House committee hears Dye’s Puget Sound restoration ORCA bill

The House Environment and Energy Committee took testimony Tuesday on a bill that would use some of the anticipated $4 billion of cap-and-trade revenues to upgrade public sewage treatment facilities as a way to prevent untreated sewage from leaking into the Puget Sound.

House Bill 1822 is one of three bills authored by Rep. Mary Dye as part of the House Republican ORCA (Outdoor Recreation and Climate Adaptation) Plan that would fund real solutions for Washington's environment to address challenges of climate change. It would use $100 million annually from Climate Commitment Act dollars (cap-and-trade) to provide grants to municipal wastewater treatment facilities to reduce sewage discharges into Puget Sound.

“Over half the state's population lives within the Puget Sound region. In October, we learned that 80 wastewater treatment facilities are discharging into the Puget Sound, but only one, Olympia, has tertiary treatment to remove sewage,” Dye, R-Pomeroy, told the committee. “Tons of nitrogen are being distributed into the Puget Sound daily. Inadequately treated human waste emptied into the Sound is feeding those algal blooms in the water and resulting in a lot of beach closures as a result.”

The bill would establish the Office of Puget Sound Water Quality within the Department of Ecology to provide wastewater treatment grants and assistance to municipal facilities. It would also require annual reporting on each discharge of untreated sewage and stormwater by operators of municipal wastewater systems.

“Ratepayers of wastewater systems are having to fund the majority of the costs for maintenance and improvements. But those funds are insufficient for the size and scale of the problem. This requires a statewide response,” added Dye, who serves as ranking Republican on the House Environment and Energy Committee. “We need a larger response since the majority of the population is being impacted by inadequate wastewater treatment facilities that cannot handle the growth of the region. So I'm encouraging the dollars from the Climate Commitment Act to be used in a very robust, construction project to deal with this problem immediately.”

Dye noted the seriousness of the problem and said it will only get worse unless action is taken now.

“The wastewater going into Puget Sound, the low oxygen levels, and the impacts on our very precarious spring Chinook salmon that feed our Southern resident orcas require an immediate response. This bill proposes to do that,” said Dye.

The committee took no action Tuesday.

Other ORCA Plan measures include: House Bill 1823 concerning environmental leadership through outdoor recreation and climate adaptation investments; and House Bill 1824 concerning outdoor recreation affordability, including elimination of the annual $30 Discover Pass to state parks.

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov