Supporters of Puget Sound, salmon and orcas are in Washington, D.C. this week to advocate for federal investments in the Evergreen State — including City of Edmonds officials.
Environmental groups, tribal members and business leaders met Wednesday with members of the state’s congressional delegation. Edmonds was represented by Mayor Dave Earling and City Councilmember Diane Buckshnis — along with Public Works Director Phil Williams and Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Carrie Hite.
According to Earling, the group met with U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, and U.S. Representatives Rick Larsen, Pramila Jayapal, and Derek Kilmer. They also met with Gov. Jay Inslee’s representative Erik Neatherlin.
Earling said city officials are also talking with federal representatives about other key infrastructure projects, such as the Edmonds Marsh, Highway 99 redevelopment and the Edmonds Street Waterfront Connector.
Robb Krehbiel, Northwest representative for Defenders of Wildlife, traveled to the capital and said the Sound’s recovery isn’t a high priority for the Trump administration.
“Ever since President Trump took office, every budget proposal he has rolled out has zeroed out key sources of funding to recover salmon and Puget Sound,” Krehbiel said. “And every year, we have to go back to D.C. to advocate for these funds to be restored.”
This year, he said, they’re combining Puget Sound Day on the Hill with Salmon Days, to push for recovery of the Northwest’s ailing native salmon populations. Along with a healthier environment, they’ll also be talking about the economic boost that Puget Sound gives to the state.
Laura Blackmore, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership, which coordinated the trip, said the National Estuary Program and Puget Sound Geographic Program are vital for Sound recovery. Blackmore added that there’s another critical program to help Northwest salmon, as well as the struggling Southern Resident orcas that rely on them.
“The funding that we get that comes to the five western states through the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund goes directly towards projects here, on the ground, in Puget Sound that help to restore habitat to support the recovery of Chinook salmon, so that orcas will have food to eat.” she said.
Orcas are a big part of Puget Sound recovery, although Krehbiel noted that there isn’t a dedicated source of federal funding to help the species. This year, Washington state lawmakers passed a suite of bills to protect orcas from oil spills, vessel noise and whale-watching in the Sound and restore shoreline habitat for salmon. Krehbiel said he wants the federal government to follow the state’s lead.
“Everybody is pulling together to increase their investments and the state took a really, really big step in the right direction this legislative session,” he said. “So, that’s one of the messages we’ll be conveying to our folks in D.C.”
The Southern Resident orca population is at a 30-year-low of 75.
— Public News Service with reporting from My Edmonds News