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WASHINGTON’S LEGISLATURE HAS FAILED TO STOP WATER POLLUTION AND IMPACTS TO SALMON FROM LIVESTOCK AND OTHER AGRICULTURAL PRACTICES

During the 1997 session of the Washington Legislature, a bill was introduced that would have established a multi-dimensional voluntary, cooperative, and regulatory based system to protect and restore riparian ecosystems on streams located on agricultural lands. The bill was not "targeting" agriculture but recognized a need for a comprehensive system of streamside protection from the headwaters to the mouths of our rivers. The bill was designed to address the "gap" in the comprehensive need for streamside protection. The "gap" was the lack of any functional approach to protect and restore riparian ecosystems on agricultural lands. The Growth Management Act addresses these needs on developing lands and the Forest Practice Act addressed them on state and private forest lands. However, the lack of protection of our streams and water quality on agricultural lands creates a significant risk to our resources, fish habitat, water quality, and the health and safety of the public. The agriculture industry’s continual denial of the problem, and the inability of the Washington Legislature to find a solution, leads to the need for a citizen’s initiative to resolve the problem.

 

CHRONOLOGY OF EVENTS

1971

The Shoreline Management Act is implemented (RCW 90.58).

1974

The legislature establishes the State Environmental Policy Act (RCW 43.21C).

The legislature exempts certain irrigation project water withdrawal decisions from SEPA (RCW 43.21C.035(2)(C) (RCW 43.21C.035).

1981

The legislature exempts certain agricultural activities from Washington Clean Air Act (RCW 70.94.640).

1987

Legislature exempts water appropriated for agricultural uses in the Columbia Basin Project

from periodic renewal by the Department of Ecology or public (RCW 90.40.100).

1989

Governor establishes the Wetlands Forum with agriculture, business, environmental, and tribal interests to develop a model wetland ordinance.

1990

Agricultural interests "walk away" from the Governor’s Wetland Forum.

Tribes, environmental groups, fishing organizations, business and agricultural interests, and state and federal agencies establish the "Chelan Agreement" to provide comprehensive water resource management in a holistic manner. One of the primary issues in the implementation of the Agreement was water and land management on agricultural lands.

1993

Legislature exempts hydraulic project approvals for certain agricultural projects from periodic renewal by the Department of Fish and Wildlife or public (RCW 75.20.103).

1994

As a result of the latest elections, business and agricultural interests "walk away" from the Chelan Agreement.

1996

Certain environmental groups, Native American Indian tribes, and commercial and recreational fishing groups ask the legislature to consider the adoption of a Streamside Protection and Salmon Habitat Act. SB 6770 and HB 2919 are introduced in the Washington State Legislature to provide streamside protection on agricultural lands. The bills never even receive a public hearing due to the resistance of the agricultural industry.

Legislature exempts certain transfers of agricultural water rights from review and approval of the Department of Ecology and the public. (RCW 90.03.380).

1997

Again, certain environmental groups, Native American Indian tribes, and commercial and recreational fishing groups ask the legislature to consider the adoption of a Streamside Protection and Salmon Habitat Act. One of the primary purposes of the Act would be to protect and restore streamside areas from the detrimental effects of certain agricultural activities, including livestock grazing. SB 5830 and HB 1953 were introduced in the Washington State Legislature. Again, neither bill even receiving a public hearing, the bills died in committee due to resistance by the agricultural industry.

 

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