HEALTHY TRUSTS, RURAL ECONOMIES, AND PEOPLE
BUDGET REQUEST 2019-21
The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) manages 3.6 million acres of state-owned lands, many in and around our state’s most economically challenged communities.
While the economy along the I-5 corridor has exploded over the past 20 years, growth in rural Washington has stagnated – or worse, receded. State trust lands have the potential to drive economic recovery in areas of the state that need it the most.
This package is a serious step toward improving the contributions of state trust lands both to the economies of rural Washington and to the beneficiaries to which DNR is constitutionally-obliged to deliver maximum benefits.
This funding request will provide DNR with the information and recommendations to increase revenue from trust assets, expand on successful sectors of DNR’s portfolio, capitalize on commercial real estate opportunities, pursue and develop clean energy projects, and support the recreation industry that so many of our small-town gas stations, cafes and motels rely on.
Clean energy has shown the potential to be a sustainable economic contributor in towns like Dayton, Bickleton and Ellensburg. State trust lands are located in prime areas to develop solar, wind and geothermal energy. This package allows DNR to pursue these projects, thereby increasing local employment opportunities and financial returns for trust beneficiaries.
Many communities in rural Washington rely heavily on recreation visitors to support tourism industries. This package shows a commitment to those who enjoy state lands, and support these communities, through additional maintenance and development of recreational sites.
This package will deliver win-wins that increase trust revenue and expand our state’s rural economies, creating benefits for millions of Washingtonians.
EMERGENCY COMMUNICATIONS AND CONNECTIVITY
$2,057,000 in 2019-21
DNR manages many communications towers and sites around Washington. However, the agency cannot afford to maintain these sites because costs exceed the 25-to-31 percent of revenues DNR is allowed to capture for maintenance. The standard for maintaining communication sites is 60-to-75 percent of revenue.
This proposal will temporarily fund 4 positions to inventory, inspect, survey and perform critical maintenance on 25 sites to prepare them for sale. Once implemented, staff will be better able respond to requests for new leases and administer DNR’s 430 other existing leases; the state’s liability will be lowered; revenues are projected to increase by $600,000 to $1 million annually; and a $2.5 million maintenance backlog will be shifted to those who use these services.
$371,000 in 2019-21
Amateur radio operators are part of effective, comprehensive emergency communications throughout Washington. State law requires DNR to provide amateur radio operators discounted access to communications towers, with the legislature obliged to “account for the estimated difference between discounted and fair market rent.” (RCW 79.13.510)
Current appropriations fall short of filling the gaps of projected rents for the next biennium and prevent DNR from allowing new leases to amateur radio operators.
$1,460,000 in 2019-21
Solar, wind and geothermal energy present incredible opportunities to develop new industries and family wage jobs in rural Washington. Although DNR lands are located in areas of high interest to green energy firms, the agency does not have the necessary expertise, capacity, or resources to capitalize on existing opportunities presented by the growing green energy sector.
This funding adds 4 positions that will kick start green energy development on state trust lands by identifying, recruiting and establishing new green energy leases.
These developments will yield an estimated $1 to $2 million (a 10,000 to 33,000 percent increase over current leases) and generate significant additional revenue for critical local services – such as schools, hospitals, and libraries – and provide clean, affordable energy to our homes and businesses.
IDENTIFY GEOTHERMAL RESOURCES
$632,000 in 2019-21
Washington’s volcanic activity presents the potential for clean, renewable geothermal power, but very little is known about the viability of this resource. The Washington Geologic Survey, a division of DNR, is at the forefront of efforts to understand the potential of Washington’s geothermal resources.
Geothermal energy could generate commercial electricity, heat buildings or greenhouses, dry wood for biomass, or supplement a cogeneration facility with wind and solar projects.
This funding provides 1.5 full-time positions to map high and low temperature geothermal resources, drill test wells, and work with the state lands leasing program to find tenants to tap into resources.
