Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, and western Washington Tribes kicked-off the first meeting of the Puget Sound Federal Leadership Task Force, mandated by Congress in 2022 to coordinate the federal government’s efforts to restore Puget Sound and address Tribal treaty rights.
The legislation creating the task force was included in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2023 by Senator Patty Murray, Congressman Derek Kilmer (D-WA-6) and Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland (D-WA-10) – and amended the Clean Water Act to create a Puget Sound Recovery National Program Office in Washington state.
Chaired by EPA, the Corps of Engineers, and NOAA, the task force includes 15 federal agencies who play a role in protecting Puget Sound and are directed to coordinate and collaborate with the Tribal Management Conference and a newly formed State Advisory Committee. The agencies are charged with incorporating Tribal treaty rights in their strategies for Puget Sound restoration, as highlighted in the Treaty Rights at Risk document created by the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission which outlined the federal government’s responsibilities to address habitat loss as noted in the 1974 Boldt Decision.
Celebrating the milestone legislation today were leaders from the federal agencies, 20 western Washington Tribes, and representatives of state agencies. During the inaugural gathering of the federal task force today the agencies approved the five year federal action plan for Puget Sound under the new law. By design, the federal action plan draws from the state’s plan for Puget Sound recovery: the Action Agenda.
“Today we took the next step in our efforts to protect Puget Sound by explicitly committing to address Tribal treaty rights. This is an historic moment for EPA’s Puget Sound program that builds on decades of leadership by the Tribes and furthers President Biden’s commitment to protecting treaty resources,” said Casey Sixkiller, Regional Administrator of EPA’s Region 10 office in Seattle. “The creation of the new Puget Sound Federal Leadership Taskforce will help us to work collaboratively across governments – federal, state, and Tribal – to advance policies and restoration projects that reflect this commitment and to ensure our work is both inclusive and equitable moving forward.”
“Seattle District has a strong role in Puget Sound Recovery with significant investments in fish passage and ecosystem restoration,” said Corps of Engineers Seattle District Commander Col. Alexander Bullock. “We look forward to building upon that portfolio with federal co-chairs EPA and NOAA, other federal partners, and our tribal partners. As the Nation’s Engineers, we are ready to provide engineering expertise and water resource stewardship, fulfill our commitments to our tribal partners, and deliver world-class solutions to protect and serve the Pacific Northwest and the Nation.”
“Honoring tribal treaty rights means taking action so that salmon, endangered Southern Resident killer whales, rockfish and the ecosystem they depend on are recovering and conserved for generations to come,” said Jennifer Quan, Regional Administrator in NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region. “We are proud to join our federal partners, tribes, and many others who care deeply about the health of Puget Sound to give these critical species the protection and support they need to recover.”
“Puget Sound recovery matters to our region's environmental and economic future, to our efforts to recover salmon populations, and to Tribal treaty rights,” said Congressman Derek Kilmer. “Federal funding is a vitally important piece of the solution. And so is coordination. We need all boats in the water rowing in the same direction. That’s why I’m proud of the progress we are making. It will help make a real difference in the effort to restore and protect Puget Sound. I’ll keep at it!”
“This is a historic investment in Puget Sound recovery,” said Senator Maria Cantwell. “The creation of the first-ever Puget Sound Recovery National Program office and Puget Sound Federal Task Force will mean that the Puget Sound, salmon, and orcas are poised to receive unprecedented support well into the future. This is critical to conducting the science needed to protect and restore our Sound for future generations.”
“The Puget Sound is one of Washington state’s greatest treasures: it’s central to our state’s economy, environment, culture, and Tribal treaty rights—and it’s critical we restore and protect it for generations to come,” said Senator Patty Murray. “I was proud to secure truly historic new investments in Puget Sound last Congress, and now I’m watching closely to make sure these federal dollars are being put to good use—and as Congress intended—just as I keep fighting to build on this progress in the other Washington.”
"Ensuring the future and success of the Puget Sound has been a top priority of mine since my first day in Congress," said Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland. "Today's Task Force launch is a monumental moment for the Puget Sound that will address Tribal treaty rights and encourage necessary agency collaboration to protect and preserve one of the nation's great marine ecosystems."
Contacts: Suzanne Skadowski, EPA, 206-900-3309, Skadowski.Suzanne@epa.gov
Bill Dowell, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 206-764-3560, William.R.Dowell@usace.army.mil
Michael Milstein, NOAA, 503-231-6268, Michael.Milstein@noaa.gov