Almost all environmental news is bad. But even though the outlook for our environment is already grim, Trump's proposed budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, NOAA, and more would make things very, very grim—particularly here in the Salish Sea region.
According to numbers from the Washington Environmental Council (WEC), Trump's budget blueprint would cut all funding for the Puget Sound waterway cleanup program. All $28 million of it. This includes funding for critical work like estuary restoration, cleaning up hazardous waste sites, Superfund sites, mitigating stormwater pollution, and removing culverts and fish blockages that harm our state's salmon populations.
Washington environmentalists are overwhelmed by threats from both federal and state levels. "It's hard to know even where to start," Mindy Roberts, director of WEC's Puget Sound program, said. "The barrage of threats is unprecedented here."
But there is one particularly galling example of what the proposed federal budget would do: Cut money from the program that allows investigators to detect and track down sources of cow shit that get into Western Washington's shellfish beds.
Right now, the state uses some of the money it gets from the EPA to fund something called the Pollution, Identification and Correction (PIC) program. PIC pays investigators to test waterways, at various points, for the presence of fecal coliform bacteria, nasty animals that travel downstream from cow guts and into clam beds. If investigators find more than 14 fecal coliform colonies per 100 milliliters of water, the clams will be inedible.
This EPA grant allows investigators to track the bacteria back to their sources and enforce changes, but without it, shellfish growers could be in trouble.
"Without the funding, it's going to be a lot harder to find the problems because there won't be people out there in the fields," Lee First, North Sound Baykeeper at the environmental nonprofit Re-Sources, told The Stranger.
Tribes that rely on the shellfish industry for income would be hit particularly hard, First said. Currently, 820 of some of the most productive acres of the Lummi Tribe's shellfish beds are shut down because of fecal coliform bacteria. Without the program, more acres of their shellfish beds could suffer.