Over 2,000 acres of Puget Sound habitat will be restored thanks to funding totaling $452 million authorized by Congress in 2016. But on-the-ground work is yet to start due to a legal hitch preventing recovery projects from moving forward. A simple four-line bill is the key to unlock these funds.

Why it Matters

Salmon habitat in Puget Sound has been degraded by decades of logging, pollution, and development. This much-needed restoration is essential to recovering some of the wild salmon populations on which the Southern Resident killer whales depend. Increasing reliable sources of wild salmon in this critical habitat helps reduce the risk of extinction.

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Tell your Washington State Representatives that you support legislation to unlock $425 million for Puget Sound habitat restoration. Submit your comments today.
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Puget Sound Restoration Takes an Army

In July 2016, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers concluded a multi-year study of Puget Sound, to address how decades of human impacts to its habitats could be reversed. From 500 locations, 36 key sites were identified, with three selected as priority for restoration: Duckabush River Estuary, Nooksack River Delta, and North Fork Skagit River Delta.

A project proposal with a budget for $452 million was submitted to Congress. In October, the White House announced a Puget Sound Taskforce and $452 million was approved in December 2016’s WIIN Act.

Four years later, although further feasibility work has continued, ground-works haven’t started due to a legal technicality: the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requires indemnification for: “damages arising from design, construction and operation of aquatic ecosystem restoration projects.” However, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission doesn’t have authority to indemnify the Army Corps, and so can’t contract with them.

What’s the solution? The Attorney General’s office recommended a small but critical change to State law that: “authorizes the fish and wildlife commission to indemnify the United States, and its agencies, as a condition of securing federal funds for purposes of fish, shellfish, and wildlife projects.”  Note that this doesn’t excuse the feds from liability for their mistakes, it just ensures they don’t pay for other errors.

Once this legislation is finalized, the Department of Fish and Wildlife can legally partner with the Army Corps, unlocking access to millions of dollars of federal funding for Puget Sound habitat restoration.

What's the Process?

Senate Bill 5146 was sponsored by Senator Kevin Van De Wege, and introduced on January 12, 2021. It passed the Senate chamber on February 25, and has now moved to the House.  It reads:

"AN ACT Relating to authorizing the fish and wildlife commission to indemnify the federal government as a condition of authorizing certain funds; and amending RCW  77.12.320."

What's RCW 77.12.320 & How Would it Change?

The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) is the compilation of all permanent laws in force in Washington State.

  • Title 77 contains laws relating to “Fish and Wildlife”
  • Chapter 12 contains the “powers and duties” within these laws
  • Section 320 relates to “Agreements for purposes related to fish, shellfish, and wildlife – Acceptance of compensation, gifts, grants.”

SB 5146 would add a 4th clause to Section 320:

"The commission may indemnify the United States and its agencies as a condition of securing federal funds for purposes of fish, shellfish, and wildlife projects."

What to Say

Use one or more of our suggested comment options,then add your own words to make it unique and personal.

The Southern Resident killer whales are heading to extinction due to a lack of salmon. Please pass legislation to release funds for the Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration Project to restore important salmon spawning habitat, and increase wild salmon for wild orcas.

Funds authorized by Congress in 2016 are essential to restoring important salmon spawning habitats in Puget Sound and saving endangered killer whales. Please unlock access to this funding by supporting indemnity for the Army Corps of Engineers for fish and wildlife projects.

Please support legislation so that the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission can indemnify the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and unlock funds for Puget Sound habitat restoration, critical to endangered species such as wild salmon and killer whales.

Passing this legislation will unlock $452 million for essential Puget Sound habitat restoration projects, and will benefit many species, especially wild salmon and the endangered killer whales that depend on them.

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