Timber Group mulling legal action against Grays Harbor County over fee-for-access

Washington Forest Protection Association, the State’s oldest timber group, is taking legal action to protect private forest landowner’s property rights from Ordinance No. 412 adopted by Grays Harbor County Commissioners, July 7, 2014. The ordinance removes private timberland from its constitutionally designated forest land status, should landowners attempt to control access to their private property through a fee system.

A  press release from the WFPA today said that landowners understand the recreational benefits their land offers to the general public and would like to keep their land open for public access, but that has become increasingly challenging and costly in recent years. Many landowners have established recreational access programs attempting to balance public access to their private property while managing environmental damage and over-use associated with wide-open access. Private forest landowners want to create good experiences for the public to recreate, fish, hunt, and enjoy their property by allowing access to their property for a fee. This helps landowners reduce the environmental and physical damage that occurs with wide-open use of their property.
“Our association and industry enjoys a strong working relationship in timber communities, such as Grays Harbor County and as such, I am disappointed that the recently passed ordinance now requires us to bring legal action against the county. Counties are the biggest beneficiary of the timber harvest excise tax, receiving 80% of the taxes upon timber harvest. Attempting to remove the basic right to control access to private property by adopting this county ordinance is illegal. As a longtime supporter of county government, it is unfortunate that it has come to this point, but we have no choice except to protect private landowners’ rights by taking legal action,” said Mark Doumit, Executive Director of the Washington Forest Protection Association.

Under the state’s Constitution, a tax system was designed “to encourage forestry and restocking and reforesting of such forests,” by taxing the timberland and timber harvested separately. Called the “current use” tax system, landowners are taxed on the bare land value of operating a tree farm, and unlike any other harvested crop in the state, landowners are also taxed on the trees when harvested. The county receives 80% of the tax on the trees in addition to the property tax. Ordinance No. 412 attempts to remove this taxation system if landowners control access to their property through a fee, and place timber into the same tax category as shopping malls, and housing developments.

Forest landowners believe this is illegal, and contrary to the very policy that lawmakers developed to encourage landowners to grow trees and maintain their land in forestry, instead of converting to another land use. If the county ordinance somehow was implemented, landowners would be forced to close off their lands to public access, or risk being placed in a tax category that is mismatched for growing trees.
Seventy-eight percent of Grays Harbor County is forested. Private forest landowners own 60% of the forestland. Forestry contributes to the economy by paying 14% of Grays Harbor County direct wages, and supporting a total of 6,087 jobs. Working forests, those managed for timber harvesting and replanting, pay more than $275 million in wages annually and $13 million in taxes, which primarily goes to the county. In 2012, timber harvest in Grays Harbor County was the second highest in the state, and provided enough wood to build 47,000 homes.

About WFPA

The Washington Forest Protection Association represents private forest landowners growing and harvesting trees on about 4 million acres in Washington State. Members of the 106-year-old association are large and small companies, individuals and families who practice sustainable forestry in Washington’s private forests. For more information, go to www.wfpa.org.

Grays Harbor Community Foundation reaches $50 million milestone

As of July 15, 2014, the Grays Harbor Community Foundation has exceeded a threshold of $50 million in assets, through a substantial distribution from the Estate of Ann R. Weatherwax.  This now makes GHCF the sixth largest Community Foundation of the 29 in Washington State.

 

In existence for twenty years, the Foundation has been serving the Grays Harbor community through its grants and scholarships programs, assisting hundreds of local nonprofit agencies fulfill their missions and more than a thousand students attain their educational dreams.  The Foundation is working to make Grays Harbor a better place to live, by supporting efforts to improve the community, by building a “community of giving” and being a resource for local nonprofits.

 

“We are pleased to be able to continue our work in Grays Harbor in perpetuity,” said Executive Director, Jim Daly. “The exceptional growth of the Community Foundation would not be possible without strong investment returns and the continued support of our donors who believe in our community and the Foundation programs.

 

In 2014, we have chosen 332 students to receive $553,000 in scholarships for students of any age pursuing college or vocational/technical education after high school. We also expect to award at least $1.5 million in grants to nonprofit organizations in Grays Harbor through our discretionary grants program, as well as our donor advised and designated grant distributions.”

