Tom Dent

State Rep. Tom Dent, R-Moses Lake.

OLYMPIA — Local conservation districts would gain more control over their own fish habitat projects under a bill just passed by the state House of Representatives.

Rep. Tom Dent, R-Moses Lake, was the primary sponsor of HB 1187, which passed Thursday on a 96-0 vote. Dent and other proponents of the bill say it simply streamlines the process for fish habitat projects that are sponsored by conservation districts, so that more can be done to protect fish in Washington's rivers and streams.

Construction projects that use, divert, or otherwise interfere with natural streams can qualify for a streamlined review process, but only if approved by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and other agencies, and if they comply with design standards established by the Washington Conservation Commission through an interagency agreement with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the Natural Resource Conservation Service.

Dent's bill removes the second requirement if the project is sponsored by a conservation district. The interagency agreement on which that rule is based was never finalized.

"It is not uncommon to read about fish runs decreasing or certain fishing seasons closing due to low numbers. Improving fish habitat has become a priority issue in Olympia," Dent said.

Seventh District Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, was another of the six sponsors on the bill. Two of the sponsors are Democrats.

The bill now goes to a Senate vote. The state Legislature is due to adjourn April 28.

Jefferson Robbins: 679-7013 

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