Puget Sound Recovery Engages Federal, State and Local Leaders

SEATTLE, Washington, August 31, 2007 (ENS) - Ten federal agencies, ranging from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to the National Park Service, have signed on to a comprehensive partnership to restore the health of Puget Sound.

Senior officials from each organization joined Congressman Norm Dicks and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator, Elin Miller at a signing ceremony August 20 at Tacoma's Jack Hyde Park on the Commencement Bay waterfront.

"We're pleased to come together as true federal partners to help the State of Washington to bring much-needed help to the Puget Sound," said Miller. "Aided by Congressman Dicks' vision, leadership and commitment, we're launching a new effort by federal agencies to align people and resources to make the Sound cleaner and healthier."

Congressman Dicks, a Washington Democrat, shared his views on Puget Sound with the June 2007 graduating class of the University of Washington, which is providing scientific support for Puget Sound and Hood Canal restoration efforts.

"Anyone who has lived around Puget Sound for many years can see the danger signs," he said.

"On the surface, Puget Sound may still look pristine, underneath there are alarming signals that the ecosystem is in trouble. Several species of salmon and steelhead, sea birds and the resident orca, are now listed as threatened or endangered, and low levels of dissolved oxygen are literally choking the life out of areas around the Sound, including Hood Canal. To see video of a magnificent lingcod gasping for oxygen before its death is shocking and unforgettable."

"Fortunately there is a consensus for action, following the yearlong Puget Sound Partnership process, the passage of the enabling legislation and the establishment of a new account within EPA for the restoration of Puget Sound and Hood Canal," Dicks said.

Dicks is pleased that the House Appropriations Committee in June approved his recommendation to provide $15 million to the U.S. EPA for Puget Sound cleanup.

"It is only a start," he told the graduates, "but as the nation's second largest estuary, Puget Sound must be addressed with a federal and state priority comparable to the East Coast's Chesapeake Bay or the Great Lakes. In fact, we must do better."

Congressman Dicks' son, the Seattle environmental lawyer David Dicks, will be adding his skills to the restoration of the Sound as the first executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership.

On August 14, Governor Chris Gregoire appointed David Dicks to head the newly created partnership, which has until September 2008 to map out a plan of action to restore the Sound's health by 2020.

"David Dicks is an accomplished lawyer in the area of environmental law and has a strong connection to the Puget Sound," Gregoire said. "Spending his childhood summers on Hood Canal has made David passionate about the protection of one of our state's most precious resources and he will bring energy to the partnership that will match that of the many grass-roots groups working with the state to restore the Sound."

Agency officials close to the new federal partnership indicate that by uniting in a "Federal Caucus" of natural resource, environmental health and land management agencies, each partner is committing to work towards a common problem-solving framework for restoring the Sound.

The new federal agency partnership pledged to provide united leadership and support for Washington State and local governments working to protect and restore Puget Sound.

The 10 signing partners are: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers, U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service, U.S. Navy, U.S. Geological Survey, National Park Service and the U.S. Coast Guard.

For more on the Health of Puget Sound and Puget Sound Recovery visit: http://www.psp.wa.gov

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.