Politics & Government

Members of Congress want recognition for Washington maritime history

South Sound members of Congress want a federal designation for the Puget Sound and Washington’s coast that might lure tourists interested in maritime history.

A gathering Monday at Tacoma’s Foss Waterway Seaport celebrated the introduction of legislation by Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, and Rep. Denny Heck, D-Olympia, to create a National Heritage Area along a 13-county stretch of saltwater shoreline.

It would be the first Northwest or West Coast heritage area outside one in Alaska and would focus on the area’s maritime history.

Speakers took pains to say that the recognition wouldn’t come with any regulations like, say, the recognition of a wilderness or wetland.

It could lure federal grants for local preservation efforts, said state Historic Preservation Officer Allyson Brooks, but she said the biggest benefit would be allowing many historic sites to market themselves in a coordinated way as a heritage area.

Budget cuts eliminated Washington’s state tourism office in 2011.