Rep. Mary Dye: ORCA is the only plan to provide real solutions to the environmental challenges of our state
It was heartbreaking when the Nooksack River submerged Whatcom County farming communities, swept livestock away and decimated dairies, farmland and homes. Equally sad was when heavy rains overflowed the Chehalis River and nearby tributaries, sending water through homes and property.
Gov. Jay Inslee opened his Dec. 13 climate policy press conference by voicing concerns about the flooding, wildfires that have destroyed forests and filled the skies with smoke, drought that has caused reduction of wheat crops and damage to grapes in Walla Walla, and wastewater that has put Puget Sound oyster beds at risk. I share those concerns. Yet, the governor provided no further leadership on these issues. Instead, his plan went in a different direction, proposing to decarbonize buildings, dismantle the natural gas industry and eliminate the thousands of Washington jobs it supports, electrify state ferries, and spend millions of dollars for electric vehicle rebates. NOT ONE DIME of the governor's proposal would address fires, floods, drought and Puget Sound pollution — the most critical environmental issues impacting Washingtonians.
While the governor has no plan for these issues, we do! The House Republican ORCA Plan is a new vision for Washington I have authored that would fund real solutions for our environment.
ORCA (Outdoor Recreation and Climate Adaptation) would use revenue (about $4 billion over 10 years) from the state's new cap-and-trade program (Climate Commitment Act) to make smart investments in climate adaptation. Our plan would result in healthier forests, a cleaner Puget Sound, and resilience to drought and flood risks.
Our solutions include:
- House Bill 1823 – Climate adaptation: This legislation would transfer $125 million each biennium into a special account to address:
- Flooding – Fund the strategies developed by existing flood authorities to reduce flood damage and improve aquatic habitat in areas most likely to flood.
- Forest health – Fully fund the state's forest health action plan to clean up and properly manage our forests and public lands so there is less chance of wildfires that emit tons of carbon and unhealthy smoke, This is the best and most effective way to reduce atmospheric carbon.
- Drought – Invest in projects that secure a sustainable water supply, such as completion of the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project and replenishing water in communities that rely on the declining Odessa Subaquifer.
- House Bill 1822 – Puget Sound restoration: The ORCA Plan proposes to upgrade municipal wastewater treatment facilities to stop tons of sewage spilling into Puget Sound.
We would also upgrade and expand state parks and recreational trails. Plus, House Bill 1824 would eliminate the annual $30 Discover Pass and the daily permit fee so all Washingtonians could enjoy the wonderful outdoor recreation opportunities our state has to offer.
As expected, the Democratic majority is backing the governor's electric-vehicle rebate plan — a proposal that ignores victims of floods and wildfires, the farmers who struggle to get water, and sewage-filled Puget Sound beaches. Our ORCA plan gets to the heart of these issues with real solutions.
Such a robust plan doesn't happen overnight or even in the first session where it is introduced. It does happen with the support of the citizens of Washington state.
I invite you to read our ORCA Plan at https://houserepublicans.wa.gov/2021/12/01/real-solutions-for-wa-environment/. Then decide for yourself — electric vehicle rebates and job-killing proposals? Or real solutions through the ORCA Plan that truly help Washington citizens address the most challenging environmental issues in our state?
Editor's note: Rep. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy, represents the 9th Legislative District and serves as ranking Republican on the House Environment and Energy Committee.