Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The Legislature has been adjourned since the end of April but I have been hard at work on a number of issues this interim. This legislative update will give you a small sample of some of the meetings, tours and issues I have been working on this interim.
Talking wildfires in Western Washington
Earlier this summer I participated in a panel discussion at the Pacific Science Center on wildfires and their impacts on communities in both Eastern and Western Washington. This panel was a direct result of the Jolly Mountain Fire in 2018. The folks on the other side of the Cascades wanted to learn about the causes, effects and possible solutions to our catastrophic wildfires. We need to continue a dialogue with them. With that in mind, I recently submitted a column to The Everett Herald talking about the different management tools we have to prevent the catastrophic wildfires. Click here to read the op-ed.
Reversing Job Corps decision
Earlier this summer the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it was closing or privatizing 25 Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers operated by the U.S. Forest Service.
I had the opportunity to talk with federal government officials about their proposed plan while I was in Washington D.C. Fortunately, they reversed their decision. With the decision the USDA will be focusing on the success of the Job Corps program and how they can promote it to back up their decision and improve upon their success.
The centers currently operate in 17 national forests and other lands across 16 states and provide training to over 3,000 youth and young adults. Three of these centers are located in Washington: in White Swan, Moses Lake and Curlew. The Moses Lake center alone serves roughly 230 youth ages 16 to 24 each year, most of whom are low-income, at-risk students.
The negative impacts of closing these centers would have been significant and would have occurred at the beginning of the wildfire season.
Click here to read the op-ed penned by Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz and I on the federal government's reversal.
Productive visit to Washington D.C.
In addition to meeting with the Department of Labor and the Department of the Interior on the Job Corps issue, Sen. Judy Warnick and I were able to meet with other agency and elected officials. We met with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Bureau of Reclamation to find additional funding for the Odessa ground water replacement program. While meeting with the USDA we also discussed the national livestock ID program and how it will work with our state brand laws.
I also had the opportunity to meet with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to discuss aviation issues including:
- possible funding sources for our aging airport infrastructure in Washington state;
- the development of the electric aircraft industry and what it could mean to us here in the 13th District; and
- the possible new commercial airport in Washington state and the role the FAA will play in the development of any new airport siting.
We also talked about other new aviation-related issues that could potentially have a dramatic impact on the 13th District and Washington state.
Wildfire and wolf legislative tour
In July, legislators on the House Rural Development, Ag and Natural Resources Committee participated in a tour in Northeast Washington. The primary focus was wildfire and wolves. We saw fire destruction that had been salvaged, but much more that hasn't been touched. That needs to change as it is being wasted.
Legislators, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) staff and ranchers had a very in-depth discussion on wolves and wolf management. Local ranchers are experiencing great loss at the hands of the growing wolf population.
The main takeaway from this discussion is what can we do NOW to provide some relief for these people who are suffering loss to their livelihoods. The WDFW is trying to move forward with proactive decisions to help our ranchers.
State Agricultural Rural Leaders (SARL) Conference
For the fourth year in a row I attended the SARL Conference, held this year in Calgary, Alberta.
The conference is for legislators and officials from across the country and Canada involved in agricultural issues. It is a great opportunity to meet and network with folks from all areas of North America. We compare ag-related issues our states and provinces are working on and discuss possible solutions.
I was honored to be elected to the SARL board of directors. I also had the opportunity to speak to the group about our efforts to increase wildfire suppression and initial attack.
Snake River Dam tour
Recently more than 20 legislators took part in a tour of the Snake River dams. Environmental organizations and some westside lawmakers would like to see the dams breached, thinking it could substantially increase the salmon population and help save Southern Resident orcas in northern Puget Sound.
The tour was put together by several local agricultural groups. We traveled by boat from Kennewick to Ice Harbor Dam with the goal of educating legislators unfamiliar with the Snake River dams about their importance to our region.
Experts representing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries, Bonneville Power Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, farmers and irrigators also participated in the tour.
Those supporting removal of the dams are siting a private study by ECONorthwest. Two major newspapers have called the study “flawed.”
- Latest anti-dam study is 'unscientific and inaccurate.' It belongs in the trash (Tri-City Herald – Aug. 7, 2019)
- Dubious 'study' on dam breaching is propaganda (Union-Bulletin – Aug. 4, 2019)
I would agree. That is why it is so important we educate elected officials and others about how critical these dams are to the livelihoods of so many.
Speaking of water and dams, just last week I attended the Council of State Governments (CSG)-West Legislative Council on River Governance (LCRG). The council is a cooperative, bipartisan association of state legislators from Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. The mission is to unite the participating states behind a proactive, nonpartisan agenda of legislative action and communication aimed at protecting natural resources, preserving state authority and enhancing river governance in the Columbia and Snake River Basins.
Our own Washington State Rep. Bruce Chandler chaired the LCRG. As part of the House Rural Development, Agriculture and Natural Resource Committee, it was imperative I attend. The debate over our water, rivers and dams is at a critical juncture. It was a good conference and presented a good opportunity to work with other legislators from nearby states.
I continue to travel around the district during the interim. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions, concerns or comments about legislation or state issues. I am available to speak or meet with groups, organizations and tour schools or facilities. I look forward to seeing you.
It is an honor to serve the 13th District!