House Committee Holds Hearing on Legislation to Support Northwest Straits Commission</A

Oct 21, 2009

Washington, D.C. — The House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing yesterday on legislation introduced by U.S. Representative Rick Larsen (WA-02) and U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) to strengthen the Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative.  This legislation (H.R. 1672) will reauthorize the Northwest Straits Commission, which supports conservation and habitat restoration projects in the marine waters of Northwest Washington.  Rep. Larsen submitted written testimony and presented the Committee with letters of support from local elected officials, private companies, and environmental organizations.

“The Northwest Straits Commission does outstanding work to protect marine habitat for endangered and threatened species, including salmon,” said Larsen. “Senator Murray and I are proud to sponsor legislation that supports the Commission’s successful grassroots approach to habitat conservation.”

“The Northwest Straits are one of our state’s most treasured economic and environmental resources,” said Senator Murray. “Today’s hearing will help move this legislation forward and allow us to continue protecting and conserving the Northwest Straits. I thank my partner Congressman Larsen for his great work on this issue in the House.”

“The Northwest Straits Initiative has proven itself to be a worthy model for engaging citizens in difficult conservation and restoration projects,” said Ginny Broadhurst, Executive Director of the Northwest Straits Commission, who testified in support of the legislation to the Natural Resources Committee.  “I offer my thanks to Representative Larsen and Senator Murray for their support of the Commission and their leadership on this legislation.”

Larsen’s written testimony to the Committee follows:

Chairwoman Bordallo and Ranking Member Brown, I would like to thank you for holding today’s hearing on the Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative Reauthorization Act of 2009 (H.R. 1672).  I appreciate your attention to this legislation, which is important to ocean health and the economy in my district.

The term Northwest Straits refers to the U.S. waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the San Juan Islands and northern Puget Sound reaching from the southern borders of Snohomish and Jefferson counties in Washington state north to the Canadian border.

The Northwest Straits region makes up nearly 60% of the Puget Sound coastline.  These waters are home to many iconic and endangered species, such as pacific salmon and orca whales, and provide jobs for many Americans.

The Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative was authorized by Congress in 1998 to restore and protect the marine resources of the region.  This legislation created the Northwest Straits Commission, which for the last 11 years has worked with local stakeholders to develop and implement conservation and restoration projects.  H.R. 1672 will make minor changes to the Commission’s governance structure and extend its authorization five years.

The Northwest Straits Commission has the experience and expertise needed to execute complicated recovery projects.  NBC Nightly News recently featured a story on the Commission’s use of $4.5 million of funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to remove hundreds of acres of abandoned fishing gear from the seafloor, a project which has employed about 40 people.

The legislation before the committee today is the result of a collaborative effort involving many local stakeholders.  I have received letters of support from local elected officials, businesspeople, environmentalists, and other community organizations.

I would like to thank U.S. Senator Patty Murray for leading a similar effort in the Senate.   Working together, I hope we can protect this region for endangered fish, threatened wildlife, and the many people who use the Northwest Straits region for commerce and recreation.

Thank you again for holding a hearing on H.R. 1672 and for the opportunity to provide this testimony.