Honeyford, Warnick gain Senate support for drought relief funding

Today, on the final day of the Legislature’s special session, the Senate unanimously voted to allocate $18 million to the State Drought Preparedness Account, allowing the state Department of Ecology to begin emergency drought response as soon as the bill is approved by the House of Representatives and signed into law.

Sen. Jim Honeyford, chair of the Water Supply During Drought Joint Legislative Committee, sponsored Senate Bill 6125 in response to the expanded statewide drought declared by the governor on May 15.

“As lawmakers we need to do everything we can to assist the state’s agricultural community. I’m hopeful that the House of Representatives will act quickly to get this bill to the governor’s desk,” said Honeyford, R-Sunnyside.

To be eligible for funding, municipalities or entities must be connected with a water source that will receive less than 75 percent of normal water supply and that lack of water will cause an undue hardship to the entity or fish or wildlife.

Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, who is chair of the Senate Agriculture, Water and Rural Economic Development Committee as well as a drought-committee member, added the situation “is a serious issue that we are all in agreement needs to be addressed. An important part of this bill is not just the financial aspect, but also requiring ecology to consider how it prioritizes resources.”

Should drought conditions not be declared in 2016, any unused funds will be transferred to the state’s Disaster Preparedness Account.