House Bill 1215 Concerning the protection and restoration of riparian areas.

January 25, 2023

by Cindy Alia

In HB 1215, Concerning the protection and restoration of riparian areas, and its companion bill SB 5266, last session’s Giant Buffer Bill has morphed into the Giant Government bill, though no less objectional, the bill promises to grow governance without promising to justly compensate for the loss of the best and highest or even the reasonable use of properties affected by the vagaries of such things as riparian zoning, “assistance”, and ongoing maintenance of altered buffers on properties.  I am going to call this a 975 bill.  975 bills do not take into account the struggles and losses businesses and property owners have faced while the governor was busy saving our lives.  These bills do not take into account the facts on the ground in terms of what we are facing now and will likely face for some time to come with inflation, higher fuel costs, fertilizer cost and availability, and supply chain delays or interruption. 

It could be that many who will be making decisions on these various programs are unable to comprehend the impact of their deliberations on property owners  but the facts are that what is intended to be imposed initially and over time with a bill like this is costly today for property owners and taxpayers and will be into the future.  When multiple agencies and various task forces are working together it is expensive as related to staffing and producing the required meetings and mediators, paper work and legal processes that will inevitably lead to a regulatory morass that will become exaction rather than purely voluntary. 

The governor and legislature should consider we are not in Kansas any longer, life has changed, means have been diminished, citizens are facing multiple challenges and will continue to struggle and adapt to maintain a viable existence in the aftermath of 975 days of tyrannical help that will take far more than 975 days in which to recover in our present inflationary and disorganized times.

Sponsored by State representatives Chapman, Lekanoff, Berry, Kloba, Reed, Simmons, Tharinger, Ramel, Doglio, Macri, Senn, Pollet and State senators Shewmake, Van De Wege, Conway, Hasegawa, Hunt, Kuderer, Lovick, Nguyen, Nobles, Stanford, Wellman, Wilson, Claire all of whom are willing to draft and present the bills on behalf of the governor. 

The bill bloats government using the following tasks listed in the bill summary:

Requires the State Conservation Commission to establish and administer a riparian grant program to fund protection and restoration of critical riparian management zones.

Requires the State Conservation Commission, as part of the riparian grant program, to adopt standards to achieve, wherever possible, fully functioning riparian ecosystems in priority critical riparian management zones.

Establishes a salmon riparian habitat policy task force within the Governor's Salmon Recovery Office to develop riparian habitat recommendations.

Creates an interagency riparian committee within the Governor's Salmon Recovery Office for the purpose of coordinating among state agencies on riparian protection and restoration.

The agencies the governor wishes would work well together include the governors salmon recovery office, the state conservation commission, department of fish and wildlife, and ecology.

There are zoning and groupings for all this governance: a salmon riparian habitat task force, a riparian grant program, habitat projects organized according to Water Resource Inventory Areas along with eight salmon recovery regions.  This will lead to the creation of prioritized critical riparian management zones.

 Additionally, the bill precludes the use of all “best available science” used in the determinations to be limited to only one source, “Riparian Ecosystems, Volume 1: Science Synthesis and Management Implications (2020) and Riparian Ecosystems, Volume 2: Management Recommendations (2020).  Apparently if all one has available is one created science it would be the best available. 

It is not known what calculations will be used for determining the exact value of using one’s property under the best and highest use as compared to government using your property for the purposes of its use but in the bill possible methods of compensation are lacking and use and apples and oranges comparison, apples being the beneficial use of property for the human population, oranges being a rather mystical and unspecific potential benefit to the salmon population.

This bill is overly ambitious, the resulting benefit of the bills goals are rather dreamy in specificity, and is top heavy in governance.  The bill may never have a place in our government, it certainly does not have a place now.  The bill has had a public hearing in the house but has not progressed to an executive hearing, here is the bill status page  Call your representatives and senator and tell them what you think about the bill.

January 25, 2023