Local Maritime Heritage Area moves closer to being enacted

A bill from Representative Derek Kilmer that would establish a National Maritime Heritage Area in Washington state that would impact all local cities on shoreline passed the Senate this week 92-8 in favor.

S. 47, the Natural Resources Management Act, includes the bill sponsored by Representatives Derek Kilmer and Denny Heck.

Under the Kilmer-Heck Maritime Washington National Heritage Area Act (H.R. 975), the a majority of Western Washington shoreline would be considered as a National Heritage Area as a way to “promote maritime-related tourism, economic development and maritime history as told through Washington state’s museums, historic ships, fishing culture and other activities”.

This bill is similar to the “Maritime Washington National Heritage Area Proposed Boundary” that was introduced by Kilmer in 2014.

If passed, the bill would create a heritage area that would include lighthouses, historic vessels, parks, and other landmarks within one-quarter mile of the shoreline.

“This bill will honor our shared maritime traditions and support our local economies,” said Kilmer and Heck. “We want to express gratitude to Senator Cantwell for her leadership on this.  By creating a National Maritime Heritage Area and helping coastal communities protect national treasures along our coast, we can remind future generations of our rich history along the water and attract visitors from across the nation. We’re proud to see progress made on this bill which will support the vibrancy of our coastal communities, and we hope the House will move forward soon.”

This would impact 13 counties in total, which includes, 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.

At this time it does not include Pacific County. In 2014, Kilmer told KXRO that Pacific County was not included and was instead part of a separate area being considered for designation as a different National Heritage Area that would focus on the region at the mouth of the Columbia River.

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.

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.

Following Senate passage, S. 47 now awaits further consideration in the U.S. House of Representatives.