Next steps for Yakima plan

Last week’s federal government shutdown, the antithesis of working together, has overshadowed a massive transaction emblematic of cooperation.

On Sept. 30, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Department of Natural Resources, and Forterra, a non-profit land trust, marked the official purchase of 50,272 acres in the Teanaway River Valley north of Cle Elum, an area critical to the health of the Yakima Basin watershed. It was the largest single land purchase in Washington in 45 years ($99 million from the state), and a first-ever experiment with an innovative model, a community forest.

“This incredible landscape will be managed into perpetuity for the benefit of fish and wildlife and the citizens of the state of Washington, and is now secure as a source of both economic and recreational vitality.” WDFW Director Phil Anderson said.

Forest management will center on a working-landscape model to provide timber jobs while preserving the Teanaway’s recreational and conservation values (read: no suburban sprawl.)

“The Teanaway has been a holy grail for the conservation community for a long, long time,” said Forterra President Gene Duvernoy.

That holy grail was attainable thanks to a series of old-school horse trades. And here transparency and strict scrutiny are essential. The Teanaway is part of the Yakima Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan, a $5 billion project to bolster water supplies for irrigation and people in Eastern Washington that also fulfills an enviro wish list. The meta question is whether group interests add up to the broader public interest, and whether Washington taxpayers are properly served.

Two legislators, Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, chairman of the Capital Budget Committee, and Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, chairman of the Finance Committee, are asking the hard questions. Earlier in 2013, they inserted language in a senate substitute bill to ensure that half of the project’s total costs are funded through private, federal and non-state sources.

In a Sept. 30 letter to Gov. Jay Inslee, Carlyle writes, “Given the current volatility of commitments from the federal government regarding funding of public infrastructure projects, it is particularly important to develop a robust, flexible, usage-based funding plan that protects state taxpayers.”

There’s the big catch — the other Washington (see “shutdown,” above.)

A source in the Inslee administration, a booster of the project, said the governor will engage with the state treasurer, lawmakers and interest groups to make certain it’s done right. Let’s hope so, because the Yakima plan will have giant implications for generations to come.

More in Opinion

Editorial cartoons for Thursday, Jan. 18

A sketchy look at the day in politics.… Continue reading

Sen. John McCain: Trump’s ‘fake news’ charges threaten democracy

The “fake news” phrase — granted legitimacy by a U.S. president — provides cover to autocrats worldwide.

Editorial: Eminent domain isn’t popular, but it’s fair

Everett Public Schools’ condemnation process assures fairness for property owners and taxpayers.

Parker: Looking past ‘holes’ and ‘heaps’ to talk immigration

Do race and culture matter? Or should immigration be about the yearning for liberty in all hearts?

Milbank: Trump Cabinet chief sidesteps Trump’s ‘shithole’ talk

Even GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham wonders what happened to Trump on the span of three days.

Unhelpful for John Rosemond to deny mental health issues

As a parent who had to watch her child suffer from obsessive… Continue reading

We need to heed warning regarding nuclear weapons

Thank you for shedding light on the life’s work of Daniel Ellsberg… Continue reading

Homeowners should get price they ask for

I have been following the coverage on the Everett School District using… Continue reading

Editorial cartoons for Wednesday, Jan. 17

A sketchy look at the day in politics.… Continue reading

Most Read