Puget Soundkeeper is a proud member of a clean water coalition that helps pass bills during Washington’s legislative session. This year, we were joined by other Waterkeepers, like North Sound Baykeeper, Spokane Riverkeeper, and Twin Harbors Waterkeeper, and clean water allies like Center for Environmental Law and Policy, and RE Sources.
We’re so grateful for the dozens of volunteers who joined us to make Lobby Week 2022 a success. A special mention goes to our very own Boating Programs Manager and Policy Analyst, Blair Englebrecht, who worked around the clock to get our dedicated volunteers into the room with lawmakers and legislative aids.
Our two priority bills for the 2022 legislative session were ambitious and reflected our coalition’s commitment to urgently addressing Washington’s need for clean water and healthy salmon. Unfortunately, neither advanced out of committee. Several other bills that contribute to a resilient Puget Sound did pass. Read on to learn more!
RENEW Act 5967: Died
Plastic Free Washington / Washington Sin Plástico Coalition (of which Soundkeeper is a founding member) made Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) its top priority for 2022. We helped craft this bill because our coalition believes that Washington is ready to revolutionize its waste management.
Our EPR bill would have renewed and improved Washington’s recycling and waste systems by bringing universal curb-side services to all residents; ensured that Washington has the appropriate facilities to handle its recycling and that recyclable products end up in the right place; created a market for recycled materials, providing an incentive for recyclable packaging and products
EPR systems can dramatically reduce types of packaging pollution that frequently end up as marine debris, choking our waterways and shorelines. It redirects waste management from the consumer to the producer by requiring packaging producers to pay for the waste they create, including pickup and recycling. The bill included ambitious targets for Washington, like 100% recyclable, reusable, and compostable packaging and printed paper products by 2031, and equally ambitious targets for using recycled material in new products.
EPR faced an uphill battle from day one, including tremendous opposition from industry lobbyists. The bill died in the Washington Senate Ways and Means Committee without receiving a hearing. Our coalition is proud of the hundreds of people who wrote in and lobbied their representatives in favor of EPR. We may not have industry lobbyists, but we do have public opinion, and we know that Washington is ready to break free from plastic.
Governor Inslee put forth an ambitious salmon protection bill titled The Lorraine Loomis Act. This bill proposed to protect and restore vegetation along riparian corridors (aka riparian buffers) to support salmon and steelhead health. Riparian buffers can filter out pollutants, restore hydrologic systems, and keep streams cool and clean for salmon.
Unfortunately, many farmers strongly opposed this bill, citing the availability of voluntary salmon recovery projects and a perceived lack of transparency as the bill was developed among Tribal nations and the state of Washington.
The Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee did not hear the bill. The House Rural Development, Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee heard the bill, but it did not move out of committee.
Soundkeeper and our coalition partners remain committed to protecting Northwest salmon from heat pollution exacerbated by climate change. The 2022 supplemental budget contained two categories of funding provisos that we supported, including funding for stakeholder groups that may help advance riparian buffer policy in the future. We support the Governor’s efforts to advance salmon recovery through restoration, addressing the threats of toxic chemicals like 6PPD-quinone, removal of barriers, and other improvements designed to reduce or eliminate threats to salmon.
Other Important Clean Water Bills
SB5585 Lifting NPDES Wastewater Permit Fee Cap: Passed
The Department of Ecology could not reset its permit fees for decades. This statutory cap on the amount it could charge permittees contributed to a funding shortfall of millions of dollars and a backlog of permits. Ecology uses NPDES (National Pollution Discharge Elimination System) permits to regulate pollution discharges into the Puget Sound, including discharges from our municipal sewage treatment plants.
Removing the fee cap will help protect clean water by better funding Ecology’s permitting program. These fees will also help cover the costs of new requirements triggered by the forthcoming Puget Sound Nutrient General Permit.
Kelp forests and eelgrass meadows are in significant decline in Washington State waters, including Puget Sound and our coastal waters such as Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor Estuary. These ecosystems support a diversity of wildlife, including salmon and orca, and act as a carbon sink that mitigates climate change impacts.
This legislation directs the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to work with partners to establish a kelp forest and eelgrass meadow health and conservation plan that endeavors to conserve and restore at least 10,000 acres of kelp forests and eelgrass meadows by 2040.
SB5882 Clarifying Riparian Stock Watering Rights: Died
Puget Soundkeeper and coalition partners opposed this bill. The Department of Ecology encourages ranchers to water their livestock away from delicate riparian areas in an attempt to improve water quality. The state water code and the Washington Supreme Court permit riparian stock watering rights if those rights existed prior to 1917.
This bill appeared to ask for new riparian stock watering rights outside of the protected riparian rights from before 1917. If this bill had passed it might have initiated a massive change to Washington’s water code during a time of increasing drought, flooding, climate uncertainty, and extreme pressure on our state’s riparian resources. The Department of Ecology engages with stakeholders to clarify its stock watering policy.