 

Some of our recent grants have included support for: Hope From Horses, a riding program for physically and mentally challenged youth; the Children’s Advocacy Center, the Domestic Violence Center, and Beyond Survival; playground equipment replacement at four parks; Meals-on-Wheels, for a new delivery vehicle; two school STEM programs and two Robotics Clubs; a “Technology in the Classroom” initiative; and, funding to send every sixth grade student in Grays Harbor County to the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker” in Seattle through the Gladys Phillips Cultural Tours fund, which originated with the E.K. and Lillian Bishop Foundation.

 

The Grays Harbor Community Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization with a mission “to improve the quality of life in the communities throughout Grays Harbor County.”  This is accomplished through our scholarship program and many projects and processes that work through or are in support of other non-profit organizations, including a quarterly discretionary grants cycle.

 

Tax deductible donations may be made to:

Grays Harbor Community Foundation, P.O. Box 615, Hoquiam, WA 98550

 

You may find out more by checking the foundation website:  www.gh-cf.org or you may contact the Foundation staff at 532-1600 or by e-mail at:  info@gh-cf.org.

Community Hospital and Harbor Medical Group finalize managed Medicaid contracts

In addition to the Public Hospital District initiative, and other cost saving measures, Grays Harbor Community Hospital (GHCH) and Harbor Medical Group (HMG) have been working since December to find the best Managed Medicaid Insurance Carriers to support their Managed Medicaid patients.  Harbor Medical Group Executive Director, Josh Martin said, “These Managed Medicaid partners must provide exceptional service to our patients, and support the facilities and medical professionals who provide quality healthcare.”

As a result, effective August 15th, 2014, Grays Harbor Community Hospital and Harbor Medical Group will move forward with coverage for Managed Medicaid patients through Amerigroup and Molina and will no longer accept coverage from United Health Care and Coordinated Care.  Effective November 1st, 2014, GHCH and HMG Clinics will no longer accept coverage from Community Health Plan of Washington (CHPW).

“We appreciate the relationships we have had with each health plan; however, we have chosen to continue a relationship solely with Amerigroup and Molina, the two plans we believe will best support our patients and the providers who treat them at our hospital and clinics,” says Grays Harbor Community Hospital CEO, Tom Jensen.

Managed Medicaid patients are the only population affected by these changes. If you are a non-managed Medicaid customer, have Medicare with a Medicaid supplement, or if you have commercial insurance, you will not be affected.

For those Managed Medicaid patients who are currently covered by United Healthcare, Coordinated Care or Community Health Plan of Washington, Grays Harbor Community Hospital and Harbor Medical Group are prepared to help facilitate enrollment with one of our preferred partners.  “We have set up an Enrollment Center on the Grays Harbor Community Hospital East Campus first floor, which is staffed with professionals from 9:00am to noon and 1:00pm to 3:00pm, Monday through Friday,” indicates Mr. Martin.

“These are our valued patients and we very much look forward to continuing to serve them and our community for years to come,” says Mr. Jensen.

Regardless of your coverage, if you need emergency care, please go to the Grays Harbor Community Hospital Emergency Department.

For more information, please visit www.ghcares.org or the Enrollment Center.

“Pay It Forward” College Plan – One year later

SEATTLE – One year ago this week, a unique idea for sending people to college without student loans was embraced by the Oregon Legislature. The “Pay It Forward” plan was created here in Washington, and has piqued interest around the nation as policymakers look for ways to make higher education more affordable and reduce student debt.

Instead of paying tuition in advance, said John Burbank, executive director of the Economic Opportunity Institute, students agrees to pay a small percentage of their income after graduation for a fixed number of years into a fund so that other students also can go to college debt-free.

“From our point of view, creating that access for the next generation of students is very important,” he said, “and we believe that through Pay It Forward, we can build a community of intergenerational responsibility and inter-generational rights to higher education.”

Oregon lawmakers liked the idea well enough to pass it unanimously and form a workgroup that is creating recommendations for a pilot program. They’ll be presented to that state’s Legislature in September. Burbank said proponents will try again next year to make headway in the Washington Legislature.

Sami Alloy, a member of Oregon’s Pay it Forward Workgroup, said deciding on all the details of how a whole new system of college funding could work has been complex and challenging – but also exciting. 

