Washington Farm Bureau Opposes Ecology's Proposed Dredge and Fill Permit Program


As lawmakers wrap up the 2024 Legislative Session, budget leaders are working on a final agreement for the proposed supplemental operating budgets. The House version contains a budget proviso authorizing the Department of Ecology (Ecology) to create a dredge and fill permit and fee program. Washington Farm Bureau (WFB) opposes the proviso as it deeply impacts landowners who were not given the opportunity for a public debate to voice their perspective on this issue.

In December, Ecology proposed a bill draft to create a dredge and fill permit and fee program but decided against introducing it once they started receiving pushback from the agriculture community. The original bill draft does provide some insight into their intent, but unfortunately raises more questions and concerns, including the potential to create regulatory authority over riparian projects, which were heavily negotiated by tribes and landowners during last year’s legislative session.

The budget proviso is an attempt to circumvent the legislative process, and grant Ecology broad regulatory powers including the ability to impose fees. Since Ecology did not introduce a bill, there has been no publicly available fiscal analysis on how much the new program would cost, nor how high officials would set a fee. This creates uncertainty for property owners who have been unable to provide any input on such a program.

Along with many other groups, WFB is participating in the statewide riparian work group that was funded by the legislature. This group comprises dozens of stakeholders from across the state, including agricultural interests, tribes, and local governments, with the direction of producing a report containing recommendations that attempt to find solutions to important water and conservation issues.

In a letter submitted to House and Senate budget leaders, WFB President, Rosella Mosby, stated, 

“This is highly concerning to the broader agriculture community and completely undermines the riparian work group effort. 

“On behalf of farmers and ranchers across the state, we ask that the proviso be stricken from the proposed House supplemental operating budget. To date, there has been no broad stakeholdering on this proposed regulation and fee. Senate leaders have agreed and already removed the language from the proposed Senate supplemental operating budget. 

“[Ecology] officials should instead seek rulemaking authority by introducing a bill, where a transparent and public debate can take place, or continue this discussion through the established working groups.”

© 2024 Washington Farm Bureau · design : hemisphere