Wildfire season in Washington State begins today

Wildfire season officially begins April 15, as specified by state law, and already the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has had more than 60 forest fires reported this year on lands protected by the agency.

“This year, we have ominous predictions for a hot, dry summer,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark. “While we work hard to prepare for what could be a challenging season, there are some things property owners can and should do to prepare.”

Property owners can reduce fire risk to their homes and lands by keeping dead vegetation off roofs and away from buildings. The Firewise program explains how to use these techniques and offers incentives to communities who follow Firewise principles.

Prediction for this summer’s weather is available from the National Weather Service. The risk of wildfires can change rapidly during the spring when warmer, dryer weather increases. Among other things, that means people working in the woods or clearing land need to have fire prevention equipment on hand.

Already, above average temperatures and low snowpack have created dry grassland and forests. On March 13, Governor Inslee declared a drought in three Washington regions – the Olympic Peninsula, east slopes of the Central Cascades and Walla Walla.

Last year, more than 315,000 acres of DNR-protected lands were consumed by about 900 wildfires, in the state’s worst ever fire season.  Even though Washington experienced more lightning strikes than normal, 75 percent of the fires were human-caused.

Starting April 22, DNR will offer a series of wildfire preparedness meetings across eastern Washington aimed at helping residents in fire-prone areas of the state prepare for wildfire season.

The agency is also current requesting additional resources from the legislature to increase wildland firefighters and equipment, and to improve the health and fire resistance of Washington forests.

Washington’s summer fire rules

Washington’s “summer fire rules” are in effect April 15 through October 15. These rules apply to the 13 million acres of private and state forestlands protected from wildfire by DNR.

These regulations affect loggers, firewood cutters, land clearers, road builders, heavy equipment operators, off-road motorcyclists, and others. During fire season, people using motorized equipment in the woods must have approved spark arresters and follow fire safety precautions. In addition, those working in the woods must have fire prevention and extinguishing equipment in good working order at the job site and workers trained in proper use.

The rules are intended to prevent forest fires and to extinguish small fires before they spread. Those same rules restrict cigarette smoking in forested areas on roads, gravels pits, or other clearings. They also prohibit lighting fireworks on forestland.

Stay connected during wildfire season
Daily fire risk ratings available by phone and Internet

Industrial Fire Precaution Levels (IFPL) may change daily and classify varying levels of potential fire hazard in different parts of the state. People who work in the woods must observe the IFPL. More information is available from the following sources:

precaution levels, a map of current shutdown zones, and a copy of DNR’s Industrial Fire Precaution Level Bulletin.

  • DNR’s toll-free business line at 1-800-527-3305 plays a message identifying daily

industrial fire precaution levels, which are listed by geographical region. The hearing

impaired can phone Telephone Device for the Deaf at 1-800-833-6388.

  • Email DNR at RPD@dnr.wa.gov. Ask questions or request a copy of DNR’s Industrial

Fire Precaution Level Bulletin or additional information on safe outdoor burning of forest debris and safe recreational campfire tips.

DNR’s wildfire mission

Administered by Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark, DNR is responsible for preventing and fighting wildfires on 13 million acres of private, state and tribal-owned forestlands. DNR is the state’s largest on-call fire department, with over 1,100 employees trained and available to be dispatched to fires as needed. During fire season, this includes over 700 DNR employees who have other permanent jobs with the agency and about 400 seasonal employees hired for firefighting duties. Additionally, Department of Corrections’ adult offenders and Department of Social and Health Services-Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration juvenile offenders support firefighting efforts through DNR’s Correctional Camps Program. DNR also participates in Washington’s coordinated interagency approach to firefighting.


Howard and Katie Auble of Raymond receive 2014 Governor’s Volunteer Service Award

Following their nomination by the Pacific County Sheriff’s Office, Howard and Katie Auble of Raymond were recently selected as recipients of the 2014 Governor’s Volunteer Service Award for in recognition of their work as amateur radio operators with the Pacific County Emergency Management Agency, and Pacific County Citizens Corps Program.   The Aubles attended an award ceremony hosted by Governor Inslee and his wife at the Governor’s Mansion in Olympia on April 21, 2014.

The award given the Aubles read as follows:  “Howard and Katie Auble work as a team, supporting the Pacific County Emergency Management Agency in emergency communications.  They are dedicated and willing volunteers, taking on extra projects such as doing home visits to assist Pacific County citizens with programming NOAA Weather Radios.  They visit the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) on a weekly basis to check on the amateur radio equipment and help in the testing process when new equipment is installed at the Emergency Operations Center and other locations throughout the county.  They have also been very helpful in the installation of amateur radio equipment at the Pacific County fire stations.  Howard and Katie have taken a number of National Incident Management System courses and are well qualified volunteers.  The Pacific County Emergency Management Agency depends heavily on volunteers and their willing and can-do attitude.  Howard and Katie are a core piece of the communications and public education program.”

A press release from Pacific County added that staff “deeply appreciates the service of their volunteers and is proud to see Howard and Katie Auble recognized for their dedication and effort.”



Governor Jay Inslee announces steps to preserve SNAP benefits for Washington families in need

Governor Jay Inslee on Thursday announced steps to preserve Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for approximately 200,000 households in Washington. The changes will prevent the loss of nearly $70 million in federal SNAP benefits resulting from policy changes in a new Farm Bill passed by Congress.

“Governor Inslee’s decision to protect Washington families from food stamp cuts is a smart and principled decision–and it is the right thing to do by our kids. Hungry kids can’t learn. Food stamps are our number-one defense against childhood hunger,” said Jon Gould, Deputy Director of the Children’s Alliance.

A household’s SNAP benefits are calculated by factoring in a household’s eligibility for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The new Farm Bill made changes to the “Heat and Eat” option, which now requires states to provide a household $20 in LIHEAP assistance to maximize SNAP benefits. The prior law required that Washington only provide $1. Under the modified program, the Department of Social and Health Services will work with the Department of Commerce to provide $20 of LIHEAP assistance to eligible households, ensuring low-income families will remain eligible for up to $90 a month of SNAP benefits.

Washington joins seven other states in adopting this approach. This will not only help maintain economic stability for vulnerable families but for businesses in Washington, as the USDA estimates that every SNAP dollar spent generates about $2 in economic activity.

“Obviously, the loss of tens of millions of dollars aimed at feeding hungry families is not acceptable. These families have already suffered from significant reductions in the help they receive, and this $90 a month is the only way many families and seniors are able to put any food on their table. That is why my office brought together leaders from our state agencies and the community to figure out a compromise,” said Governor Inslee.

“Significant changes to the Heat and Eat option required some difficult choices for our state,” said Brian Bonlender, Director of the Washington State Department of Commerce. “Working together with our partners at DSHS, we evaluated every option and concluded that this solution is the best way to help more families fill the gap in their monthly food budget, while still providing needed financial assistance with heating bills.”

SNAP (formerly known as Food Stamps) is a fully federally-funded food benefit program administered by the Department of Social and Health Services on behalf of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). LIHEAP is also fully federally-funded and is administered by the Department of Commerce. Together, the programs help nearly one in seven residents throughout the state meet their most basic needs.

DSHS is a national leader in efficient SNAP administration. It was among the first states to examine how human services are delivered and to make changes to streamline operations while maintaining excellent services to clients. Washington’s benefits accuracy rate is more than 98 percent.

“Under Governor Inslee and DSHS Secretary Kevin W. Quigley’s leadership, we were able to find a solution that does not force some of the most vulnerable families in Washington state, including elderly and disabled individuals, to choose between heating their homes and feeding their children,” said David Stillman, Assistant Secretary of the Department of Social and Health Services’ Economic Services Administration. “This is an important effort to ensure people are safe, healthy and supported and taxpayer resources are safeguarded.”

The state will now ask all SNAP applicants for proof of utility payments. In cases where clients have no separate utility bills, like low-income senior citizens whose rent includes utilities, clients will be enrolled in the LIHEAP program and given $20 of heating benefit. This will also qualify them for the highest utility deduction, thereby preserving higher SNAP benefits.

Governor Inslee signs bipartisan bill to further address the problems of derelict and abandoned vessels

OLYMPIA – Surrounded by legislators and a diverse group of supportive stakeholders, Gov. Jay Inslee today signed legislation that builds on the state’s commitment to prevent derelict vessels from becoming a burden to the citizens of Washington State.


The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) requested the legislation (2SHB 2457) that will further protect Washington’s waters and the public, foster responsible and accountable vessel ownership, provide an additional funding source for removing derelict vessels, and encourage removal and deconstruction before vessels become a problem.


“DNR’s Derelict Vessel Removal Program is an award-winning model for the rest of the nation,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “This legislation is significant, not only because of what the bill does, but how it galvanized both sides of the aisle and a diverse group of stakeholders to develop workable solutions.”


The process to draft and shape this legislation began last summer with the convening of a work group, as directed by last year’s derelict vessel legislation (ESHB 1245). The work group consisted of legislators and state agency staff who drew up a list of possible solutions to the problems that derelict and abandoned vessels create. The list was then presented to a diverse group of stakeholders representing the commercial and recreational vessel industries, environmental groups, and ports.


“I applaud the great collaborative work that was done before and during this session to address the environmental, safety, and public expense risks caused by derelict vessels,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark. “In particular, I want to thank Rep. Drew Hansen and Rep. Norma Smith for providing the critical legislative support and leadership for this bill, and staff at the Department of Revenue for working with us to develop a more equitable funding solution by requiring commercial vessel owners to pay a fee to support removal costs. For too long, recreational vessel owners have shouldered these costs. It’s a great start, but more work needs to be done.”


“A lot of work has gone into this bill—by Democrats and Republicans, House members and Senators, environmentalists, boaters, shellfishers, marina operators, industry representatives and more,” said Rep. Drew Hansen (D-Bainbridge Island), key bill sponsor. “This bill will save jobs and also keep our waterways clean and safe for recreation and industry.”


“HB 2457 is truly landmark legislation,” said Rep. Norma Smith (R-Clinton), key bill sponsor. “It was an honor to work with Rep. Drew Hansen, the team at DNR, and every stakeholder at the table to craft responsible policy which will stem the tide of large vessels reaching the crisis stage of threatening our waterways and taxpayer resources.”


“Washington’s waterways are the most beautiful in the world,” said Sen. Kirk Pearson (R-Monroe), Chair of the Senate Natural Resources & Parks Committee. “As legislators, it is our responsibility to ensure that they remain clean and free of hazards for generations to come. This legislation will help meet that goal.”


Key elements of the bill:

  • Establishes an annual ‘derelict vessel removal fee’ of $1 per foot on commercial vessels that are required to be listed with the Department of Revenue. Revenue from this fee will go into the state’s Derelict Vessel Removal Account, which is managed by DNR.
  • Requires moorage facilities and owners of vessels moored at these facilities to carry marine insurance.
  • Requires insurance at the time of sale for vessels older than 40 years and longer than 65 feet.
  • Prohibits the sale of unseaworthy vessels older than 40 years and longer than 65 feet.
  • Exempts vessel deconstruction activities from the retail sales and use tax.
  • Creates new penalties for failing to register a vessel.

For more information about the 2014 derelict vessel bill (2SHB 2457), visit: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.aspx?bill=2457&year=2013


For the final bill language as passed by the Legislature, visit: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/documents/billdocs/2013-14/Pdf/Bills/House%20Passed%20Legislature/2457-S2.PL.pdf

DNR’s Derelict Vessel Removal Program
Derelict or abandoned vessels put public safety and the health of Washington’s marine and fresh waters at risk. The program is the state’s key mechanism to address these vessels and provides funding and expertise to public agencies to assist with the removal of abandoned and derelict vessels from state-owned aquatic lands managed by DNR.

