The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Commissioners lobby in Olympia, Washington, D.C.


March 15, 2018

Two Wahkiakum County commissioners have lately been doing lots of lobbying in Olympia and Washington D.C.

Commissioner Dan Cothren has been a leader of a group of officials from Skamania and Pacific counties and the Department of Natural Resources that has been working to develop legislation that would exchange county trust timberland encumbered from harvest for endangered species habitat with other trust land so that the three counties will have their full timber harvest potential restored.

On Monday, Cothren was invited to participate in a committee which Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz is forming to study how to deal with the impact of endangered species habitat restrictions on harvest of timber trusts managed by the state Department of Natural Resources.

Cothren said Tuesday that he is considering whether or not to join that board.

"I'm really dedicated to the encumbered lands legislation," Cothren said. "I may have to push over to that one, too."

Other members of the committee would include members of environmental and commercial timber groups and also from the state schools trust. It may be important for him to make sure Wahkiakum's points of view are expressed, he said.

"If you're not at the table, you won't get to say anything," he said.

Cothren and Commissioner Blair Brady lobbied the legislature for appropriations to compensate counties for lost timber revenues. The 2017 Capitol Budget contained a $3 million appropriation-$1 million for each of the three counties, and the 2018 Capitol Budget has an appropriation of $1.5 million, $500,000 for each county, Cothren said.

"We asked for $6 million, then $3 million, and we got $1.5 million," he said.

As president of the Washington Association of Counties (WACO), Brady lobbied for the Capital Budget appropriation and other issues in Olympia.

A major focus is what county officials call unfunded mandates-laws passed in the legislature that require counties and cities to perform certain new services but provide no funding for the tasks.

"We met with Governor Inslee and legislators and talked about the pass downs from the legislature," he said. "We estimate that there's $28 million in unfunded mandates.

"It wasn't a good year for counties."

WACO officials also met with representatives of Washington State University who were seeking ways to boost the Cooperative Extension program.

Brady said he held up the Wahkiakum program as an example: The 4-H program is thriving, and the department has found grants and partnerships to fund programs and augment its revenue. The county officials suggested WSU compile a list of similar programs that have been successful and share it around the state.

From Olympia, Brady headed to Washington, D.C. for a conference of the National Association of County Officials (NACO).

The trip was a challenge, he said, because bad weather on the east coast led to flight cancellations. He finally flew from San Francisco to Baltimore and arrived at the conference a day and a half late.

NACO members talked to every member of the Senate and House of Representatives, he said. Major issues he addressed included compensating states for wildfire fighting expenses, secure school funding, Payments In Lieu of Taxes and active forest management.

He also learned of programs that counties could use to implement internet security, 401k retirement programs, low cost bulk office supplies, and no-cost prescription drug cards.

NACO officials also met with officials involved in the negotiations with Canada for an update of the Columbia River Treaty.


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