On Tuesday members of the Washington State House of Representatives unanimously approved Senate Bill 5292, my bill to help clarify exemptions regarding natural versus manmade drainage areas within port and irrigation districts. The bill – which I introduced in the 2011 session – would change state law so that the drainage side of irrigation districts are not considered “natural” streams and therefore should not be designated as “critical areas” under the Growth Management Act.
I’m pleased to see this bill supported by my colleagues in both the Senate and the House. If an artificial drainage district is deemed a critical area, it creates numerous administrative difficulties and increased costs for the district. Some districts have spent thousands of dollars just to establish that a creek is manmade rather than natural.
As defined in the GMA, “critical areas” include five general categories: wetlands; aquifer recharge areas; fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas; frequently flooded areas; and geologically hazardous areas.
The bill essentially passed in the same form in which it left the Senate, meaning it now goes to the governor. These days, local municipalities are searching for any way they can to cut costs, and I hope this bill will assist them in that effort.
Once signed into law by the governor, SB 5292 will take effect 90 days after adjournment of the 2012 legislative session.