“We’ve seen so many students, and parents and grandparents so interested in the passage of this proposal,” she said. “And we’ve seen a lot of grassroots advocacy from families all over the state to our legislators, to get this proposal moving on the ground.”

According to the Economic Opportunity Institute, seven out of 10 college students graduate with debt that averages almost $30,000. So far, 25 states are taking a closer look at the “Pay It Forward” model.

Port of Grays Harbor approves acquisition of Friends Landing and Sterling Landing

The port of Grays Harbor added two parks to it’s list of properties yesterday, approving the deal that accepts Friends Landing and Sterling Landing as a gift. The non-profit that currently owns them asked the commissioners to consider the acquisition in April.
Satsop Business Park Manager Alissa Shay said Sterling Landing comes with something it didn’t have before. “Access to Sterling Landing is provided by a gravel road owned by the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife. The current owners do not have an easement to access their property, but initial discussions with Fish and Wildlife indicate that an easement would likely b granted to the Port so long as we would continue to provide recreational fishing access.” They’ll also have to apply for some access at Friend’s Landing “In terms of the Department of Natural Resources aquatic lease at Friend’s Landing, according to the DNR there is currently not an active lease on the aquatic lands, although one was maintained in the past.”
Shay said that “as-is” the sites could either cost or make the port about 15-thousand per year. Legal Council Art Blauvelt said the Port will add the two properties to it’s comprehensive plan in July before looking at any changes.
Friend’s Landing on the Chehalis River is a 152 acre, handicap accessible recreation area just outside of Montesano, and includes a 32 acre man-made lake, 1.7 miles of paved trail, a boat launch as well as camping facilities.
Sterling Landing on the Wynoochee River is an undeveloped 30-acre site with a gravel boat launch located outside of Montesano.

“The Commissioners and staff are honored that the stewards of these vital waterfront facilities feel the Port of Grays Harbor would be best suited for the long-term management and preservation of these waterfront assets,” stated Port Executive Director Gary Nelson. “The recreational opportunities provided by these sites align well with the Port’s mission of providing public access to our waterfront and promoting tourism for the betterment of the region. My initial thought is they complement our holdings at Satsop Business Park, but like every opportunity that presents itself to the Port, we will carefully analyze how these properties might fit with our mission and our business objectives.”

Friends Landing, a 501(c)(3), has requested the Port of Grays Harbor consider incorporating its 152 acre handicap accessible recreation facility, along with the 30-acre Sterling Landing site on the Wynoochee River, into the Port’s property portfolio.

Founded in 1911, the Port of Grays Harbor is one of Washington State’s oldest port districts and Washington’s only deep-water port located directly on the Pacific Ocean. The Port of Grays Harbor operates 4 deep-water marine terminals, the Westport Marina, Bowerman Airport and numerous industrial and business parks throughout the region. The addition of Satsop Business Park increases the Port’s properties to more than 1,000 acres of industrial properties and an additional 1,300 acres of sustainably managed forestland. Strategically located midway between Seattle and Portland and less than 1 ½ hour from open sea, the Port of Grays Harbor provides businesses a diverse portfolio of facilities. More information on the Port of Grays Harbor’s facilities and operations is available at portofgraysharbor.com.

Greater Grays Harbor, Inc. CEO Tim Gibbs resigns

Tim Gibbs, CEO of Greater Grays Harbor, Inc., tendered his resignation to the board at last night’s meeting, citing his need to be closer to his family in Kentucky.

“It has been a great privilege to lead this organization,” Gibbs said. “This is not a choice I made lightly, and I will miss Grays Harbor.”

Gibbs has been CEO of GGHI since it began in January of 2012; before that he was the executive director of the Grays Harbor Economic Development Council, which, along with the Grays Harbor Chamber of Commerce, formed the single organization.

Gibbs leaves GGHI in a position of strength, with growing membership and collaborative partnerships with local governments, businesses and non-profits.

“Tim’s work has set Greater Grays Harbor up for success. He has worked tirelessly, building relationships with so many partners for economic development in our area,” said Larry Kahl, Past Chair of the board and COO at Grays Harbor Community Hospital.

Mike O’Dell, Board Chair, noted that last year the board underwent a strategic planning process, identifying goals for GGHI.

