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Legislators move bills on generating power from irrigation canals





By STEVE BROWN



Capital Press



OLYMPIA -- A pair of bills to allow hydroelectric projects in irrigation canals have crossed paths at the Capitol, one moving from the House to the Senate, the other from the Senate to the House.



The bills have identical titles and virtually the same language, and both were approved with unanimous floor votes.



Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland, who sponsored House Bill 1950, said the proposal allows the power generated by such projects to count as "renewable energy" under the state's Energy Independence Act.



"This is a great bill for our farmers, ranchers, orchardists and others who have irrigation water moving throughout their property," Haler said. "Not only can the landowner recover some of the cost of pumping the irrigation water, they can also receive renewable energy credits, which can be sold in the marketplace. We can capture some of the energy flowing through canals that is currently being wasted, and we can benefit the landowner. It's a win-win."



To qualify under the bill, the hydroelectric projects must have been completed after March 31, 1999, and the generation facility must not result in new water diversions or impoundments.



Spokesmen from the Washington State Water Resources Association and the state Department of Commerce testified in support of the bill. Speaking in support with concerns was the Washington Environmental Council.



HB1950, which has no fiscal impact, is scheduled to be heard March 20 by the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee. The full Senate approved SB5290 on March 13, which was the last day to consider bills in their houses of origin. It has not yet been referred to a House committee.



The Legislature is almost two-thirds of the way through its 105-day session and has whittled the number of introduced bills from 1,871 down to 627, according to the Legislative Information Center.



Some of the agriculture-related measures that are still in play:



* HB1113 -- Requires the Washington Department of Ecology to identify and make available the peer-reviewed science it relied upon in preparing significant agency action.



* HB1209 -- Extends the program licensing Christmas tree growers.



* HB1501 -- Establishes an uncapped funding source for implementing the state's wolf conservation and management plan.



* HB1558 -- Provides eligible honey beekeepers with a sales or use tax exemption for purchases of honeybee food and creates a honeybee workgroup to address industry challenges.



* HB1770 -- Allows commodity boards created by marketing orders or agreements to appoint up to two non-voting advisory members to the board.



* SB5078 -- Makes most nonprofit fair associations exempt from taxation of real and personal property.



* SB5123 -- Revives the farm intern program and extends it to 16 counties.



* SB5187 -- Authorizes the owner of livestock to kill a gray wolf without a permit or license if it is in the act of attacking or threatening livestock or another domestic animal.



* SB5766 -- Establishes a program for improving relationships between agricultural producers and state regulatory staff.



* SB5767 -- Improves animal disease traceability by allowing livestock producers to place a Washington State Department of Agriculture-issued individual identification tag before the first point of sale on bull calves and freemartins under 30 days of age.



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