Representatives Derek Kilmer (WA-06) and Denny Heck (WA-10) called for the leaders of the House Committee on Natural Resources to consider their legislation to create a Maritime Heritage Area in Washington state. The members noted in the letter to Chairman Doc Hastings and Ranking Member Peter DeFazio the Maritime Heritage Act (H.R. 5038) was referred to the committee and should be moved forward.
“We are writing to request a hearing on H.R. 5038, the Maritime Heritage Area Act, which would establish a Maritime Heritage Area in Washington State,” the members wrote in the letter sent Tuesday. “This proposal is based on broad support from the state and local communities, and would mark the first national heritage site on the West Coast and the only one in the country focused on maritime history.”
The Maritime Heritage Act would cover most of Western Washington’s saltwater shoreline and help promote maritime-related tourism, economic development and maritime history as told through Washington state’s museums, historic ships, fishing culture and other activities.
See the map of the area here.
This would be the first National Heritage Area established in the Pacific Northwest. Congress has designated 49 National Heritage Areas nationwide to promote local economic growth and tourism, and preserve sites and landmarks with cultural and historical significance.
Heritage Area designations are eligible for federal grants, and can help draw contributions from state, local and private sources. Heritage Area designations also help coordinate marketing and tourism promotion, such as developing websites, putting up highway signs to advertise sites, sponsoring festivals, and publishing brochures and tour maps. Heritage Areas also can help with assisting in the operation of museums and visitor centers.
A recent economic impact study indicates National Heritage Areas contribute $12.9 billion annually to the national economy and support 148,000 jobs, according to the Park Service.
The legislation would create a heritage area that consists of lighthouses, historic vessels, parks, and other landmarks located within one-quarter mile of the shoreline in 13 counties, including Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, San Juan, Island, King, Pierce, Thurston, Mason, Kitsap, Jefferson, Clallam, and Grays Harbor counties. It also would include 19 Native American tribes, 32 cities and 30 port districts.
Local stakeholders pushed for the designation to attract visitors from around the country to learn more about the state’s maritime legacy.
National Heritage Areas are partnerships between the National Park Service, states, and local communities through which the Park Service supports local and state efforts to preserve natural resources and promote tourism. They are operated by local boards that are established by legislation. National Heritage areas are not part of the National Park System, which are lands that are federally-owned and managed. No federal regulations are imposed, and no private land is affected or acquired.
Kilmer and Heck introduced their bill in July and U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced companion legislation in the Senate. Kilmer and Heck co-founded the Congressional Puget Sound Caucus last year to reflect their commitment to preserving the Puget Sound. The caucus is the only Congressional working group devoted exclusively to promoting Puget Sound cleanup efforts, and builds on the legacy left by former Congressman Norm Dicks, a longtime advocate for the health of the Puget Sound.
The full text of the letter follows.
Dear Chairman Hastings and Ranking Member DeFazio:
We are writing to request a hearing on H.R. 5038, the Maritime Heritage Area Act, which would establish a Maritime Heritage Area in Washington State. This proposal is based on broad support from the state and local communities, and would mark the first national heritage site on the West Coast and the only one in the country focused on maritime history.
The Puget Sound region is home to a remarkable maritime legacy dating back thousands of years to the canoe culture that long defined the tribal communities that lived on Washington state’s coast. Since the time of the first inhabitants of these lands, the region’s well-being has always been closely linked to the maritime economy.
The Maritime Heritage Area would consist of lighthouses, vessels, and other landmarks located within one-quarter mile of the shoreline in Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, San Juan, Island, King, Pierce, Thurston, Mason, Kitsap, Jefferson, Clallam, and Grays Harbor counties. Designating this area as a National Heritage Area would support ongoing efforts to recognize, preserve, and support education, recreation, and economic use of the region.
In April 2010, the Washington Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation completed and published the Feasibility Study for a Washington State National Maritime Heritage Area. The National Park Service reviewed the study and in June 2012, found that the proposal meets the interim National Heritage Area Feasibility Study Guidelines criteria.
The legislation has been solely referred to the House Natural Resources Committee. We respectfully request this legislation be the subject of a hearing.
Derek Kilmer Denny Heck
Member of Congress Member of Congress