(By Jamie Henneman/Chewelah Independent)
Legislature still working on Hirst, tax incentive for Addy plant…
With the regular 2017 state legislative session wrapped up on April 23, state legislators are assessing the effectiveness of the 101 day term to address the concerns of Washington’s citizens.
According to Seventh District Senator Shelly Short, work on two key issues for the region are continuing into the special session aimed at helping the state pass a two-year budget.
The first is a legislative fix to the “Hirst” state supreme court decision that created new requirements regarding water availability before homeowners can drill a well or build on a parcel of land. The “Hirst” decision required Whatcom County to determine if domestic wells, previously exempt under state law, would impact in-stream flows of waterways in the county. Counties that have adopted the Hirst decision are requiring landowners to prove their new well won’t impact stream flows or senior water right holders. Stevens County has not yet adopted the regulations from the “Hirst” decision. Senate Bill 5239, designed to roll back the Hirst regulations and return wells to their previously exempt state, has been repeatedly rejected by the House of Representatives, according to Short.
“The most important bill that continues to be a work in progress is SB 5239. The Senate has passed SB 5239 twice now. To date, the House has refused to take up the bill,” Short related. “The Senate’s Majority Coalition Caucus and House Republicans continue to push SB 5239 in its current form. House Democratic proposals to address Hirst include significant fees and mitigation requirements which are completely unacceptable.”
In addition to continuing to push for solutions to Hirst, Short said one of her “top priorities” is securing a tax incentive package for the former Northwest Alloys site in Addy. A Canadian company, HiTest Sands, is considering the site as a possible silicon smelter location to produce high quality silicon metal. It is estimated the plant would bring as many as 150 jobs to the area.
Short said SB 5515 would help the company get a break on their energy bill and is anticipated to be part of the final budget and legislative package.