Congressman Derek Kilmer hosted a delegation to the North Olympic Peninsula to see firsthand projects that could be impacted by legislation before their committee.
Reps. Betty McCollum of Minnesota and Dave Joyce of Ohio — the chairwoman and ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior and Environment — traveled to Port Angeles, Blyn, Quilcene and Taholah during the multi-day visit across the region.
The Interior Subcommittee has jurisdiction over federal funding for key agencies that impact the region including the National Park Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Indian Health Service, and the Forest Service, among others.
“A critical part of my job is to elevate the issues important to our region — so it was an honor and privilege to host the chairwoman and ranking member of a subcommittee that holds the levers of funding for so many important federal agencies and projects that impact our area,” said Kilmer, who represents the 6th Congressional District, which includes the North Olympic Peninsula.
In their talks, the visitors heard about tribal communities moving to higher ground because of the threat of climate change, the Elwha River, the Olympic Forest Collaborative, work being done to restore Puget Sound and other issues.
A major topic was the maintenance backlog at Olympic National Park (ONP) and how it impacts the experience of visitors.
The congressional delegation met with park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum and ONP staff as they discussed a need to authorize mandatory, dedicated funding to address the backlog.
The group visited the site of the Elwha Dam removal and river restoration project.
“The Elwha Dam removal is an amazing success story,” said Frances G. Charles, chairwoman of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe.
“Now we’re working to make sure that our tribe and that the city of Port Angeles receive the funding needed to fulfill the federal government’s promise here. That’s why this visit from the appropriators mattered.”
The congressional delegation heard about the concerns of the Olympic Forest Collaborative.
Matt Comisky, co-chair of the collaborative, said the group is making progress but needs to do much more.
“Assuring the Forest Service has the funding and flexibility to work with the Collaborative, as well as completing their own scope of work, can be a difference-maker in continuing our progress,” said Comisky, who also is the state manager for the American Forest Resource Council.
At Taholah, the delegation met with four coastal tribes to discuss the impact of climate change and the threat of tsunamis on tribal communities in the Pacific Northwest. Many are seeking to move to higher ground.
The delegation also met with U.S. Forest Service officials to discuss systemic staffing and resources challenges.
The congressional delegation met with Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe officials to talk about treaty rights related to fish and wildlife.
In Quilcene and at the Hood Canal and the Duckabush River, the delegation was told of ongoing efforts to restore Puget Sound and urged to help in getting federal funding for projects.