Last week, several County representatives made a trip to Washington D.C. for Puget Sound Day on the Hill. Commissioners and Councilmembers from Pierce, Kitsap, Jefferson, Island and San Juan Counties participated in discussions and small group meetings with Washington’s congressional delegates and federal agencies. The common theme that arose in almost all of the discussions was, “We’re running out of time” which is a quote from the late Billy Frank Jr.
On the first day, participants heard from Senators Murray and Cantwell and Congressmen/women Kilmer, Heck, DelBene, Jayapal, Larsen and Schrier as well as representatives from the EPA, USGS, Corps and NOAA. On day two, participants broke into small groups and met personally with the delegation. In addition to the members they met on day one, further time was spent with Congressmen Newhouse and Smith and Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers.
The broad coalition of stakeholders, including local government, state, tribal and non-governmental organizations, advocated for additional funding for the nation’s largest estuary, the Puget Sound, and bring special attention to the Puget Sound Geographic Program, National Estuary Program/Coastal Waterways, and the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund. The advocacy made a difference – this week the House Appropriations Committee increased funding for both the Puget Sound Geographic Program (an increase of $5M) and the National Estuary Program (an increase of $100M).
The work is not over. The coalition will continue to advocate for these program increases to be sustained in the final and future federal appropriations. The coalition also needs to be prepared for proposals that are on the immediate horizon: a future Infrastructure funding package and a potential revisit to the EPA’s fish consumption rule that would impact the negotiated compromise reached in Washington state two years ago.
The delegation also encourages you all to keep them informed of your progress and projects. They may not always be able to make the visit, but their staff can. They want to know how the federal dollars are being spent at home and Counties have a lot of experiences and successes to share. Please do so!
Special thanks to San Juan Councilmember Jamie Stephens, Island County Commissioner Janet St. Clair, Jefferson County Commissioner Kate Dean, Kitsap County Commissioner Charlotte Garrido and Pierce County Councilmember Derek Young for making the trip to represent County government as a partner in this effort.