Tuesday, March 19, 2013

SB5805 Won't Advance

Washington State Senate Bill SB5805 sb5805-pit-to-pier-gravel-and-landslides has been reported as dead. Under the Growth Management Act, planning counties (small population counties only need to address a few items) must establish mineral resource areas essentially to protect the areas from being developed.

The problem is that gravel deposits and high quality rock are not evenly distributed between counties nor is the demand. High population and rapidly growing counties have large demand and construction gravel and sand is often far or hard to get to where the market demand is high. Some counties with low population and low demand have vast gravel deposits.

A simple but very real example is the Seattle waterfront area. Gravel and concrete and rock and sand are all needed for big construction projects. Trucking material in through heavy traffic on city streets is expensive and the source of material is a long drive.    

Barge of gravel entering Seattle's Elliot Bay

Under the Growth Management Act, counties are supposed to reserve mineral resource areas for their own supply. But this approach is very localized and may pose a problem on a broader state level. To a degree, the issue of the pit to pier project in Jefferson County underlines this problem. That said a blunt approach that circumvents the local community without any clear guidance regarding state need or the broader impacts is a poorly thought through approach.

I suspect that the motivation behind SB5805 had very little to do with the broader issue of aggregate supply within the state. As the picture above shows, gravel is moving via water in Washington State. If the concern is supply and getting materials to needed projects much more vetting will be needed before bringing the right legislation forward. 

1 comment:

Geoffrey Middaugh said...

Although I haven't look specifically at the bill, it appears to me to be a good (bad?) example of what I call sufficiency language. Sufficiency language allows for a particular project, to receive legislative approval to work: it provides an exception to the rules. Sufficiency hardly ever works, and probably shouldn't. In environmental circles, exceptions aren't exceptions, but the rule.