2020 Legislative Session Wrap Up
(Interested in the 2019 Session Recap? Click Here)
WRAP UP: After great gains in the two previous sessions to address the state’s wildfire response, the 2020 session was a disappointment. This may be because the 2019 summer wildfire early response policy extinguished most wildfires early and so wildfires did not dominate the news as in previous summers. Even the common sense Early Deployment bill failed to pass and the bill to establish a dedicated account did not even have a hearing. Mid session Commissioner Franz did release a Department of Natural Resources (DNR ) Climate Resilience Plan. She has also released a DNR 20-year Forest Health Strategic Plan for Central and Eastern Washington.
WRAP UP: In the 2020 legislative session, progress was made in preserving streams for salmon. This big win was the passage of ESHB 1261 finally closing our ESA fish critical habitat to destructive motorized aquatic dredge mining. Also passed was EHB 1187 that helped Conservation Districts do fish barrier removal projects on private lands adding to the state’s fish barrier removal efforts to help our salmon.
RIVERS OUTSIDE THE LEGISLATURE:
The long awaited DEIS (Draft Environmental Statement) on the Chehalis River BasinFlood Damage Reduction Project is out! The public review and comment period has been extended until May 27, 2020. Comment here. Our main concern is the environmental damage from the proposed flood control dam to salmon habitat.
The Snake River dam removal study done by the Washington State Legislature was released last December with inconclusive results. Lower Snake River Dams Stakeholder Engagement Report: See article.
The Feb. 2020 DEIS (Draft Environmental Impact Statement) for Snake-Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead is out and deadline for comments is April 13, 2020. Produced by federal agencies under a 2016 court order, the Draft EIS considers several options for the future management of federal dams in the Columbia Basin, including one option that would remove the four dams on the Lower Snake River. For updates, telephone public meetings and how to comment, go to the Save Our Salmon website.
Click on Bill # for detailed information. See UPDATES below.
Bills the League Supported That Have Been Signed Into Law
EHB 1187Revising hydraulic project eligibility standards for conservation district sponsored fish habitat enhancement projects. Will streamline process for conservation districts to do fish enhancement project. Conservation Districts are a government subdivision that work with private land owners on conservation projects. This bill requires that their project applications only have to be permitted by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. The removal of fish barriers on streams is a priority for aiding our salmon recovery.
ESHB 1261 Ensuring Department of Ecology compliance with the Clean Water Act by prohibiting motorized or gravity siphon aquatic mining and their discharges from waters of the state. Protects water quality and critical habitat for endangered salmon, steelhead and bull trout, protecting their spawning, rearing and migratory habitat from this destructive recreational gold mining practice. This controversial bill was introduced from the 2019 session; it pitted flyfisherpeople and tribes against the motorized aquatic gold mining community. The imperative to prohibit this practice was strengthened as neighboring states had passed mandatory water quality permits for the practice leaving only Washington without them. It was an important bill to further protect our endangered fish species.
SHB 1154 Act relating to financing of Chehalis basin flood damage reduction and habitat restoration projects. Flooding of the Chehalis River basin is a problem, but an expensive dam is not the best way to solve the problem for a river with healthy salmon and bull trout runs. We think that funding shouldn’t precede the SEPA/ NEPA process, and Ecology will release the DEIS and hold public hearings starting in late March. We also have concerns about funding by $700 million general obligation bonds. Final bill placed more restrictions and funding oversight. The Office of Chehalis Basin is required to develop a project list, and submit a report with a finalized strategic plan by January 1, 2021 for legislative review. The legislature will then consider funding. A Chehalis Basin Taxable Account is created in the State Treasury. Meanwhile the SEPA required DEIS on the Chehalis River Basin Plan has been released and comments are being taken until April 31. SHB 1154 was signed by the Governor on March 31.
Bills the League Supported That Did Not Pass
EHB 2228 Permitting early deployment of state fire services resources.
SHB 2413 Wildfire Prevention and Preparedness Act. Creates a new dedicated source of funding, the Wildfire Prevention and Suppression Account, to be spent on: emergency firefighting, preparedness, prevention and forest health. Revenue source is a fee of $5 on each property and casualty insurance policy. Proactively addresses staggering annual costs of wildfires. Costs to homeowner and auto policies is $5 each policy.
HB 2714 Valuing the carbon in forest riparian easements. Establishes the forest riparian easement program for forest land owners. Part of a forest carbon sequestration strategy to lower carbon emissions.
SJM 8014 Concerning logging and mining in the upper Skagit watershed. Requests British Columbia work with the city of Seattle and Skagit Environmental Endowment Commission to prevent logging and mining in the donut hole of Upper Skagit watershed. Reintroduced and referred to Rural Development, Agriculture & Natural Resources.
Bills the League Opposed That Did Not Passed
SB 1979Relating to establishment of reasonable surface water flow levels. Demands the Department of Ecology repeal rules establishing water unattainable water levels.
HB 1946 / SSSB 5873 Concerning Community Forests. Creates a Community Forest Grant Program and `Community Forestland Account administered by the Department of Natural Resources. Helps communities to develop a local forest of mixed use.
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