The Gristle

Fire and Water II

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

FIRE AND WATER II: With members dwindling and walking out, the record-breaking 193-day session in Olympia ended with a whimper last week.

Republicans were annoyed with the governor’s veto of their tax break for rural manufacturers, and had already vowed to stall the state’s capital budget without a fix to the state Supreme Court’s Hirst decision that limits new domestic water wells, leaving property owners in many rural areas without access to water and unable to build homes on their property.

Lawmakers proposed several bills in response to the ruling, including an offer by House Democrats (HB 2248) to allow property owners to obtain water-access permits for two years, while a legislative task force works on a permanent solution, the Washington Policy Center noted. House and Senate Republicans, however, said people need a permanent fix now. They want the House to vote on SB 5239, to reduce the harm imposed by the Hirst decision. Essentially the bill reasserts the primacy of the state Department of Ecology in water resource management determinations, a primacy in county planning decisions the high court found misplaced last fall. The bill passed the Senate four times this year, but House Democrats have refused to allow a vote on it in the House.

The capital budget for the 2015-17 biennium totals $3.8 billion, including $2.3 billion from state general obligation bonds and $1.5 billion from a variety of dedicated fees and taxes, federal funds and timber revenues. Additionally, $2.8 billion from incomplete projects unspent from the previous budget is plowed back into the current proposal for a total of $6.6 billion, according to the financial briefing for the budget.

“To say we are disappointed that we are leaving Olympia without a Hirst fix is an understatement,” Reps. Vincent Buys and Luanne Van Werven noted in a joint statement. “The temporary 24-month ‘fix’ put forth by the Seattle-centric House majority is nothing more than a farce. Let us be clear: this ‘solution’ is meaningless for Whatcom County and other rural communities throughout our state. A temporary solution can leave permitting or financing issues in limbo over the long-term. Not to mention it routinely can take up to two years to obtain a building permit. All their bill does is provide more uncertainty for families, developers, lenders and others.”

While there’s enough venom and invective to fire state elections for many years—certainly continuing to widen the rural-urban divide in state politics—the quarrel breaks down rather simply: Democrats want a solution that includes money and resources to address a real problem of water oversubscription; Republicans do not want a solution that involves money and resources.

Democrats would probably yield on the “quick fix” for Hirst if they received legislative assurance from Republicans that would deal with longer-term considerations of water rights and water availability in a forthright way. Without that, the “permanent fix” for Hirst will never be permanently fixed, but certainly would allow for a brushfire stampede on permit applications for rural developments that could overwhelm planning departments around the state for a decade.

Without an agreement on a water-rights bill, Senate Republicans have held up the two-year, $4 billion capital construction budget. That means that no new money for school construction, sewer projects, mental health facilities and other projects across the state is available, and that some state workers who are now paid by existing agency funds might ultimately face layoffs.

Already, Republicans around the state are writing their white-hot campaign literature for next year.

For Whatcom County, the consequences of failing to pass a capital budget carries very real consequences, with more than $80 million in construction projects slated for the 40th and 42nd Legislative Districts. Projects lost or stalled include $2 million in matching funds for a new and much-needed behavioral health triage and wellness center; $2.5 million for a clean energy fund that would assist jobs at Alcoa’s Intalco plant; $4 million in asbestos flood control and cleanup for Swift Creek, along with millions of more dollars for cleanup and dredging of Squalicum waterway and other harbors and streams around the county; and more than $36 million in education improvements for Whatcom Community College.

Held hostage for no particular purpose or advantage to anyone was $10.1 million to keep the core of Blanchard Mountain from being logged.

“Without Senate approval, there will be no new funding to keep parts of Blanchard safe from logging,” Rep. Kris Lytton reported.

“The budget would have funded critical beds at Western State Hospital and facilities across the state to maintain federal accreditation and provide the care and service for those facing mental health illnesses,” Sen. Kevin Ranker noted. “The budget also would have supported hundreds of public and more than 19,000 private jobs.

“In our district, the capital budget would have funded critical community and recreation programs in North Puget Sound, and finally create the Harriet Spanel State Forest, also known as Blanchard Mountain.

“It is unconscionable that we would go home without voting on this critical budget,” Ranker said. “Our job is to do what is best for our communities and state. It is time for us to come together and govern. I remain fully supportive of the agreed upon, bipartisan capital budget and will work tirelessly to get it passed. It is my hope that Senate Republicans will join us.”

His hope seems remote for now, with state Sen. Tim Sheldon, a Mason County Democrat, caucusing strongly with Republicans on Hirst. A special election in November for the 45th District Senate seat—Seattle’s tech-heavy Eastside suburbs—could change the dynamics and break the impasse. The fire of that election will set the tone and tenor for the slate of state elections next year.

