Legislature eyes ways to control speculators buying Washington water rights

Several upcoming bills in the Washington Legislature aim to take on the state’s convoluted water rights system, which balances two conflicting positions – that water is a public resource stewarded by the state, and that water rights are private property. While legislators want to cut out water speculators who are looking to make a profit on water, farmers, builders and environmental stewardship organizations fear that regulations could impede community water banks.

Senator: To help orcas and salmon, seawalls should be a last resort

Newly proposed legislation in the Washington Legislature would require waterfront homeowners along Puget Sound’s 2,500-mile shoreline to consider fish-friendly fixes when replacing concrete seawalls. Proponents believe it’s the best opportunity to soften the Sound’s shores and jumpstart populations of forage fish that feed juvenile Chinook salmon, the preferred food of endangered orcas. The building lobby and others aren’t convinced.

Legislature is delivering on climate protection just in time for Inslee’s presidential bid

Democratic lawmakers are finding success in moving a raft of clean-energy bills through the Washington Legislature. The sweeping bills would make Washington the fourth state to require a phaseout of fossil-fueled electricity, mandate energy overhauls for larger, old buildings, and more. The fate of three lesser bills to protect the climate is less certain.

Legislature, Inslee struggle to fix roads that block salmon, help starve orcas

Puget Sound’s beloved orcas are at risk of extinction and scientists say one key step to rescuing them is boosting oceangoing runs of chinook salmon, the biggest, fattest and most nutritious kind of salmon and the killer whales’ main food source. But legislators seeking to open up more than 1,000 miles of prime inland spawning areas that are currently blocked to the fish by culverts are struggling to find a funding source. What is blocking all those fish? Culverts. These are the pipes and tunnels that pass under roads throughout the state, allowing water to flow downstream. It turns out that many old highway projects in the state were poorly engineered where they intersect with salmon-bearing streams and as a result can block the fish in a variety of ways.

What Washington’s fight over climate-friendly power grid is all about

Washington legislators are moving to reshape the state’s electricity grid in a dramatic way that favors renewable energy over the next three decades, and environmentalists are rejoicing that climate change is finally a top legislative priority. But is reducing Washingtonians’ contributions to global warming achievable without boosting power rates too high at privately owned utilities? Those are the utilities that rely the most on natural gas and other fossil fuels, and they help meet energy needs at about half of Washington households. Private utilities and Republican lawmakers are predicting cost increases or even “brownouts,” and urging a go-slow approach.