Mel Sheldon Jr., chairman of the Tulalip tribe, wears the beaded image of a killer whale, or Orca, as he speaks Tuesday at a press conference in Seattle. Sheldon was discussing the formation of a new federal task force announced Tuesday to identify restoration priorities for Puget Sound, one of the nation’s largest estuaries. (AP Photo / Ted S. Warren)

Mel Sheldon Jr., chairman of the Tulalip tribe, wears the beaded image of a killer whale, or Orca, as he speaks Tuesday at a press conference in Seattle. Sheldon was discussing the formation of a new federal task force announced Tuesday to identify restoration priorities for Puget Sound, one of the nation’s largest estuaries. (AP Photo / Ted S. Warren)

Obama administration steps up efforts to protect Puget Sound

By Phuong Le

Associated Press

SEATTLE — The Obama administration on Tuesday stepped up efforts to protect Puget Sound, including forming a new federal task force to identify priorities for restoring one of the nation’s largest estuaries.

The task force of federal agencies will work with tribal governments and others to come up with an action plan to better coordinate programs focused on Puget Sound.

The federal action represents the latest in a string of efforts over the decades to tackle pressing environmental problems in the region, including dwindling salmon runs, water pollution and the rapid loss of wetlands and other wildlife habitat.

“We understand we have a critical role to play here in the Puget Sound in delivering on that commitment to the tribes and the communities around the Puget Sound,” said Christy Goldfuss, managing director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, at a news conference in Seattle.

Goldfuss said nine federal agencies signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at strengthening coordination among them to work toward a healthy Puget Sound ecosystem.

The federal action builds on decades of efforts from state, local, tribal and federal governments and is similar to recent federal efforts to protect other ecosystems including the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay, she said.

Goldfuss was joined by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, American Indian tribal leaders and U.S. Reps. Denny Heck and Derek Kilmer, who co-founded the Congressional Puget Sound Recovery Caucus.

“In order for us to reverse the tide of damage that’s been going on in Puget Sound, we’re going to need everybody,” said Leonard Forsman, chairman of the Suquamish Tribe, who talked about the importance of salmon to his and other tribes. “And that includes not only the government agencies and the state agencies and the nonprofits, but we also need all the people who live here and are moving here.”

Others hailed the move as a significant step forward, saying it will give a much needed boost to state, local and tribal efforts.

“What we can’t do alone as a state is get these huge projects done,” said Martha Kongsgaard, who chairs the Puget Sound Partnership’s Leadership Council.

The state Legislature created the partnership in 2007 to come up with a plan to protect Puget Sound.

Todd Myers, with the Washington Policy Center and who serves on the partnership’s salmon recovery council, said federal agencies should work with the Puget Sound Partnership, which has identified what needs to be done, rather than create another task force.

“Rather than doing what we know needs to be done, adding another political process wastes time and resources from what we already know needs to be done,” Myers said.

The task force will include members from federal agencies, such the Navy, Homeland Security, Army Corps of Engineers, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency.

At Tuesday’s news conference, Col. John Buck with the Army Corps of Engineers said his agency is working on several major projects that would improve the health of Puget Sound. If authorized and funded by Congress, one $450 million project would restore 2,100 acres of important habitat in three northwest Washington estuaries.

Talk to us

More in Local News

An emergency responder uses a line to navigate the steep slope along a Forest Service road where seven people were injured Saturday when a vehicle went off the road near the Boulder River trailhead west of Darrington. (Darrington Fire District)
7 hurt in crash off cliff west of Darrington; 1 airlfited

A vehicle crashed on a forest service road near Boulder River, leading to a major rescue operation.

The aftermath of a fire that damaged a unit at the Villas at Lakewood apartment complex in Marysville on Saturday. (Marysville Fire District)
2 families displaced by Marysville apartment fire

Nobody was injured when the fire broke out Saturday morning on 27th Avenue NE.

Mukilteo asks for input on housing density, and it’s complicated

Here’s a guide to what voters should know about the advisory ballot measure. What does it actually do?

Kevin Gallagher (from the Snohomish County Official Local Voters’ Pamphlet November 2, 2021 General Election)
Kevin Gallagher, a Marysville City Council candidate, dies

Kevin Gallagher, 52, died at home of natural causes. He was challenging incumbent Councilmember Tom King.

Clouds hover over the waters off Everett's western edge Monday morning. (Sue Misao / The Herald)
Get ready for La Niña and a soggy winter in Snohomish County

After a hot, dry summer, Washington feels like Washington again. Damp. Gray. Normal.

Downtown Coupeville on Whidbey Island, March 2021. (Harry Anderson)
Whidbey Island real estate prices continue to climb

Despite a slight lull in August and September, it continues to be a seller’s market on Whidbey.

Gold Bar man airlifted after trying to start fire with gas

The man suffered severe burns after he used gasoline to start a fire in his yard.

Another housing unit at Monroe prison targeted for closure

A corrections leader says 502 workers could lose their jobs if they aren’t vaccinated against COVID by Monday.

Mill Creek Police at the scene of a fatal car accident on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. (Mill Creek Police)
Police investigating Mill Creek collision where man died

A stretch of 35th Ave SE was expected to be closed for a few hours Friday night.

Most Read