LEGISLATIVE NEWS: Riparian habitat legislation passes Ag committee, now includes $200 million in requested funding

The bipartisan salmon riparian habitat legislation, House Bill 1720, has taken two more steps toward the governor’s desk.

On Friday, the bill unanimously passed the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. Monday morning a public hearing was held in the Capital Budget Committee with the focus being on funding the legislation.

House Bill 1720 would protect and restore riparian areas by establishing a voluntary, regionally focused riparian grant program designed to improve the ecological functions of critical riparian management zones.

The capital budget provisos to fund the legislation include $100 million for the Salmon Recovery Funding Board to fund salmon recovery grants approved by the board, and $100 million to the Washington State Conservation Commission to fund the riparian grant program established in House Bill 1720.

The bipartisan group of legislators Reps. Mike ChapmanTom DentDebra Lekanoffand Joel Kretz, continue to lead the charge on the legislation.

“This legislation is the result of a lot of work and a lot of negotiations, but also a lot of consideration for all parties involved. We received input from the agricultural community and from the tribes and amended the bill accordingly,” said Rep. Mike Chapman, D-Port Angeles, prime sponsor of the legislation and Chair of the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources. “The bill has garnered strong support and has gained numerous co-sponsors, but it began with the good faith and genuine trust of two Democrats and two Republicans. It doesn’t get more bipartisan than this and that was my goal for this important legislation. The only way this plan works is if everyone is on board and I think we are there.”

“We have put a piece of legislation together with critical input from key stakeholders including farmers, tribal members, landowners, and fishermen. A heavy-handed regulatory approach will not work.  The voluntary program in this legislation will address salmon recovery and prevent critical farmland from being taken out of production,” said Dent, R-Moses Lake and lead Republican on the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. “We have had a lot of positive feedback on our approach and the funding keeps us on track to make this successful without making it mandatory.”

“This bill is truly a citizen driven and written piece of legislation, led by legislators who represent the values and culture of salmon as well as the agricultural industry. These two industries are intertwined through habitat, water, and resources, and they each face the impacts of population growth, extreme environmental cycles, and the Growth Management Act,” said Debra Lekanoff, D-Anacortes, co-sponsor of the bill. “This bill passed through committee unanimously and is truly a bipartisan effort. I look forward to considering it on the floor of the People’s House, where I expect we’ll see a similar vote, because this bill will build a future for salmon and the agricultural industry to sustainably grow, beginning with a foundation of respect and trust.”

“Protecting private property rights and restoring riparian habitat for the benefit of salmon do not have to be mutually exclusive,” said Kretz, R-Wauconda. “As a result of bipartisan work and trust, we have arrived at a proposal that is voluntary rather than regulatory. This is a win for salmon recovery and restoration, and it’s a win for farmers, ranchers, and private property owners who want to see riparian improvements on their land.”

The 105-day legislative session is scheduled to end April 23.

Riparian bill provisos

Reps. Chapman, Kretz, Lekanoff and Dent after signing the capital budget provisos for House Bill 1720.