EDITORIAL: Proposed EPA cuts would be a nightmare for Puget Sound

Just over two months ago, we wrote an editorial voicing support for Congress’ decision to allocate hundreds of millions of dollars worth of habitat restoration funds to Puget Sound-related projects. Now, the funding picture for those restoration efforts has changed dramatically.

The Seattle Times reported earlier this month that President Donald Trump has introduced a proposal to cut EPA funding for the sound by 93 percent, “dropping from nearly $28 million in the current fiscal year to $2 million.”

“The money, in years past, has been used to help finance a wide range of projects to help restore the sound, such as purchasing farmland to convert to wetlands, restoring floodplains and removing fish passage blockage,” the March 3 Seattle Times article indicates.

The proposed cuts could not come at a more critical time. During February’s heavy rains, the West Point Treatment plant near Discovery Park dumped about 235 million gallons of untreated wastewater into the sound, including 30 million gallons of raw sewage. And the dumping has continued into this month. The Seattle Times reports as much as 107 tons of wastewater and sewage entered Puget Sound on March 3, and thousands of pounds continue to pour out of the damaged plant every day.

Meanwhile, whales have been attempting to make a comeback in the area. Gray whales were spotted feeding off the Snohomish Delta near Everett on Sunday, and orcas have been spotted near Vashon as recently as Feb. 16. But this marine environment, which is already under durress, is now dealing with another hurdle that has, in the best case scenario, an endpoint in late April. But the damage has already been done and the thousands of gallons of untreated water and sewage will wreak havoc on the struggling ecosystem.

That is why it is crucial that the existing funding is not abandoned, taking current, ongoing projects with it. Now more than ever the sound needs help and Trump’s cuts to the EPA will have drastic repercussions locally that will strain the already burdened local entities working to protect our fragile waters.