For more information about the Derelict Vessel Removal Program, visit: http://bit.ly/dnr_dvrp

More jobs expected in Washington after Legislature passes aerospace bills

Bailey, who represents the 10th District, says Senate Bill 5952, which passed the Senate 42-2, and Senate Bill 5953, which passed the Senate unanimously, will extend tax exemptions for aerospace companies through 2040. In addition, the measures would set aside funds for 1,000 new enrollments in high-demand aerospace programs.
“Boeing already employs about 85,000 Washington workers full-time, and that number grows exponentially when you start including the jobs provided by third-party subcontractors and other supplemental employers around the state,” Bailey added.  “With the number of veterans returning to Washington looking for work, it’s a great opportunity to help them and their families – and particularly appropriate that we’re doing it on Veterans Day weekend.
“When we come back to Olympia in January, we’ll need to start looking at ways to expand these kinds of tax incentives to other industries outside of aerospace,” Bailey continued. “Today’s votes are an endorsement of the underlying policy, and now we need to provide other kinds of tax certainty to other businesses so they can grow and create jobs as well.”
If approved by the House, SB 5952 and SB 5953 could be signed by the governor as early as today.

Independent review of WSDOT mega projects released

The assessment of WSDOT mega projects makes recommendations on organizational structure; capturing lessons learned and translating that knowledge to other projects; developing workforce and project staffing; applying quality assurance protocols; conducting oversight and review; modifying WSDOT’s internal procedures; and assessing risk and choosing the correct contract method for each project. In particular, the report recommends WSDOT consider the general contractor/construction management delivery approach, which other state DOTs are using successfully to encourage innovation, accelerate delivery, decrease traffic impacts, and establish a fair price for taxpayers and the contractor. 

The independent review found that while there are existing procedures and systems within WSDOT to appropriately manage these large projects, they were not consistently used, risk-management decisions were not always fully evaluated, and resources were limited in several key positions so that the level of oversight required did not occur. The report also found that more work is needed to ensure that staff with experience on the large projects is sharing lessons learned within the agency and being provided opportunities to apply that experience to other projects across the state.

Secretary Peterson received weekly updates on the report progress, and in some cases, moved quickly to implement changes as the authors shared their interim findings with her. Some of the recommendations already implemented or underway include: 

  • A new chief engineer with mega project experience has been appointed, and a deputy chief engineer position has been created to ensure there is capacity to provide oversight of the mega projects.
  • A more robust analysis of how the agency contracts for work and how risk is shared with contractors is being developed.
  • A new quality assurance manager position is being created that will report directly to the chief engineer to ensure that quality assurance protocols are followed across the agency.
  • Opportunities will be created for agency staff to gain mega project experience, so that lessons learned on current projects can be applied to future programs.

In addition to those changes, Secretary Peterson earlier this year appointed a new bridge and structures engineer with 29 years of experience at WSDOT to lead the agency’s bridge office. 

The agency, as part of Governor Inslee’s Results Washington Initiative, is currently developing a broader set of reform recommendations to improve WSDOT performance. 

The review made several recommendations that would require legislative action, including enabling the use of a general contractor/construction management delivery approach described above. The report also recommended establishing a pilot program for a limited number of public/private partnerships in order to more fully evaluate the effectiveness of this delivery approach. 

The review was conducted by Ron Paananen, CH2M Hill, and John Njord, Tom Warne & Associates, who have experience managing large transportation projects in Washington state and across the country. The report can be found at:www.wsdot.wa.gov/Secretary/MegaProject.htm.

Wash. Governor Inslee accepting applications for Washington Coastal Marine Advisory Council

Engrossed Senate Bill 5603 signed by Governor Inslee establishes the Washington Coastal Marine Advisory Council at the Governor’s office and assigns Department of Ecology as primary staff support to the council. For questions about the council, contact Jennifer Hennessey at jennifer.hennessey@ecy.wa.gov or 360-407-6595.