WA lawmakers brace for long list of climate change bills

By on January 11, 2022 0

Other climate related bills

Blaming climate change, Inslee declared a drought emergency last July for the entire state except Seattle, Tacoma and Everett, which have solid municipal water supplies. The measure prompted the state to scramble to find money to help local governments and boards of directors buy or divert water or tackle other water mitigation measures. the heat. The declaration expedited the processing of emergency drought permits and allowed temporary transfers of water rights.

The state has no designated sources to fundraise for drought finance.

This drought declaration also activated the Joint Legislative Committee on Water Supply During Drought, which only meets in years when the state declares a drought. “We have learned a hard lesson this year. … We need more flexibility in times of drought. We need more certainty, ”said Senator Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake and the chair of the committee.

During briefings this year, the committee learned that temperatures from March to August 2021 were the third warmest in Washington history – 2.1 degrees Fahrenheit above average. Fifteen of Washington’s 39 counties reported the driest conditions in their history. The easternmost quarter of the state experiences drought conditions that normally appear once or twice every 100 years.

Among other impacts, drought dramatically reduced Washington’s crop yields in 2021.

Last year’s wheat crop accounted for 46% of the 2020 crop, the state’s weakest wheat crop since 1964. [numbers of] bushels [per acre]”Michelle Hennings, executive director of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers, told the Drought Committee.

The state’s cherry harvest fell 20% from 2020 to 2021. Cherries are a major export from Washington to countries in the Pacific. Meanwhile, the northwest corner of the state produces 85% of the country’s red raspberries, and this year’s heat has reduced the harvest to 30% below normal. “Is this a unique event in a century or a sign of what is to come? We don’t know, ”Henry Bierlink, executive director of the Washington Red Raspberry Commission, told the committee.

State officials expect a drought to reappear in 2022, as Washington would need 150% of its regular rainfall until next spring just to reclaim water lost in 2021 in the basin’s agricultural granary. of the Columbia River. “It probably won’t happen,” state climatologist Nick Bond told the committee.

Warnick, the senator for Moses Lake, plans to introduce a bill – which she hopes will be supported by both Republicans and Democrats on the drought committee – to provide state subsidies to affected communities by drought, better define what constitutes emergency financing and accelerate state responses to declared droughts. The bill would also attempt to prevent emergency withdrawals from exceeding existing water rights. She said the money to pay for these drought responses has yet to be identified.

“I hope we get pragmatic and do something,” Warnick said.