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Taking Action to Protect the Puget Sound Watershed

Today, we're announcing new steps to protect and restore the Puget Sound watershed.

Tens of millions of Americans depend on important ecosystems like the Chesapeake Bay, California Bay Delta, Florida Everglades, Gulf of Mexico, Great Lakes and Puget Sound because of the vital role they serve in creating healthy habitats, clean water, economic vitality, and other quality of life benefits to the surrounding communities. 

That’s why under President Obama’s leadership we’ve taken unprecedented action to invest in the health and restoration of these special natural places and the people who rely on them.  In addition to protecting more land and water than any Administration in history, we’ve also taken big steps to encourage cooperation among federal, state, and local governments and the private sector in investing in conservation and critical restoration efforts. 

Encompassing 8 million acres of rivers, bays, beaches and shorelines, the Puget Sound watershed in Washington State serves as an economic and cultural hub for the region’s more than 4.7 million people, including 19 federally recognized tribes. The Sound’s stunning natural beauty -- including three national parks, a national monument, as well as numerous national forests, wildlife refuges, and wilderness areas -- provides critical habitat for hundreds of fish, birds, and marine species, including 13 marine mammals such as harbor seals and orcas. 

A healthy Puget Sound provides key economic, cultural and ecological benefits, and serves as the cornerstone of the region’s high quality of life. That’s why today we’re announcing a new action to protect and restore the Puget Sound watershed through the establishment of a Federal Puget Sound Task Force and the release of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) directing federal agency restoration activities in the Puget Sound region. 

Comprised of representatives from several federal agencies and co-chaired by the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the Task Force will add leadership and a strengthened interagency framework for conservation and restoration within Puget Sound at a critical juncture in the ecosystem’s recovery. This effort builds on decades of conservation efforts from federal, state and tribal agencies, as well as the efforts of local governments and private organizations. 

The Task Force announced today is designed to effectively approach the multi-faceted threats these ecosystems face through development of a “Puget Sound Action Plan” to better coordinate federal programs and focus restoration efforts. The Task Force will develop this action plan in collaboration with the State of Washington and in consultation with tribal governments, as well as through input from a diverse group of stakeholders. 

In particular, the Task Force will build on identified priorities in three categories: stormwater management, shellfish sustainability, and habitat protection and expansion. This effort involves recent exciting commitments from various agencies, including:

  • A $248 million investment from EPA, the State of Washington and Puget Sound tribal governments, over the next five years, which will go toward improving estuary health.  EPA is contributing $124 million through the National Estuary Program, matched with an additional $124 million from the State.
  • In addition, the Army Corps of Engineers is committed to providing improved fish passage at Mud Mountain Dam, located on the White River, with an initial $23 million included in the President’s FY2017 budget to begin construction, and a total project cost estimated at over $100 million.  
  • Two completed habitat studies by the Army Corps and partners awaiting Congressional construction authorization: The first, the Puget Sound Nearshore Restoration Study, recommends approximately $450 million in large-scale estuary and coastal habitat restoration. The second, the Skokomish River Restoration Study, recommends a $20 million project to open over 40 miles of habitat along the Skokomish River. 

Lastly, the Task Force will also continue to work with Federal land managers to address stormwater management in the region, largely in an effort to continue to reduce pollutants entering into Puget Sound. 

In addition to elevating the Puget Sound watershed as a priority ecosystem, today’s actions demonstrate this Administration’s ongoing commitment to elevating the voices of Tribes as partners in this work. For example, the Department of the Interior recently formally renamed the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge in honor of Billy Frank Jr., who worked to protect Native American traditional ways of life and endangered salmon. The Task Force recognizes the importance of the Sound to the culture of the region’s Native Americans, and strives to build on Billy Frank Jr.’s legacy by formally incorporating Tribal treaty rights into the development of the Federal action plan.  

For more information on the Puget Sound, and restoration efforts in its watershed, please visit: