Washington, DC— Today, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass the Promoting United Government Efforts to Save Our Sound (PUGET SOS) Act of 2021. The PUGET SOS Act, introduced by Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland (WA-10) and Congressman Derek Kilmer (WA-06), the Co-Chairs of the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus, would enhance the federal government’s role and investment in Puget Sound, the nation’s largest estuary by volume, which is vital to Washington state’s identity and economic engine. (Please find the bill text at this link and Strickland’s remarks at this link.)
“Puget Sound is a sacred tribal resource, cultural treasure, economic engine, and biodiversity hotspot. But we are at a tipping point – if we’re going to protect hundreds of thousands of jobs while saving wildlife like the orcas and salmon –it’s now or never,” said Strickland. “House passage of the Puget SOS Act today represents a big moment, and brings us one step closer to ensuring the national recognition, federal support, and environmental stewardship Puget Sound deserves. Washingtonians view and use Puget Sound the way Marylanders view Chesapeake Bay or Michiganders view the Great Lakes. It is past time the federal government does as well. Our bill is an investment in equity for our Tribal nations, Washingtonians, and our entire nation and I’ll continue working with Congressman Kilmer to turn it into law.”
“Puget Sound is our region’s most iconic body of water, 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 take action now to protect and restore the Sound – and we need a strong federal partner in those efforts,” said Kilmer. “That’s why I am proud that today the House passed the PUGET SOS Act – legislation I introduced with Rep. Strickland ensures the federal government steps-up to be the partner that state, tribal, and local entities need to save our Sound. This important bill will assist important regional efforts to restore salmon and orca populations, ensure future generations can dig for clams, and uphold tribal treaty rights. I’ll keep working to get this bill signed into law.”
The PUGET SOS Act helps build a stronger partner in the federal government for critical Puget Sound recovery and restoration efforts in three main 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.
“The Puyallup Tribe appreciates the leadership of Congresswoman Strickland and Congressman Kilmer to improve efforts to better the Puget Sound. The Puget Sound is the lifeblood of our people and our way of life depends on it being healthy and safe,” said Bill Sterud, Chairman of the Puyallup Tribal Council.
“The Puget SOS Act recognizes the importance of treaty rights and ensures that tribes have a say in the restoration of this ecosystem. We have been a part of this land and water since time immemorial and our voices must be part of saving it,” said David Iyall, Treasurer of the Nisqually Tribal Council.
“The Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission is excited to hear of the timely passage of the PUGET SOS Act in the U.S. House of Representatives. We are grateful for Congressman Kilmer and Congresswoman Strickland’s leadership in moving this forward,” said Lorraine Loomis, Chairperson of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. “The PUGET SOS Act brings national attention to the plight of Puget Sound and our struggles to protect and restore the salmon. The Act also increases federal investments in Puget Sound recovery while also improving the coordination of state and federal agencies to make sure that we are all pulling in the same direction. These are critically important steps that we must take in order to recover the sound, the salmon and protect tribal treaty-reserved rights and resources.”
“We know we can save Puget Sound if we act boldly now, and the House’s passage of the PUGET SOS Act is an important and exciting action,” said Laura Blackmore, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership. “We need strong partnership from the federal government to achieve our mission. The PUGET SOS Act accelerates the work of federal agencies on Puget Sound recovery and authorizes increased funding to support vital recovery work on the ground. As always, I am grateful to Rep. Kilmer and Rep. Strickland for their dedication and bold leadership with the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus, and I thank Reps. [DelBene, Larsen, Herrera Beutler, Newhouse, McMorris-Rodgers, Jayapal, Schrier, and Smith] for their support of the bill.”
“The PUGET SOS Act is an important step forward for the restoration of Puget Sound and the well-being of millions of people that depend on it,” said Mike Stevens, Washington state Director for The Nature Conservancy. “This legislation would bring much-needed resources to address pollution, flooding, inequitable access to clean water and other challenges facing our region. We are grateful to Reps. Kilmer and Strickland for championing Puget Sound recovery and for introducing this proposal to both coordinate federal and state recovery efforts and protect tribal treaty rights. These are all crucial components for creating a more resilient and sustainable future for the region.”
“Now more than ever we need the federal government to resume its vital role in the protection and recovery of Puget Sound and the Salish Sea. Coordination among our federal leaders and agencies means our region has a chance for the clean water and healthy habitats that are vital to our people, tribal nations, nature, and communities–this bill is an investment in our environment and a livable planet for future generations,” said Alyssa Macy, CEO of Washington Environmental Council/Washington Conservation Voters.
The Puget Sound Recovery Caucus, founded in 2013 by Rep. Derek Kilmer and former Rep. Denny Heck. It is currently co-chaired by Reps. Marilyn Strickland and Derek Kilmer, focuses on recovering Puget Sound through steps like preventing pollution from urban stormwater runoff, protecting and restoring habitat, and restoring and re-opening shellfish beds.
Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland serves as a Member of the House Armed Services Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. She is one of the first Korean-American women elected to Congress and the first African-American to represent the Pacific Northwest at the federal level.