In a move that formally boosts the restoration of Puget Sound to the status enjoyed by rescue projects for Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today it has approved the Puget Sound project under the National Estuary Program.
It’s a significant step because it means real federal buckaroos for the Sound’s restoration: $20 million in this fiscal year alone. Here’s how Michelle Pirzadeh, acting administration of EPA’s Seattle-based Region 10, described the move in a press release:
This makes official what has been true all along: EPA is fully committed to bringing our resources to bear on the critically important work of protecting and restoring our treasured Puget Sound. We pledge to continue to act hand-in-hand with our partners – the state, tribes, local governments and citizens — to ensure a healthy Sound for future generations.”
EPA is interested in stemming the tide of polluted stormwater into the Sound. And the press release, significantly, mentions population growth, which brings with it more stormwater and represents the greatest overall threat to the health of the Sound.
Unlike the Chesapeake and the Great Lakes, this environmental rescue takes place all in one state. That gives Puget Sound’s rescuers a leg up on the other projects in that they don’t have to navigate an interstate political minefield for every step.
However, that doesn’t mean the project will be an easy one. Just take a look at all the agencies and other entities who are supposed to coordinate with each other, just within the state, under the “action agenda” produced under the leadership of Gov. Christine Gregoire.
Who’s going to get them all the play nicely in their watery sandbox? That would be an unusual state agency known as the Puget Sound Partnership. At the helm there is a guy who understands EPA pretty well — Bill Ruckelshaus, two-time EPA administrator.