ICU Roof #2
Past Columns
The Missing Middle

August 16, 2017

The Last, Best Solution

August 9, 2017

Fire and Water III

August 2, 2017

Fire and Water

July 19, 2017

Some Assembly Required

July 12, 2017

Good, Bad, Ugly

July 5, 2017

Zero Hour

June 28, 2017

Standoff

June 21, 2017

An Existential Triangle

June 14, 2017

Divided Decisions

June 7, 2017

Breached and Beached

May 10, 2017

The Calm Before the Storm

April 26, 2017

April Showers 2

April 19, 2017

April Showers

April 12, 2017

The Fix Flops

April 5, 2017

A Perfect Storm

March 29, 2017

Events
Today
Sounds by the bay

9:41am

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8:43pm

Sounds by the bay

9:41am

Look to the skies

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Sounds by the bay

9:41am

Look to the skies

8:43pm

Sounds by the bay

9:41am

Look to the skies

8:43pm

Northwest Washington Fair

9:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

Bicycle Noir

7:30pm|Cafe Velo

Sounds by the bay

9:41am

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

Skagit Tours

12:00pm|Highway 20

Bard on the Beach

6:00pm|Vanier Park

Skagit River Shakespeare Festival Finale

7:00pm|Rexville Grange Amphitheater

The Cemetery Club

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Help!

7:30pm|MBT's Walton Theatre

An Iliad

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Wild Things

9:30am|Lake Padden Park

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Plover Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Books and Bites

1:00pm|Blaine Library

Ferndale Farmers Market

3:00pm|Centennial Riverwalk Park

Food Not Bombs

4:00pm|Downtown Bellingham

Sin & Gin Tours

4:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Port of Anacortes Summer Concert Series

6:00pm|Seafarers Park

Farm Tunes

6:00pm|BelleWood Acres

Commercial Street Night Market

6:00pm|Commercial Street

Family Story Night

6:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Salmon Dinner Sail

6:00pm|Bellingham Cruise Terminal

USA Dance

7:00pm|The Majestic

Dancing on the Green

7:00pm|Fairhaven Village Green

Participle Poetry

7:00pm|Village Books

Burlington Summer Nights

7:00pm|Burlington Visitors Center Amphitheater

Art of Rappelling

7:30pm|Backcountry Essentials

The Heroes

9:00pm|Upfront Theatre

MBT Help
Tomorrow
Sounds by the bay

9:41am

Look to the skies

8:43pm

Sounds by the bay

9:41am

Look to the skies

8:43pm

Sounds by the bay

9:41am

Look to the skies

8:43pm

Sounds by the bay

9:41am

Look to the skies

8:43pm

Northwest Washington Fair

9:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

Bicycle Noir

7:30pm|Cafe Velo

Sounds by the bay

9:41am

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

Skagit Tours

12:00pm|Highway 20

Bard on the Beach

6:00pm|Vanier Park

Skagit River Shakespeare Festival Finale

7:00pm|Rexville Grange Amphitheater

An Iliad

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

The Cemetery Club

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Help!

7:30pm|MBT's Walton Theatre

Plover Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Sin & Gin Tours

4:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

The Heroes

9:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Lynden Breakfast

8:00am|VFW Hall

Ferndale Breakfast

8:00am|Ferndale Senior Center

Twin Sisters Farmers Market

9:00am|North Fork Library, Nugents Corner

Cascade Days

9:00am|Concrete

Mount Vernon Farmers Market

9:00am|Riverfront Plaza

Anacortes Farmers Market

9:00am|Depot Arts Center

Rummage Sale

10:00am|Immanuel Lutheran Church

Blaine Gardeners Market

10:00am|H Street Plaza

Lummi Island Saturday Market

10:00am|Lummi Island

Boots & Brews

10:00am|Boundary Bay Brewery

Lummi Art & Small Business Fair

10:00am|Lummi Te'Ti'Sen Center

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Summer Garden Party

11:00am|Skagit Valley Food Co-op

Skagit Woodstock

11:30am|Edgewater Park

Plover Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Farm to Glass Distillery Tours

12:00pm|BelleWood Acres

Nooksack River Walk

3:00pm|Horseshoe Bend Trailhead

Kulshan Chorus Variety Show

4:00pm|Boundary Bay Brewery

Cooked

5:00pm|North Fork Library

Summer of Love

5:00pm|Heart of Anacortes

Joke-Telling Contest

7:00pm|Point Roberts Community Center

Salish Stories

7:00pm|Chair 9

Comedy and country in Lynden

7:30pm

Look to the skies

8:43pm

Salsa Night

9:30pm|Cafe Rumba

Trove Bellingham Farmer’s Market
Sunday
Sounds by the bay

9:41am

Look to the skies

8:43pm

Sounds by the bay

9:41am

Look to the skies

8:43pm

Sounds by the bay

9:41am

Look to the skies

8:43pm

Sounds by the bay

9:41am

Look to the skies

8:43pm

Bicycle Noir

7:30pm|Cafe Velo

Sounds by the bay

9:41am

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

Skagit Tours

12:00pm|Highway 20

Bard on the Beach

6:00pm|Vanier Park

Help!

7:30pm|MBT's Walton Theatre

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Plover Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Cascade Days

9:00am|Concrete

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Farm to Glass Distillery Tours

12:00pm|BelleWood Acres

Plover Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Look to the skies

8:43pm

Rabbit Ride

8:00am|Fairhaven Bicycle

Rabbit Ride

8:00am|Fairhaven Bicycle

Doggie Dash

10:00am|Lake Padden Park

Dog Days of Summer

10:00am|Lake Padden Park

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Plover Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

La Conner Live!

1:00pm|Gilkey Square

Nonfiction and Memoir Writing Group

3:00pm|Village Books

Trivia Night

5:00pm|Boundary Bay Brewery

Way North Comedy Showcase #6

7:00pm|Farmstrong Brewing Co.

see our complete calendar »

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