By Tim Manns
At this mid-February writing, the state legislature’s sixty-day session is more than half over. By tonight, any bills not voted out of the chamber in which they were introduced will die. Barring extraordinary circumstances, the session will end March 10th. Among bills already dead for this year is the Lorraine Loomis Act (HB 1838 / SB 5727) to enhance salmon recovery. Requiring considerable vegetated stream buffers aroused bitter opposition and memories of Skagit’s buffer wars of years ago. Also not moving forward is a bill to fund and improve the measure passed in 2020 encouraging farming practices that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sequester carbon in the soil.
Still in play is SB 5042 to close a Growth Management Act loophole allowing developers to skirt prohibitions on so-called Fully Contained Communities (i.e., residential sprawl in rural areas). First introduced in 2008, this bill would help efforts in Skagit County to block FCCs once and for all. (Note: the Anacortes City Council on February 14th approved a letter to the County Commissioners opposing FCCs, joining three other Skagit communities.)
Audubon Washington’s top priority this session is passing Senate Bill 5885. Adam Maxwell, Audubon’s legislative lead, says, “(This bill) would require a regular and comprehensive assessment of shoreline conditions in Puget Sound, identifying illegal and potentially derelict structures that are impeding habitat function. It would also improve the guidelines for replacing marine structures. It’s a straightforward bill that lays the groundwork for much bigger conservation efforts in years to come.” The diets of seabirds, salmon, and marine mammals rely on forage fish, some of which spawn on beaches. Armoring interferes with beach replenishment ruining conditions needed for spawning. This bill passed the Senate and is still in play.
Also still alive is House Bill 1099 requiring counties and municipalities to address resilience to climate change in their comprehensive plans and shoreline master programs (SMP). Because it is not yet required by law, Skagit County is ignoring sea level rise in its current SMP revision. It should be noted that there are adverse forestry-related provisions in this amended bill which need to change before final passage.
For how to follow bills, see the Conservation Report in February’s Skagit Flyer on Skagit Audubon’s website. For other issues Skagit Audubon is following see the Conservation Notes, also on the website www.skagitaudubon.org .