Wilcox proposes using mitigation dollars more efficiently

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Wilcox proposes using mitigation dollars more efficiently

The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee held a public hearing on a bill Jan. 17 regarding wetland mitigation.

Rep. J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, sponsored the legislation to ensure mitigation dollars were used more efficiently for existing beneficial environmental projects.

When a proposed development project has been determined to affect a wetland, there are several options for project proponents to offset or mitigate for loss or harm to wetlands. House Bill 2238 would provide another option, but not a requirement, for offsite mitigation.

Currently project proponents may satisfy mitigation requirements through a variety of options. Wilcox's proposal would establish a Riparian and Aquatic Resources Enhancement (RARE) Account as another option to provide mitigation within the same watershed as another project.

“In some cases, environmental function can be most effectively improved not only at the site of a project, but by removing obstructions to fish passage or maintaining buffers and additional habitat. This enhances the value of the entire mitigation,” Wilcox said.

His hope is that this additional account could help reduce a backlog of mitigation projects that have been promised.

“This proposal will pair projects within the same watershed with existing state programs, that, when they are funded, are highly successful conservation programs. This will help us get more value out of money spent on mitigation efforts,” Wilcox said. “This is not about adding burdens or cost.  It is about using existing dollars and existing programs more efficiently for the benefit of taxpayers and the environment.”

Wilcox noted to the committee that there may be challenges for larger projects coordinating with federal regulations.

“Some additional work may need to be done to address federal issues, but this is a work in progress and I will continue dialogue with various groups affected to achieve the best legislation with consensus,” Wilcox said. “The goal here is to find the greatest good for the environment and the most efficient use of limited dollars.”

The bill now awaits action by the committee to move forward. A companion bill has also been proposed in the Senate.

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov