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Puget Sound, Orca Advocates in D.C. to Urge Fed'l. Funding

Salmon recovery in Puget Sound is critical for the survival of Southern Resident orcas. (Puget Sound Partnership)
Salmon recovery in Puget Sound is critical for the survival of Southern Resident orcas. (Puget Sound Partnership)
May 15, 2019

SEATTLE - Supporters of Puget Sound, salmon and orcas are in the nation's capital to advocate for federal investments in the Evergreen State.

Environmental groups, tribal members and business leaders are to meet today with the state's congressional delegation for the fifth year in a row to thank them for their support of Puget Sound recovery and urge them to continue it. But the support doesn't come easy.

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.

More information on Puget Sound Day is online at

Disclosure: Defenders of Wildlife contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species & Wildlife, Energy Policy, Environment, Public Lands/Wilderness. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA