant program to support a more comprehensive effort. I am proud that with the committee’s passage today, we have taken a significant step toward restoring Puget Sound and protecting everything from animal habitats, to tourism, to our precious environment and our regional economy.”

The legislation builds upon Puget Sound Partnership clean-up efforts already underway. The increased federal response authorized by the Puget Sound Recovery Act will help bring about a comprehensive recovery effort among federal, state, local, and tribal governments. The bill establishes an EPA grant program dedicated to Puget Sound restoration efforts. It provides for close coordination among EPA and the Puget Sound Partnership, the Washington state agency formed to spearhead Puget Sound cleanup efforts. The EPA program will support implementation of the Puget Sound Partnership’s Action Agenda, which the EPA has already approved as its Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan for Puget Sound. The bill authorizes up to $90 million annually for administration and grants to state agencies, local communities, and tribes to address the causes of the Sound’s declining water quality and implement projects to counter these causes.

Puget Sound is home to more than 200 species of fish, 25 species of marine mammals, 100 species of sea birds, as well as clams, oysters and shrimp. Scientists have detected low levels of oxygen in the water and concentrations of toxic substances in aquatic animals that live in the Sound. Some of its most iconic resident species – including salmon and orcas – are already endangered. Up to 70 percent of all its original estuaries and wetlands have disappeared due to urban and agricultural development, and about 8,700 acres at the bottom of the Sound are dangerously contaminated, according to Puget Sound Partnership.

Area congressional representatives from the Puget Sound region – Reps. Jay Inslee, Rick Larsen, Brian Baird, Jim McDermott, Dave Reichert, and Adam Smith – all have joined as original co-sponsors of the legislation in the House, and Senator Patty Murray has co-sponsored the Senate version of the bill.