Editor’s note: This blog post has been updated since news that the state legislature is out of business for the year.
Critical new fish hatchery renovations won’t move forward because legislators in Olympia failed to approve a Capital Budget.
New land buys in Central Washington and elsewhere are also on hold for the foreseeable future, a setback for habitat projects and recreation including hunting and fishing in a key part of the state.
A deal was unreachable due to an impasse between how Republicans and Democrats want to address the Hirst decision from the state Supreme Court on new wells in rural areas.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife had been anticipating receiving $51 million to $61 million in funding from the Capital Budget, depending on whether the upper or lower chambers’ bill was ultimately passed.
Either way, 75 percent of that would have gone towards fish hatcheries across the state and the other 25 percent to forest health projects at wildlife areas, according to the agency’s Tim Burns.
He said that with many hatcheries more than half a century old, the improvements are really needed.
Among the projects that are now on hold:
$8 million for Eells Spring in Mason County, WDFW’s largest trout-rearing facility in Western Washington;
$6 million for Puyallup in Pierce County, which is being converted wholly to salmon production with trout moved to Eells Spring;
$8 million for Naselle in Pacific County;
$5 million for intake work at Samish in Skagit County;
$5 million for renovating rearing ponds at Hoodsport in Mason County;
$2 million for intake improvements and pond renovations at Wallace in Snohomish County.
WDFW’s Raquel Crosier termed the work “pretty critical renovations.”
Five million dollars also would have gone towards hazard-fuel reduction at wildlife areas, mostly in Eastern Washington.
And another $9 million to $14 million would have paid for “minor works” at 40 WDFW facilities, mostly hatcheries.
Earlier this summer the legislature did pass a reappropriations bill, so that some $50 million in current capital projects will continue to be worked on.
But Burns says that without the new funding, he will probably have to lay off staff, including engineers and designers as well as tradespersons at the agency’s Yakima and Lacey shops.