Dear Friends and Neighbors,
A new riparian buffer bill has been introduced in the Legislature, only this time, we may need your help to get the bill passed! Let me explain.
Last year, Gov. Inslee introduced a riparian buffer bill that surprised the agriculture community and many legislators. It was very heavy handed. In order to preserve fish habitat, it required riparian buffers on any lands containing streams and rivers of up to 250 feet on each side. Failure to comply would result in fines of up to $10,000 per day.
Needless to say, this proposal would have devastated farming, ranching, and orchardists in our state. For some, land would lose immense value overnight, essentially becoming completely unusable. The governor’s plan also failed to acknowledge the 66 riparian-related programs already in place in our state.
This year, the governor again dropped a riparian buffer bill. It would create a voluntary aspect to riparian buffers along with a taskforce in his office that would recommend future regulatory action if not enough change was made. In other words, we’re giving you a certain amount of time to “volunteer,” after that, we’re going back to mandates.
I don’t believe that mandates and the regulatory “taking” of private land is the right direction on this issue. I am cosponsoring a bipartisan effort that the Democrat chair of the House Agriculture and Natural Resource Committee has put forth.
Rep. Mike Chapman has sponsored House Bill 1720 which 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 Washington State Conservation Commission (SCC) would develop and implement the riparian grant program to fund protection and restoration of the critical riparian management zones. The commission is responsible for developing the criteria for the grant program. This would be completely voluntary, with no regulatory or punitive component.
This bipartisan bill will have a public hearing in the Agriculture and Natural Resource Committee on Tuesday, Feb. 7 at 10:30 a.m. We need your help to get this bill through the process. My fear is that if this bill doesn’t pass, the governor’s bill – or some version of it – may get more support. And that would be bad for farmers, landowners, ranchers, and orchardists around the state.
You can learn more about testifying remotely or submitting written testimony here. You can learn more about how you can comment on a bill here. Or, if you know the bill number you want to comment on, you can look it up at leg.wa.gov and click on the icon on the right side (see below) that says “Comment on this bill.”
Commenting on a bill is not the same as submitting written or oral testimony in committee, but it does allow the public to voice their opinions on legislation.
Thank you for your continued interest and involvement in your state government. Please contact my office with questions or concerns. We are here to serve you.