Fighting Climate Change & Its Effects
Forests & Rivers

Protect our forests from wildfires and preserve as important carbon sinks.
Protect our free-flowing rivers from dams, disturbance and depletion.


Issue Team Chair: Raelene Gold, rgold@lwvwa.org(206) 303-7218
DOWNLOAD the Forests & Rivers Issue Paper
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2020 Legislative Session Expectations
(Interested in the 2019 Session Recap? Click Here)

FORESTS

Measures for the preparation for and prevention of wildfires, made great progress last session. Combined with bills from the 2018 session, there has been significant progress towards wildfire preparation in integrated training and deployment among the various Department of Natural Resources (DNR) firefighters, National Guard members and Correctional Department prisoners. More DNR firefighters, helicopters and other equipment have been secured, and on the ground pre-planning included. DNR has a twenty year forest health program to help prevent wildfires especially focused on at risk forests treatments of prescribed burning and thinning.

Though DNR was well funded, the long term dedicated fund account sought by Commissioner Franz did not pass, and will probably be reintroduced with a funding source that does not elicit so much opposition. There may be bills protecting forests as a carbon sink and protecting air quality related to wildfire smoke.

RIVERS 
River protection has not benefited from such forward thinking. Years of drought impacting the orchardists with junior water rights are being addressed in Yakima Basin Integrated Plan which continues to receive both state and federal funding. Flooding concerns on the Chehalis River are addressed in the Chehalis River Integrated Plan which has received state funding. Also, concerns about sufficient salmon for orcas, resulted in the passage of a bill Increasing Chinook salmon for Orcas, and restricting hydraulic project permits that damage the fish’s spawning habitat. The operating budget also included funding for a study regarding preparing for the outcome of the lower Snake River dams breeching or removal. The Transportation budget included funding for fish barrier removal, which will also help salmon, though a bill funding fish barrier removal for counties and cities helping connectivity did not pass.

Other important bills protecting rivers, including bills prohibiting motorized or gravity siphon aquatic mining from certain rivers, and revising hydraulic project eligibility standards for conservation district fish habitat enhancement, failed to pass. These are very common sense bills that we hoped will be introduced next year.

Click on Bill # for detailed information.  See UPDATES below.

Bills the League Supports

FORESTS

  • HB 1946 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.  UPDATE:           Now in Capital Budget Committee.

  • HB 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.  UPDATE: In House Capital Budget Committee.


RIVERS

  • HB 1261 / SB 5322  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.    UPDATE:  It’s very important to pass this bill to protect our rivers and spawning salmonSHB 1261 in House Environment and Energy. SB 5322 in Senate Rules X file.  

  • SB 6260 Tribal traditional and cultural interests in water resources. Affirms tribes water priority rights. UPDATE: Hearing Jan. 21, 1:30 pm in Senate Agriculture.

  • SB 6292  Water Sales Rights. Department of Ecology is authorized to use the trust water rights program for water banking statewide. UPDATE: Hearing Jan. 21, 1:30 pm in Senate Agriculture.

  • SB 6301 Public interest considerations in transfer or change of surface water rights. UPDATE: Hearing Jan. 21, 1:30 pm in Senate Agriculture.


    Bills the League Opposes

    •  SB 1979  Relating to establishment of reasonable surface water flow levels. Demands the Department of Ecology repeal rules establishing water unattainable water levels. UPDATE: Hearing Jan. 21, 10 am in House Rural Development.

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