Bipartisan Infrastructure Law: A game-changer for the environment, people, and salmon

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act), which became law on Nov. 15, 2021, provides funding for transportation infrastructure like roads, bridges, ports, airports, and rail; drinking water infrastructure; high-speed internet access; wastewater improvements; and environmental remediation and climate change resilience. 

“Congress invested $1.2 trillion in the infrastructure package, and that’s going nationwide,” said Laura Blackmore, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership. “With this package, which is spread over five years, we have guaranteed funding so we can plan and we can do the big projects. This money will be invested in salmon recovery, in transportation infrastructure, in roads and bridges, and helping to make Puget Sound more climate resilient.”

Speaking about how the funding in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will benefit the whole region, Kate Dean, Jefferson County Commissioner and member of the Puget Sound Partnership’s Leadership Council, said, “The federal infrastructure package isn’t just about funding individual projects. It will really allow us to build the type of communities that we want to have here in the Puget Sound region. We want to be able to build a livable, walkable, affordable community here that has jobs for everyone.”

Diane Buckshnis, member of the Edmonds City Council, emphasized how ecosystem restoration and climate resilience projects create jobs that drive our region’s economy. “For every million dollars we spend on restoration, it creates like 36.7 jobs. So it’s just a tremendous aspect of helping everybody, as we attempt to restore our Puget Sound.”

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law also establishes the National Culvert Removal, Replacement, and Restoration Grant program, which will provide funding for projects that will improve or restore fish passage for salmon. 

Russ Hepfer, member of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and member of the Puget Sound Partnership’s Leadership Council, spoke about the importance of salmon recovery and restoring fish passage. “To me, salmon is my way of life. It’s my tradition, it’s my culture, it’s something that’s been handed down, it’s in my DNA, it’s how I live, and it not only feeds us, but it feeds our souls. The benefits for culvert removal and dam removal is that fish can get back to their spawning grounds. The Elwha River, for instance, had 71 miles of pristine habitat above two dams.”

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will also help make the Puget Sound region more resilient to the effects of climate change. “…With the electrification of the ferries and creating charging stations, we’ll be reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Blackmore said. “…All of these salmon recovery projects that we do, the habitat restoration projects that we do, make this area more resilient to climate change [and] help us adapt to the changes that are already coming our way.”

Speaking about the importance of this moment for Puget Sound recovery, Blackmore summed it up well: “We have an amazing opportunity in front of us and a lot of work to do, but in 10 years, the people of Washington will know that we have changed the trajectory of Puget Sound recovery.”

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Making Waves is the Puget Sound Partnership’s online magazine. Making Waves features stories from the people protecting and restoring Puget Sound.