CHAMBERS CREEK, Pierce County — During a rare visit to Washington state — and her first to the South Sound — U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spotlighted Wednesday a pair of restoration projects that will be funded by the infrastructure bill passed by Congress.
The visit came amid swirling concerns over the Russian war in Ukraine and the potential prohibition of abortion rights in half the country. Earlier in the day, Pelosi told The Seattle Times editorial board that the leaked draft opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court striking down Roe v. Wade “mocked” court precedent, privacy and a woman’s right to choose.
But Pelosi touted the $1 trillion infrastructure bill as an opportunity for bipartisanship and environmental restoration.
“This is not about dividing. This is about uniting,” she said during a news conference Wednesday in Pierce County. The Chambers Creek watershed served as a backdrop for Pelosi and several local officials, tribal representatives and community organizers.
“Infrastructure is about health,” Pelosi said. “It’s about clean air and clean water.”
Chambers Creek, the biggest stream between the Nisqually Delta and the Tacoma Narrows, helps drain the southern neighborhoods of Tacoma.
Over the next five years, a narrow bridge will be replaced and a neglected dam will be removed.
Nisqually Tribal Council Chairman Willie Frank III reminisced that his father and grandfather fished on the creek and waters connected to it.
“I’m a fisherman on the Nisqually River,” he said. “We know the dam has got to go.”
Both the bridge and dam appeared to be easy targets for removal. The dam, for example, which stands 12 feet tall, hasn’t been maintained in 20 years. It also has fish ladders that are leaking, outdated and don’t satisfy modern regulations. Rep. Marilyn Strickland, D-Wash., said replacing them is an important start as funding from the infrastructure bill makes its way to the state.
“We want to get ahead of this project,” Strickland said Wednesday after the news conference. It’s unclear how much it will cost to replace the bridge and remove the dam, but Strickland said a study is underway to estimate expenses. The request for funding will made in the 2023 fiscal year, while funding, if approved, will begin the following year.
“It’s one of those projects where we have so much support from every different sector, and bipartisan support,” she said. “If we have this much support for a project, we have a responsibility to fund it.”