SEATTLE, WA – The Department of the Interior has already begun work on more than $100 million of its planned $150 million in Recovery Act projects in the Evergreen State, providing much needed capital to dozens of local companies, creating new jobs, and leaving a lasting legacy in America’s great outdoors, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said today.”Today, we are seeing the real difference the Recovery Act is making across Washington State – from new jobs being created to the lasting benefits of the environmental restoration work that is under way at Olympic National Park,” said Salazar, who joined Washington Governor Chris Gregoire at the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center in Seattle.
“The Recovery Act has helped turn our country back from the economic cliff we were facing just one year ago, and it is helping lay a new foundation for growth and prosperity in our country,” Salazar said.
“With the Recovery Act funding, we have supported and sustained thousands of living-wage jobs while greatly improving our communities,” Gregoire said. “Without this funding, more people would be out of work.
The unemployed would be in a worse position that they are now. The Recovery Act prevented our state from falling off the ledge, while providing critically important transportation, environmental and other community improvements.”
The Department of the Interior’s Recovery Act investments are part of more than $6.3 billion in overall Recovery Act funds that have been made available in Washington State, of which $3.4 billion has already been spent.
In 2009, Recovery Act investments were responsible for creating or saving 45,000 jobs in Washington State, according to a report by the White House Council of Economic Advisors.
Among the major investments underway, Interior has provided $54 million to help restore the Elwha River ecosystem and build a new tribal fish hatchery in Olympic National Park. As part of one of the largest construction projects in National Park Service history, the work will restore the river to its natural free-flowing state and allow all five species of Pacific salmon and other anadromous fish to again reach over 70 miles of near-pristine freshwater habitat. In turn, the salmon will return vital nutrients to the watershed, restoring the entire ecosystem.
The Department also has invested $21 million in the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project, which will conserve water lost through leakage and evaporation and meet irrigation demands and water for future development on Yakama Nation lands. It will add 16,000 acre-feet to the Yakima River for instream flows needed for fish listed on the Endangered Species Act.
“The Recovery Act is helping us conserve America’s timeless treasures-our stunning natural landscapes, our monuments to liberty, the icons of our culture and heritage-while helping working families and communities prosper again,” said Salazar.
The national economy grew 5.7 percent in the fourth quarter – the largest gain in six years and something many economists say is largely due to the Recovery Act, Salazar said. “And while we won’t be satisfied until we begin to see net job growth, job losses today are a fraction of what they were a year ago before the Recovery Act began.”
Since the stimulus package was signed into law a year ago, it has provided more than $100 billion in tax relief for American businesses and families as well as critical support for state governments facing record budget shortfalls and small businesses dealing with limited access to capital.
This assistance has funded over 55,000 projects nationwide that are creating jobs up-front and laying a long-term foundation for economic growth.
The work includes over 12,500 transportation construction projects nationwide, ranging from highway to airport improvements and 48 advanced battery and electric drive projects in 20 states, worth $2.4 billion, to help power the next generation of advanced vehicles.
Under the Recovery Act, the Interior Department is investing $3 billion to conserve America’s timeless treasures. These include an historic $750 million for our National Park System to help preserve and protect national icons and historic landscapes.
In addition, the Bureau of Land Management is investing $305 million to restore landscapes, clean up abandoned mines, protect wildlife habitat, reduce the risk of wildfire, and expand its capacity to authorize renewable energy development on public lands.
The U.S. Interior Department’s responsibilities in Washington State include three national parks, a trio of national historic sites, a national recreation area, national wildlife refuges, Grand Coulee Dam and the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project.