Gluesenkamp Perez Holds Broadband Roundtable, Discusses Local Priorities in Cowlitz and Lewis Counties

Apr 03, 2024
Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez speaks with fishermen about growing sea lion populations on the Columbia River.

Yesterday, Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (WA-03) visited Cowlitz and Lewis Counties to discuss growing sea lion populations, visit career and technical education (CTE) courses at Lower Columbia College, hold a roundtable about access to broadband in Lewis County, and tour Providence Centralia Hospital.

Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez began her day on the Columbia and Cowlitz Rivers speaking with local fishermen affected by the growing number of sea lions moving farther up local tributaries. California and Steller sea lions – the latter of which can weigh up to 2,500 pounds – are harming fish recovery efforts and threatening populations that inhabit the river, including Steelhead trout, Chinook salmon, and smelt.

They discussed lethal and non-lethal solutions to reduce the sea lion population and protect salmon runs, as well as how the Congresswoman can support these efforts at the federal level. Last May, Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez toured the sea lion management program at Bonneville Dam.
“Sea lions the size of cars are swimming further up our rivers and chunking up on fish – and it’s endangering our salmon supply and folks’ livelihoods,” said Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez. “We need to use every tool at our disposal to control sea lion populations, and I’m grateful to the fishermen who took me out on the water to see this worsening problem firsthand.”

Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez visits Lower Columbia College’s CTE courses.

Next, Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez visited Lower Columbia College where she toured their machine trades, welding, and automotive and diesel technology programs. Having operated an auto repair and machine shop with her husband before coming to Congress, Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez has made elevating the next generation of the trades a priority.

During the tour, she spoke with President Seimears, instructors, and administrators about the $1 million grant she secured last month to equip a new Center for Vocational and Transitional Studies with technology and equipment for training in welding, machining, and manufacturing careers.

The Congresswoman has introduced bipartisan bills to help small businesses hire graduates of trade schools and strengthen awareness of CTE opportunities, and she has been supportive of fully funding Perkins grants for state CTE programs.

“Tradespeople keep our communities running, and the students I met reflect the independent thinking and drive that are essential for our local economy to thrive,” said Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez. “Bringing these dollars home to Lower Columbia College is how we begin to prioritize the trades again and promote an America where we’re producers and stewards of things – not just consumers.”

“At LCC, we are thankful for this funding and Congresswoman Marie Gluesenkamp Perez’s support. The Cowlitz EDC predicts that more than 30,000 manufacturing jobs in the SW Washington region will need to be filled in the next decade,” said President of Lower Columbia College Matt Seimears. “Cutting-edge tools, equipment, and technology will complete the new Center for Vocational and Transitional Studies, elevating it into a state-of-the-art skills center (long overdue for our region) that will serve local high schools, industry, and unions. Students will go directly from college to career, ready to fill the high-demand job needs of our region and beyond.”

Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez holds a roundtable on broadband access in Lewis County.

Afterwards, Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez held a roundtable on rural broadband access at Lewis County PUD with local providers, officials, ag producers, and the Lewis County Broadband Action Team.

Last June, the Congresswoman helped secure a $24.2 million USDA grant to expand rural broadband in Lewis County. It would make high-speed internet available to 2,863 people, 119 businesses, 487 farms, and four educational facilities.

She also introduced bipartisan legislation to expand rural broadband so everyone can access the telehealth, telework, small business, and educational opportunities that come with it.

Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez lives in rural Skamania County and gets her internet from a radio tower, so she has experienced the challenges of accessing the internet in a rural community.

“It’s difficult to access reliable, high-speed internet in a rural community like mine, yet it’s increasingly becoming a necessity to run a small business, access healthcare, or participate in school,” said Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez. “This infrastructure empowers rural economies, and I enjoyed speaking with community leaders about how we can work together to move these vital investments forward.”

Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez tours Providence Centralia Hospital.

Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez wrapped up her day with a tour of Providence Centralia Hospital, a 128-bed, acute care hospital serving Lewis County. They discussed rural healthcare access, workforce challenges, behavioral health needs, and their EMT vocational program.

The Congresswoman introduced the bipartisan PARA-EMT Act to make it easier for experienced veterans to become certified as paramedics and EMTs after returning home. Her bipartisan bill to get care to mothers and expecting mothers suffering from substance use disorders was passed by the House in December.

“By strengthening career pathways and opportunities for EMTs, it makes it easier for folks in rural communities to get speedy access to lifesaving care,” said Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez. “I’m glad I could visit Providence Centralia Hospital, where they’re training future first responders – and I’ll keep working to pass my bipartisan PARA-EMT Act to make it easier for us to address workforce shortages.”

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