“We know what the challenges are that lie ahead, and we have a plan to meet those challenges,” O’Dell said. “Tim was a steady guide in the days when the merger was new, but now, we’re a mature organization that is equipped to go forward into the future, and that’s in no small part due to his leadership skills these first few years.”

At the meeting, the board formed a search committee to look for Gibbs’ replacement. The board agreed that it will be a nationwide search.

“Tim set a really high bar, and we want to find someone who can lead this organization and all of Grays Harbor,” said Donna Rosi, Vice Chair and General Manager at Grays Harbor Radio.

GGHI events and everyday operations will continue as usual, Kahl emphasized.

“Tim was a great find, and we’ll miss his talent and skills. He helped us move the bar forward, and left us in a better position than we were. He helped us become a better organization, combining a Chamber and and EDC into a financially strong organization with influence in the community ,” said Randy Ross, Vice President and Commercial Loan Officer at Bank of the Pacific, and former Board Chair. “Although we are saddened by his departure, we know it’s the right thing for him. We’ve learned a lot from him. Now it’s time to move into the next chapter, and we will find someone who can move us to the next level.”

Tracks repaired at the scene of Aberdeen train derailment

Puget Sound and Pacific crews completed repairs overnight to the tracks at the site of a train derailment in Aberdeen. The good weather should give them time to install new pavement over the intersection at South Washington street today.

Gary Nelson, Executive Director at the Port of Grays Harbor said in a press release yesterday that PS&P will be investigating the incident to fully understand how and why the derailment occurred early Tuesday morning.

Nelson warned that “should crude by rail opponents attempt to relate this incident to crude transport Joel Haka, Western Region VP, reports that crude transport will induce major upgrades to the PSAP and the use of trucks to inspect the rails would preclude all oil train movements.”

Nelson said in a statement Tuesday that “The railroad plays a critical role in the economic development and job creation in our community but that commitment comes second to safety. Consequently the derailment has become the primary focus of the PSAP and Genesee & Wyoming (G&W) Western Region leadership as they begin repairing and investigating the incident. The Port is confident that the railroad will be proactive in their approach to investigating the incident to fully understand how and why the derailment occurred. From that point they will review and change operating procedures to prevent similar incidents in the future. Lest the community try to correlate this incident with crude transport Joel Haka, Western Region VP, reports that crude transport will induce major upgrades to the PSAP and the use of high railing (trucks used for inspecting the track) will preclude all oil train movements over the PSAP.”

Nelson added “It is unfortunate when these events occur but the relatively low train speeds on the PSAP helped to minimize the impacted railcars to one or two. The G&W commitment to safety pays off in these situations as they demonstrate firsthand their ability to respond quickly and efficiently to minimize damage and delays to the community. With a common goal to create jobs and commerce by safely moving goods to global markets, the Port is proud to have a partner like the PSAP that is committed to safety while at the same time working to create jobs in our community.”

Repairs being made to tracks, roadway in Aberdeen after train derails early Tuesday

Crews delivered lights and generators this evening to the site of a train derailment in Aberdeen, Puget Sound and Pacific plans to have the line open again by tomorrow. The cars have been up righted, and one cleared from traffic across South Washington street as of 6 this evening, however crews were still making repairs to tracks across that remote intersection. Earlier this morning two cars were on their side with grain seeping from their tops, another two teetering with multiple cars off the tracks. PS&P crews are making repairs overnight.

Gary Nelson, Executive Director at the Port of Grays Harbor reports there were “notified of a derailment on the West end of the Poyner Yard in Aberdeen this morning at 1am. The cars were carrying grain products (DDGS). The derailment was not on Port property. No one was injured in the incident.”

Nelson said in a statement this afternoon “The railroad plays a critical role in the economic development and job creation in our community but that commitment comes second to safety. Consequently the derailment has become the primary focus of the PSAP and Genesee & Wyoming (G&W) Western Region leadership as they begin repairing and investigating the incident. The Port is confident that the railroad will be proactive in their approach to investigating the incident to fully understand how and why the derailment occurred. From that point they will review and change operating procedures to prevent similar incidents in the future. Lest the community try to correlate this incident with crude transport Joel Haka, Western Region VP, reports that crude transport will induce major upgrades to the PSAP and the use of high railing (trucks used for inspecting the track) will preclude all oil train movements over the PSAP.”