ODESSA GROUNDWATER REPLACEMENT PROJECT – CAPITAL REQUEST
$825,000 in 2019-21
DNR manages land and has district water rights located within the Bureau of Reclamation’s Odessa Groundwater Replacement Project area. Participating in the project requires DNR pay for its portion of a water delivery system to bring water to the parcels.
Accessing this water will allow the department to transition current dryland parcels into more valuable irrigated agriculture with larger revenue opportunities, and secure reliable water into the future.
OUTDOOR RECREATION AND COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
$3,896,000 in 2019-21
Washington’s outdoor recreation industry provides 200,000 jobs and generates $21 billion in annual economic activity, often in and around the state’s most economically challenged communities. While DNR has received funding from the Recreation and Conservation Office to develop new recreation sites, limited resources and increasingly competitive grants for funding maintenance and operations has forced DNR to close more than 30 recreation sites since 2008. Compounding these funding concerns is the fact that DNR faces an approximately $650,000 reduction in funding from the gas tax revenue next biennium.
This package funds 10 new employees in regional positions to support maintenance, manage volunteers, expand recreational opportunities, and provide education and enforcement. Two new law enforcement officers are also funded to decrease illegal activities on DNR-managed lands. The package also funds 3 outreach professionals to work with partners to educate the public about recreation opportunities and the importance of public lands and working forests, recruit volunteers for maintenance, and increase visits to state recreation areas.
SUSTAINABLE RECREATION – CAPITAL REQUEST
$8,500,000 in 2019-21
DNR plans to complete more than 60 small-to-mid-sized recreation projects across the state to address safety, make community-supported improvements, and upgrade existing facilities. This request continues the department’s support of public access in an environmentally sustainable manner working in concert with DNR’s trust objectives.
TRUST LANDS PERFORMANCE ASSESSMENT
$557,200 in 2019-21
State lands have generated $1.5 billion for trust beneficiaries over the past two decades. However, that number could be higher. The agency has not taken a full appraisal of its portfolio’s performance since 1996.
Since that time, the economy has changed dramatically, and continued development has changed the optimal use of some lands. This funding builds on funding from 2018 and allows DNR to complete a review of its holdings, find opportunities to repurpose properties to meet changing market conditions, dispose of properties that no longer fit into DNR’s mission, and acquire more profitable lands.
$440,000 for 2019-21
Opportunities exist to increase maximize revenue from DNR-held commercial real estate, but the department does not have the capacity or funding to take advantage of them. This funding will allow DNR to deploy one employee to focus full-time on identifying, developing and marketing urban properties to create jobs and increase revenues for trust beneficiaries.
COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE – CAPITAL REQUEST
$2,000,000 in 2019-21
DNR is requesting $2 million to improve vacant commercial spaces and increase their marketability in order to generate $1.5 million per year in rental income. Without this revenue infusion, beneficiaries will continue to miss out on reliable, increased revenue streams.
NATURAL AREAS FACILITIES PRESERVATION – CAPITAL REQUEST
$7,048,000 for 2019-2021
The public does not currently have adequate access to the state’s 94 Natural Areas. This request funds 36 projects across 32 different natural areas to maintain or improve public access, preserve ecological integrity, and educate visitors about important features. Projects span 21 counties, primarily in the Puget Sound Basin.
TEANAWAY COMMUNITY FOREST – CAPITAL REQUEST
1,856,000 for 2019-2021
Funding to, in partnership with the Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife, preserve archaeological sites, maintain roads, protect against grazing issues, expand recreation, and fuel reduction efforts to reduce the risk of wildfire.
PASCO LOCAL IMPROVEMENT DISTRICT – CAPITAL REQUEST
$4,000,000 for 2019-2021
Funding to improve 73 acres of undeveloped commercial property to secure $1-2 million in new, annual revenue for beneficiaries on an ongoing basis.
FACILITIES CAPITAL REQUEST
$17,200,000 preservation for 2019-2021
Our facilities provide support to enable all the work we do statewide.