WASHINGTON — Today at an event in Seattle, Washington, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox joined EPA Regional Administrator for the Pacific Northwest Casey Sixkiller, Washington Department of Ecology Director Laura Watson and local leaders to kick off the 50th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act celebration tour.
“When Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972—with an overwhelming bipartisan majority—it charted a new path for America’s waters. As a result, we have seen transformational progress over the last 50 years—waters that were once polluted are now fishable and swimmable,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox. “President Biden and Congress have laid the foundation for the next 50 years of progress by investing $50 billion in EPA’s water programs through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.”
“Here in the Pacific Northwest, our iconic waterbodies are the lifeblood of our communities,” said EPA Regional Administrator Casey Sixkiller. “We depend on them for so many things – drinking water, transportation and goods movement, recreation, our culture and our way of life. In many ways, water defines us. The Clean Water Act fueled the Puget Sound National Estuary Program and our highly successful partnerships with state, Tribal, local governments and NGOs. Together we have made great progress to protect and restore the Sound and together we’ll continue this critically important work.”
Five decades of Clean Water Act implementation have reduced direct pollution discharges to our nation’s waters and improved wastewater and stormwater infrastructure. This progress was built on strong partnerships between EPA, and state, local, and Tribal governments as well as community and environmental organizations, industry, and agriculture.
While places like Puget Sound remain fishable and swimmable, there is still work to be done to protect these resources. EPA and its federal partners are coordinating efforts through the Puget Sound Federal Task Force to better manage stormwater runoff and support the health of the Puget Sound and the salmon population it supports.
“Over the past 50 years, the Clean Water Act has been a powerful tool to protect and restore water quality in Washington,” said Laura Watson, Washington Department of Ecology Director. “A strong partnership with EPA helps us to preserve our state’s waters, and provide a healthy environment for our families, farms, and communities.”
“The National Estuary Program, created under the Clean Water Act, supports collaborative local action to restore our nation’s estuaries,” said Laura Blackmore, Puget Sound Partnership Executive Director. “The program enabled us to work with hundreds of partners to create the 2022-2026 Action Agenda, our plan to protect and restore Puget Sound. Together we will restore habitat, improve water quality, protect our salmon and orcas, increase climate resilience, and ensure human wellbeing. We celebrate the accomplishments of those who came before us, and rededicate ourselves to upholding Tribal treaty rights, achieving environmental justice, and ensuring the health of Puget Sound for future generations.”
“The funding we received from EPA allowed us to conduct the research that led to the discovery of the chemical, 6PPD-Q, that is killing coho salmon in Puget Sound’s rivers and streams,” said Lisa Rozmyn, Washington Stormwater Center Assistant Director. “Although there are still many questions surrounding 6PPD-Q, EPA grants also directly supported the work to find a solution to that toxicological catastrophe: Bioretention.”
“The Puget Sound region is leading the way in our commitment to building salmon-friendly and people-friendly cities,” said Jessie Israel, The Nature Conservancy Puget Sound Conservation Director. “One of our greatest challenges is the presence of toxic chemicals in stormwater runoff, but the good news is: nature-based solutions are an effective tool for cleaning it up. With federal funding on the horizon, we can get infrastructure right for the next 50 years of the Clean Water Act, secure clean water, clean air, and a promise that people and nature can thrive together.”
“Salmon-Safe is proud to be a partner with the EPA working across the region to solve the crisis of stormwater impacts and water quality that threatens marine life and endangers the survival of both salmon and orca,” said Ellen Southard, Salmon-Safe Puget Sound Director. “Working together with public and private sector partners we are finding solutions to mitigate the polluted runoff that affects Puget Sound and escalating ocean acidification. This work is critical to maintaining our way of life for indigenous people, their livelihoods and spiritual well-being. It is also an important component to protecting the 200,000 jobs in Washington’s commercial fishing and shellfish industry, which contributes over $14 billion dollars to the state’s economy.”
“The Clean Water Act is critical to protecting the Salish Sea, tribal communities and everyone who lives in the region,” said Justin Parker, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission Executive Director. “Today we are celebrating real progress, but looking ahead, we face greater challenges from population growth, climate change, and pollution discharged into our foods and water. While Puget Sound and Coastal waters are beautiful and vibrant, they’re also threatened by wastewater treatment and accumulation of toxics. The EPA-Tribal partnership has made significant strides, but the environment is in crisis and our treaty rights are at risk. We must build from our success, engage science and urgently advance Clean Water Act protections for the next 50 years.”
As EPA kicks off a tour celebrating the Clean Water Act, the agency is also collaborating with its partners to chart a course for the next fifty years of progress for clean water. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has provided a historic investment in water infrastructure, including $12.7 billion through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund programs that were established by the 1987 amendments to the Clean Water Act. This funding is a significant investment in the future of clean water in the country. And our investments in improved, resilient infrastructure will have positive impacts on our waterways for years to come.
Leading up to the 50th Anniversary of October 18, the tour will highlight waters that are essential to healthy people, vibrant ecosystems, agricultural productivity, and economic growth. Stops will include the Florida Everglades, Chesapeake Bay, Great Lakes, Cuyahoga River, the San Francisco Bay, and more.