Nelson added “It is unfortunate when these events occur but the relatively low train speeds on the PSAP helped to minimize the impacted railcars to one or two. The G&W commitment to safety pays off in these situations as they demonstrate firsthand their ability to respond quickly and efficiently to minimize damage and delays to the community. With a common goal to create jobs and commerce by safely moving goods to global markets, the Port is proud to have a partner like the PSAP that is committed to safety while at the same time working to create jobs in our community.”

WDFW and Wild Fish Conservancy settle lawsuit over ‘early winter’ hatchery steelhead releases

OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today it has reached an agreement with the Wild Fish Conservancy that will stop litigation against the department over its Puget Sound hatchery programs for 2½ years and permit the release of hatchery steelhead this spring into the Skykomish River.

No early winter steelhead will be released into other Puget Sound rivers in 2014.

The agreement is reflected in a federal court consent decree signed by WDFW Director Phil Anderson and Conservancy Executive Director Kurt Beardslee. The decree is designed to settle a lawsuit filed by the Conservancy last month in U.S. District Court in Seattle.

In its March 31 complaint, the Duvall-based non-profit group claimed the department’s Puget Sound hatchery steelhead programs violate the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) by impairing the recovery of wild steelhead, salmon, and bull trout. All three species are listed as “threatened” under the ESA.

While acknowledging that certain hatchery practices may pose risks to wild fish productivity and recovery, WDFW officials denied the Conservancy’s claim and said the department has taken numerous steps based on current science to ensure its hatchery operations protect wild steelhead and other listed fish species.

The department’s Hatchery Genetic Management Plans (HGMPs) are designed to ensure that all steelhead hatcheries support wild fish recovery, but those plans are still under review by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

“While I am disappointed the agreement does not allow for the release of more of the early winter hatchery steelhead we have on hand into Puget Sound rivers, I am gratified that we were able to reach agreement to release fish from our Skykomish hatchery in 2014 and support a popular recreational fishery,” Anderson said.

He added that the most important element of the agreement is the 2½-year suspension of lawsuits initiated by the Conservancy over the department’s Puget Sound hatchery programs. The suspension will allow the department to work with tribal fishery managers to resubmit HGMPs for other species raised in Puget Sound hatcheries for NMFS’ review and approval.

The federal court agreement includes the following provisions:

  • WDFW may release up to 180,000 hatchery steelhead in 2014 and again in 2015 into the Skykomish River, which flows into the Snohomish River near Monroe.
  • The Conservancy will not sue WDFW over its Puget Sound hatchery programs during the next 2 ½ years, or until NMFS approves those programs, whichever comes first.
  • WDFW will refrain from planting early winter (Chambers Creek) hatchery steelhead into most rivers in the Puget Sound region until NMFS completes its review.
  • A 12-year research program will be established in the Skagit River, during which no early winter steelhead will be released into the watershed. In cooperation with the Conservancy, WDFW will work with tribes to evaluate and potentially implement a steelhead hatchery program in the Skagit River using native steelhead.
  • The department may release hatchery steelhead into other rivers around Puget Sound when NMFS approves the department’s HGMPs. This provision will not apply to the Skagit River watershed, which will not receive early winter hatchery steelhead releases during the 12-year study period.
  • Early winter steelhead from WDFW hatcheries that cannot be released into Puget Sound-area rivers will be released into inland waters that have no connection to Puget Sound. The department will give the Conservancy 14 days’ advance notice of those releases.
  • WDFW will pay the Conservancy $45,000 for litigation expenses.

Jim Scott, who heads the WDFW Fish Program, said that until the Conservancy filed the lawsuit, the department had planned to release about 900,000 juvenile steelhead this spring into several rivers that flow into Puget Sound. The settlement means that hatchery steelhead will continue to be released into the Skykomish, while the remaining steelhead will be used to enhance the state’s inland trout fishing programs, he said.

When the lawsuit was filed, WDFW officials said the department was vulnerable to litigation because its hatchery steelhead operations had not been approved by NMFS following the ESA listing of Puget Sound steelhead in 2007. Scott said WDFW worked with tribes to revise and update its HGMPs for all Puget Sound steelhead hatcheries, and resubmitted them to NMFS earlier this year.

With the litigation settled, Scott said the department will work with tribal and federal officials on an aggressive schedule to complete the NMFS review.