On Wednesday the governor signed legislation from 13th District Sen. Judy Warnick and Rep. Tom Dent that would enable irrigation districts to enter into public-private partnerships for new energy infrastructure, including hydroelectric projects.
“This is a good piece of bipartisan legislation that is going to create jobs and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our irrigation-district systems,” said Dent, R-Moses Lake, about Senate Bill 5261, which is identical to a House bill he introduced.
“We will be able to put a lot of people to work building the generating stations and then use the profits from the power to maintain and operate the irrigation systems.”
Irrigation districts have a long history as special-purpose districts in Washington. The law created by Warnick’s SB 5261 means they now have an added, market-based opportunity to improve the services they deliver and benefit the regions they serve.
“This is a creative way to deliver affordable energy by our irrigation districts,” said Warnick, R-Moses Lake. “In addition to delivering water to our agricultural producers, irrigation districts are important contributors to our state’s energy profile. This law provides another tool to help these districts work cooperatively with private-sector partners in the energy arena.”
“This is the most beautiful piece of legislation I’ve seen all year, due to its simplicity and structure,” said Matthew Hepner, executive director of the Certified Electrical Workers of Washington and vice president of the North Central Washington Labor Council. “The passage of this bill will allow for the creation of thousands of family-wage construction jobs in rural central and eastern Washington communities, followed by up to a hundred full time permanent jobs, while putting up to 500 megawatts onto the grid in real, usable amounts. This will help keep power rates low and keeping central Washington industrially competitive.”