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Legislators push to help strengthen coastal economies

Legislators push to help strengthen coastal economies

On March 27, the Washington State House of Representatives Capital Budget Committee released its proposed budget which will dedicate $8.2 million from the Capital Budget for a suite of habitat protection and restoration projects in Pacific County, as well as Wahkiakum, Grays Harbor, Thurston, Lewis, and Mason counties. The Washington Coast Restoration Initiative (WCRI) will bring sustainable, family-wage jobs to dozens of small, rural communities from the mouth of the Columbia to Neah Bay.

“Salmon have always been a backbone for our coastal economy, and the future of our local fishing industry depends on the health of our water. We need these restoration projects so that local families can keep fishing for a living,” said Key McMurray, a stream and wildlife biologist and owner of Key Environmental Solutions.

Washington’s coastal economy and culture are built on its forests, rivers, and marine waters, but a lack of consistent funding has undermined progress of ongoing protection and restoration needs. The WCRI package will leverage $6 million in existing federal, state and private resources to pay for restoration projects that will benefit both residents and the natural resources that provide local jobs. The Coast continues to experience the highest unemployment in the state, which is still over 10% in some counties. Restoration projects create more jobs than other types of construction sector projects. Ninety cents of every dollar spent on restoration stays inside the state, and 80 cents of every dollar stays within the county where a project is located.

Projects included in the House of Representatives’ proposed budget include significant fish passage improvements and culvert replacements in Elochoman and Grays River Basins in Wahkiakum County and opening several miles of new fish habitat for chum, fall chinook and coho.

The WCRI has gained widespread support from the fishing industry, coastal tribes, watershed groups, the conservation community, local government, state and federal agencies. The coastal coalition has developed a comprehensive database of restoration and sustainable job needs that will be matched to high priority projects to restore forests, water quality and fish and wildlife habitat. The projects will provide well-paying jobs to local people while improving the health of natural resources to ensure sustainable employment in the future.

“Today’s proposed budget is a critical step toward preserving the commercial, recreational, and ecological value of coastal lands and waters while strengthening one of the most diverse economies of the state,” said Mike Stevens, The Nature Conservancy’s Washington state director.

“We appreciate all the work that Representatives Dean Takko and Brian Blake, as well as our elected officials to the north, Representatives Steve Tharinger and Kevin Van De Wege, have done to ensure funding for the Washington Coast Restoration Initiative in the Capital Budget to bring additional jobs to our area and boost our salmon fishing industry,” said Mike Backman, Wahkiakum County commissioner and commercial fisherman.

The Senate will take up the Washington Coast Restoration Initiative in the coming weeks. The coalition is looking to the Senate to fully fund the Initiative at the original budget request of $15 million.

For more information on the WCRI program, go to: .


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