Dear Friends and Neighbors,
This past Monday demonstrated the stark differences between the lifestyles of the people who live in Eastern Washington and those who live on the west side of the state near Seattle.
A light dusting of snow fell Sunday night in the Puget Sound area — just enough to cover the roads. On Monday, most lawmakers from Eastern Washington, who had traveled hundreds of miles over slick, snowy, icy highways, including the mountain passes, reported for work at the Capitol. Around Seattle, schools closed, people stayed off the roads, there were fewer people at the Capitol — many afraid to drive in the snowfall.
Refrigerant ban would be costly to Eastern Washington
We are “One Washington,” but it's important to recognize and respect the differences between how we live, how we work, and how we raise our families. It's also important that the Legislature do no harm to people of our state, no matter where they live.
A prime example is House Bill 1112, a measure introduced by a Burien lawmaker, that would create a new program to regulate and reduce hydrofluorocarbons, which are typically found in refrigerants. That may sell well in the Seattle area where Gov. Inslee's climate change agenda is popular. However, in Eastern Washington where thousands of jobs rely on the frozen food industry and wine storage, all of which depend on refrigeration, this is a harmful job-killing bill.
Preferred Freezer Services operates a 455,000-square-foot, high-tech freezer warehouse in the Tri-Cities — the largest commercial freezer in North America. Railex has a 760,000-square-foot facility that stores more than 7 million cases of wine at 55 degrees while they wait to be shipped. Imagine the costs to these warehouses and other food processors, not to mention the harm to the environment, if they are forced to pump out their refrigerants — all of which are now securely contained. This is a “feel good” measure to make Seattle happy. However, there are few in Eastern Washington who would feel good about Seattle imposing these types of policies on them. If a proposed policy is potentially harmful to our citizens, maybe we need a new policy. Or in this case, no bill at all.
Complete the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project
In my last email update, I talked about the importance of developing additional water infrastructure in the Odessa Subaquifer where groundwater levels are in serious decline. Communities such as Lind, Ritzville, Harrington and Moses Lake have been struggling with dwindling water supplies. At least 21 communities and more than 125,000 people are at risk of losing water.
Grand Coulee Dam was built in the 1930s, not only for electrical generation, but to supply irrigation to the Columbia Plateau. (A good explanation of its history can be found here.) Water from behind the dam is pumped into a 27-mile long reservoir, Banks Lake, from which it flows into a series of canals. There are more than 300 miles of main canals, 2,000 miles of laterals and 3,500 miles of drains and waterways, supplying irrigation water to 2,050 farms.
The original project called for a much larger area of canals to irrigate the full 1,100,000 acres in the plateau, but that expansion waned in the 1960s, and the eastern portion of the project was never completed. Instead, the Department of Ecology issued temporary deep well permits in those areas. Now, 50 years later, many of those wells are running dry. That's why I am pushing for the completion of the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project.
I've been to the White House four times in the past year to seek funding for Columbia Basin water infrastructure. President Trump signed my map of the project area and has indicated his support. We're hoping for $10 million a year from the federal government for the next five years to cover the first phase.
I have introduced House Bill 1889, which would provide $500 million in bonding authority for the state's share of the cost to get the project underway.
I can't emphasize enough how important it is to do this now while we have the support of the White House. We must not let this opportunity slip through our hands, or we will risk turning the eastern portion of the basin back into a dry, barren dusty wasteland.
Students from Adams, Franklin counties experience the page program
It was my honor to sponsor McKenzie Fultz of Othello and Matthew Haddick of Pasco as my legislative pages this week.
Paging presents students with a unique educational opportunity to participate in the legislative process, such as presenting the flags, to operational chores like distributing amendments during legislative sessions.
McKenzie attends Othello High School and is the 14-year-old daughter of Gregg and Tiffaney Fultz. Matthew is home schooled and is the 16-year-old son of Tim and Alice Haddick of Pasco.
Come visit your state Capitol!
I really appreciate all the folks who made the long drive over to Olympia to visit me and the state Capitol. I encourage you to do it sometime, hopefully, while we are in session through April. Please call my office if you plan to come. My contact information is below.
Above are some of the Future Farmers of America state officers, including (from left): Karlee Hansen of Ellensburg, Sadie Aronsen of White River, and Zachary Schilter of Chehalis.
Here are the names of a few of the many people who've come to visit me in Olympia:
- Liberty High School Principal Aaron Fletcher, Spangle;
- Lincoln Middle School Principal Cameron Grow, Pullman;
- Conservation District officials from the Palouse, Lincoln and Grant districts;
- Whitman Co. Port Commissioner Tom Kammerzell;
- Washingon Association of Wheat Growers;
- Volunteers with Aging and Long Term Care of Eastern Washington;
- ARC of Tri-Cities;
- Kyle Steward, Pasco;
- Stacey Titchenal, Spokane;
- Local dentists Spencer Jilek, Pasco, and Liselotte Mannion-Black, Kennewick;
- Tri-Cities Legislative Council;
- Washington Veterans Affairs Director Alfie Alvarado-Ramos;
- Washington State Legislative Youth Advisory Council; and
- Washington State Council of Firefighters