Republican ORCA Plan would invest in outdoor recreation, climate adaptation, eliminate the Discover Pass

House Republican Environment and Energy Leader Rep. Mary Dye today released a comprehensive plan that proposes significant investments in outdoor recreation and climate adaptation, using revenue from the state’s new Climate Commitment Act (CCA).

The CCA provides the Department of Ecology authority to set a cap on carbon pollution and put a price on carbon emissions. It’s expected to raise more than $4 billion over 10 years, beginning in 2023.

The Outdoor Recreation and Climate Adaptation (ORCA) Plan would use that money to provide an outdoor recreation benefit by eliminating the $30 annual Discover Pass, reducing state park fees, paying for needed parks maintenance and upgrades, building new parks, and expanding trails and other recreational opportunities. In addition, it would meaningfully fund climate adaptation and a healthier environment, including addressing serious issues with forest health, drought resiliency, flood mitigation and Puget Sound restoration.

“The ORCA Plan is a new vision for our state, funding real solutions to protect and improve Washington’s environment. It wisely invests CCA dollars to benefit our environment and enhance our ability to recreate sustainably in the outdoors as our population grows,” said Dye, R-Pomeroy, who serves as the ranking member of the House Environment and Energy Committee.

Dye noted state parks have a lengthy maintenance backlog, even as demand is growing.

“Since 1990, Washington has added only twenty-eight campsites, while adding 2.7 million new residents. Some people must book a year in advance to secure a site and camping fees are out of reach for many citizens. Our plans would reduce fees, eliminate the Discover Pass, expand parks and increase access to them across the state,” said Dye.

“We also believe the focus for state policy should now turn to the question of climate adaptation. How do we make Washington secure against climate impacts that we can expect due to global carbon emissions? That’s where the ORCA Plan comes in,” added Dye.

Under the ORCA Plan, CCA revenue would also be invested in:

  • Forest health – Washington has 2.7 million acres of unhealthy forest and a forest health action plan that has no dedicated funding source. CCA revenue would be used to fully fund the state’s Forest Health Action Plan and assist small private forest landowners. It would also invest in communities that support the wood products industry to maintain healthy forests and reduce carbon emissions from wildfire.
  • Drought resiliency – The increased risk of drought from climate change is a direct threat to crops and livestock, and Washington’s agricultural jobs. The ORCA Plan would set aside CCA dollars for projects that secure a sustainable water supply, and which can be used to secure more federal funding.
  • Flood mitigation – Severe flooding in recent days underscores the serious problems expected from heavier rainfall events and earlier, more rapid snowmelt. The ORCA Plan would fund strategies developed by existing flood authorities to reduce flood damage and improve aquatic habitat in areas most likely to flood.
  • Puget Sound restoration – Major municipal wastewater treatment plants have leaked millions of gallons of untreated sewage into the Puget Sound. Decades of effort and funding have produced little progress toward benchmarks for recovery. The ORCA Plan would use CCA dollars to upgrade public sewage treatment facilities and provide grants for boatyard pollution controls. It would also clarify roles and responsibilities for Puget Sound recovery among state agencies.

“We believe ORCA is a pragmatic plan for Washington, providing a better and smarter way to use CCA funds for investment in programs and infrastructure that will effectively address climate change impacts, and fund real solutions for our state’s environment and affordable outdoor recreation opportunities,” said Dye.

Dye plans to introduce legislation for implementation of the ORCA Plan ahead of the 2022 legislative session, which begins Jan. 10.

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Washington State House Republican Communications