By Tim Mann
State Legislature: The state legislative session was scheduled to finish April 28th with passage of the biennial general, capital, and transportation budgets. Each year, legislators introduce several thousand bills. Most drop out at deadlines in the session calendar. At this writing, the 100% Clean Energy bill (SB 5116), a top priority for Audubon and many other conservation groups, is destined for the Governor’s signature. It sets a schedule for phasing out fossil-fuel generated electricity by 2045, a significant step in addressing carbon emissions and the climate change they cause. Adam Maxwell, Government Relations Director for Audubon Washington, said, “It’s hard to overstate what a big deal this is. Washington would become the fourth state to pass a 100% clean electricity standard, but many other states are considering similar legislation.”
Governor Inslee will also be signing bills to help achieve the clean energy goal by improving efficiency of appliances and of newly constructed buildings. He will sign a bill requiring tug escorts for the crude oil barges bound for March Point and other refineries and a measure to speed recovery of chinook, the principal food of Southern Resident Killer Whales (HB 1579). And more! Audubon has been supporting improved funding for Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW), which manages important habitat, and researches, protects, and restores endangered and sensitive species. At this writing, the likely outcome for the agency’s budget is hopeful but not quite clear. A partial ban on single-use plastic bags, which has failed for this session, may succeed next year.
Marblemount Quarry: In late March, Skagit Audubon submitted comments to Skagit County Planning & Development Services on possible adverse environmental impacts from a proposed very large stone quarrying operation along the South Skagit Highway near Marblemount. Kiewit Infrastructure proposes to quarry very large, dense rocks for repairing jetties at the mouth of the Columbia River and elsewhere over the next 30 to 100 years. The project application omits or inadequately addresses potential adverse impacts to local residents, wildlife, air and water quality, etc. There is no mention, for example, of the fisher, a state-listed species being actively restored not far from the project site, and the application significantly downplays the presence of the state and federally-listed gray wolf. As WDFW recently announced, the documented existence of a male and female wolf in the Diobsud Creek drainage near Marblemount constitutes a pack, the newest in Washington State and the first west of the Cascades in modern times. The scale and nature of the quarry project, inadequate application, and 15-day comment period provoked a hue and cry from local residents as well as organizations and agencies, many calling, as does Skagit Audubon, for an environmental impact statement. Skagit County has opened a new comment period, closing May 13. To read about the quarry proposal and to comment, go to https://www.skagitcounty.net/PlanningAndPermit/Documents/notices2019/April/kiewit.johnc.04.12.19.pdf (instructions about commenting) and https://www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/PlanningAndPermit/MarblemountQuarry.htm (project information and on-line comment form).
For more conservation issues of importance to Skagit Audubon, go to https://skagitaudubon.org/conservation/notes .