WASHINGTON, D.C.—President Obama signed the bipartisan Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act December 16, 2016 – authorizing an effort spearheaded by Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA) to secure $451 million to help restore Puget Sound as part of the Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration Project.
“No doubt about it – this is a big win for everyone who cares about protecting Puget Sound,” said Larsen. “The environment is not only the cornerstone of Washington state’s cultural identity but also its recreational, and agricultural economies. As this project moves from design to implementation, it will be critical that the stakeholders who rely on the state’s environment to work, play and live are heard and have a seat at the table.”
“We are thrilled that members of our Washington delegation secured funding for critical Puget Sound restoration projects. We commend the team of partners who collaborated over many years on these priorities. While we need to protect and restore Puget Sound now and for future generations, we also need to maintain critical protections for the long-term survival of salmon and the people and orcas that depend on them,” said Mindy Roberts, People For Puget Sound Director at the Washington Environmental Council.
“Puget Sound and its watershed are incredibly important to the people who live and work in western Washington, providing natural resources essential to our economy and way of life. These federal resources will support restoration and public protection of lands throughout the region that set us on a path to establishing a sustainably healthy watershed across the region,” said Paul Kundtz, Northwest Director at The Trust for Public Land.
“So many organizations have invested their time, talent, and money in Puget Sound recovery,” said Sheida Sahandy, Executive Director of the Puget Sound Partnership. “It is very gratifying to see the federal government step up in a significant way to support these efforts. The funded PNSERP projects will go far in making Puget Sound a thriving, resilient and sustainable system.”
This historic investment is a milestone for the Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Project – a collaboration between public, private and not-for-profit organizations dedicated to protecting and restoring Puget Sound’s shorelines, supporting salmon restoration and biodiversity in the Sound. The project will develop strategies tailored to the specific needs of the deltas, beaches, embayments and inlets that comprise Puget Sound.
The legislation also includes a provision directing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation to return the Kennewick Man, also known as the “Ancient One,” to local tribes in Washington state for proper reburial within 90 days.
Additionally, the legislation includes language authorizing Congress to appropriate funds for toxic cleanup in the Columbia River Basin and creates a voluntary grant program to support stakeholders with cleanup efforts.
Larsen has a long record of fighting to protect the environment. In May of this year, Larsen’s bipartisan bill to fund the National Estuary Program – which supports the comprehensive plan for Puget Sound recovery – became law. Larsen also successfully fought to designate San Juan Islands National Monument in 2013 and to protect 106,577 acres of national forest as part of the Wild Sky Wilderness in 2008.