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Kilmer, Heck Highlight New GAO Recommendations on Puget Sound Recovery

Press Release

Date: July 20, 2018
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Environment

Yesterday, the Government Accountability Office released a comprehensive report on efforts to restore Puget Sound, the nation's largest estuary by water volume, and a key driver of Washington's economy.

Representatives Derek Kilmer (WA-06) and Denny Heck (WA-10), the co-chairs of the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus, made the following statements:

"This report highlights the good work folks in our region are doing to protect Puget Sound, and with it our environment, economy and identity," Kilmer said. "It also creates a roadmap for even stronger cooperation between our region and the federal government, and it underscores the urgent need for Congress to step up and continue funding efforts to protect Puget Sound."

"Puget Sound is not only at the heart of our identity as Washingtonians--it's also a national treasure and asset," Heck said. "This new GAO report shows the final steps the EPA needs to take to assemble the team and the tools needed to clean up Puget Sound. Congress must now fully fund those tools to save our Sound, our salmon, and our Southern Resident orcas."

Sheida Sahandy, Executive Director of the Puget Sound Partnership said: "The GAO recommendations support our goals for defining more of the targets that guide Puget Sound recovery and continuing the strong partnership with our federal partners. The support from our federal agencies complements and leverages local, regional and state efforts. It is critical to protecting what we love -- a clean, thriving, and resilient Puget Sound that is an asset for not only the peoples of the region, but for the nation."

The GAO, an independent, nonpartisan agency often called the "congressional watchdog," issued the report at the direction of Congress. The report examined ways the Puget Sound Management Conference and the Puget Sound Federal Task Force, the two interagency groups established to support coordinated recovery efforts, currently use federal, state and local funds to restore the Sound. The GAO found "the steps taken to coordinate restoration efforts have yielded benefits, but challenges remain" to ensure the Sound's recovery.

The GAO reviewed the goals and targets that these two groups have set, and evaluated the progress being made towards reaching those goals. It also identified goals and targets lacking clear metrics for success. The report also included recommendations to improve coordination between EPA and the Management Conference to help ensure that measurable targets are developed where possible for the highest priority indicators currently lacking such targets.

According to the GAO, EPA has agreed with these recommendations and has already taken steps to begin addressing those recommendations.

Representatives Kilmer and Heck co-founded the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus in 2013 as part of their ongoing commitment to preserving Puget Sound. The three priorities of the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus are: preventing pollution from urban stormwater runoff, protecting and restoring habitat, and restoring and re-opening shellfish beds.

In 2016, the Caucus worked with the White House and federal agencies to establish the Puget Sound Federal Task Force, which coordinates federal actions to improve the Puget Sound watershed. In 2015, Heck and Kilmer also introduced the PUGET SOS Act to strengthen coordination among federal agencies on Puget Sound recovery. The Members of Congress plan to use GAO's recommendations to make updates to and reintroduce the PUGET SOS legislation.