Water bill changes focus

Steve Brown/Capital Press Business at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash., gets under way well before dawn.

Customer service training proposed for some state workers

By STEVE BROWN

Capital Press

Revenue shortfalls have occupied much time and attention during the 2011 Washington State Legislature, but lawmakers have addressed many agriculture-related issues in the meantime.

As the 105-day session nears its halfway mark, proposals have been amended, progressed through the legislative process or died in their committees of origin.

Substitute Senate Bill 5723 differs considerably from its original form, which would have transferred authority on water quality issues arising from livestock operations from the Department of Ecology to the Department of Agriculture.

SSB5723 would instead direct the State Conservation Commission to oversee the issue, a process to include personnel from Ecology and the WSDA.

Ecology would retain authority to impose civil penalties, but only after receiving test results from stream samples above and below the livestock operation and determining by DNA testing that any fecal contamination originated with the livestock.

"If water quality is better when it leaves than when it came in, you're doing your part for water quality," said Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville. "We don't have to fence every inch of creek or river."

The process would also address training in customer service, which was a source of many complaints during committee hearings.

SSB5723 was passed out of committee and has been placed on the docket for a second reading in the Senate. March 7 is the last day for bills to be heard in their house of origin.

Other bills still active

* Substitute House Bill 1009 -- State natural resource agencies must consult with the appropriate legislative committee before applying for habitat conservation plans with the federal government. (Headed for second reading in the House.)

* SHB1254 -- University of Washington's Forest Resources Institute is directed to pursue coordinated research in both urban and rural areas. (Passed third reading in the House.)

* SHB1296 -- Washington State Water Commission is created to manage state's water resources. (In House Ways and Means Committee.)

* SHB1307 -- Natural resource agencies must demonstrate use of peer-reviewed science before taking significant agency action. (In House Ways and Means.)

* SHB1421 -- Department of Natural Resources is authorized to create and manage Community Forest Trust. (Second reading in House.)

* SHB1422 -- DNR is authorized to conduct a demonstration project converting forest biomass to aviation fuel. (Passed House; referred to Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Environment.)

* SHB1467 -- The definition of a water well exempts activities performed for soil or water testing or analysis. (Passed House; referred to Senate Environment Committee.)

* SHB1489 -- The sale and application of turf fertilizer labeled to contain phosphorus is prohibited, with specific exemptions. (Passed third reading in the House.)

* SHB1509 -- Minimum requirements for participating in Forestry Riparian Easement are changed. Also the value of compensation must be determined when FREP application is completed. (In House Rules Committee.)

* SSB5087 -- English holly may not be included on state's noxious weed lists. (In Senate Rules Committee.)

* SSB5343 -- Electrical generators, such as those operating at anaerobic digesters, are exempt from state Clean Air Act requirement if powered by biogas with less than 0.1 percent sulfur and heat input does not exceed 10 million British thermal units per hour. (Headed for second reading in Senate.)

* SSB5487 -- Major commercial egg producers must prove eggs and egg products provided in intrastate commerce are produced in accordance with United Egg Producers guidelines. (Headed for second reading in Senate.)

* SSB5713 -- The State Conservation Commission shall administer the Voluntary Stewardship Program, a result of the Ruckelshaus Center process, for protecting critical habitats and agricultural practices. (In Senate Rules Committee.)

* SSB5748 -- Cottage foods are specifically defined, and operations that produce them may work from home kitchens if they do not exceed $15,000 a year in sales. (In Senate Rules Committee.)

Some bills derailed

These ag-related bills did not clear their committees before the cutoff dates and likely will not get further consideration:

* House Bill 1054 -- Water conservation practices would be considered a beneficial use, protecting a water right from relinquishment.

* HB1117 -- All references to relinquishment would be removed from water law. Instead, state statutes would rely on the common-law meaning of abandonment.

* HB1152 -- Water pollution must be determined to exist before a notice of violation or a penalty may be assessed. Though this bill did not advance, Substitute Senate Bill 5723, which is still active, includes this concept.

* HB1157 -- The effective date of an approved Forest Practices Act would be extended from two years to five years.

* HB1161 -- Definition of qualifying timber for Forest Riparian Easement Program expanded to include parcels of less than 20 acres voluntarily left unharvested.

* HB1297 -- Time permitted to put water to beneficial use for the purposes of relinquishment expanded from five to 15 years.

* HB1813 -- Enforceable minimum standards established to protect the health and well-being of egg-laying hens in commercial egg-laying operations.

* Senate Bill 5570 -- Owner of farm vehicle subject to impoundment because driver was arrested for driving under the influence or without a valid license would be allowed to retrieve the vehicle.

* SB5759 -- Washington State Department of Agriculture would convert to electronic records on livestock to facilitate animal disease traceability.

-- Steve Brown

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