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Sen. Takko Newsroom

Coronavirus resources and so long until the fall

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

This coronavirus pandemic has brought tough times for all of us—most especially those who have lost loved ones. But we have reason to be proud of what we have done. By staying home and staying safe, we have slowed the spread in our state. Now it’s time to start charting a careful path to reopening that balances public health with our economic health.

I have been encouraging the governor to open those sectors of the economy that we can do safely, particularly outdoor recreation like fishing and hunting, and construction. I’m glad to say that he has started along that path.

You can read more about the phased approach to recovery here.

Economic Assistance

Our state is ahead of the curve when it comes to helping people hit by the economic effects of the pandemic. We were the first state to deploy all three unemployment insurance benefits provided by the federal government’s emergency CARES Act, and we have put more than $1.5 billion into the pockets of Washingtonians hit with unemployment by this crisis:

  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) – Extends benefits for an extra 13 weeks after regular unemployment benefits run out.
  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) – Extends benefits to self-employed, freelancers, and independent contractors.
  • Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) – Provides a federal benefit of $600 a week.

But my office has heard from many people frustrated with delays when they try to call the Employment Security Department or in getting their benefits. We have helped many constituents and stand ready to continue to help. You can find our contact information below, and more information about unemployment benefits here.

What the Legislature Is Doing

Before we adjourned on March 12, the Legislature unanimously passed HB 2965 to dedicate $200 million from our state’s rainy day fund as a down payment on the many unexpected costs our people and our state and local governments would face as a result of the pandemic.

This funding has helped improve virus testing, propped up local efforts to shelter and quarantine those without stable housing, increased nursing home beds, purchased protective equipment like ventilators and masks for health care workers, and bolstered the unemployment system.

In the economic wake of the pandemic, the state will need to take action to shore up our budget and our economy. Thanks to our fiscal prudence over the past few years, our budget has left almost $3 billion in reserves to help weather a recession. In addition, the governor vetoed bills and budget items passed this year in order to save another $450 million. While these vetoes were painful, they were necessary to tackle the worst public health crisis our state has seen in a hundred years.

The Legislature has already established committees to study and recommend legislation in preparation for the next regular session or a possible special session. The challenge is daunting, but we are heading into it well prepared.

If you’d like to see what I have been working on in Olympia, you can like my official legislative Facebook page here.

Due to election year restrictions, I will not be able to send official e-newsletters or update my legislative website and Facebook page from May 11 until the November 3 election is certified in December.

However, my office will remain open, so if you need to contact me or my staff, please see the contact information below, and please don’t hesitate to stay in touch.

Sincerely,

May 8th, 2020|E-News|

State Government Responds to COVID-19

From the Wahkiakum County Eagle

The Washington State Legislature included funding for covid-19 response in the recently passed budget, Senator Dean Takko, D-19, said during the round table.

Initially, there was a $2 million appropriation for virus response and another billion in support programs, and with a two-thirds majority vote, the legislature could appropriate money from the $3.5 billion in the Rainy Day Fund, which is only to be used in emergencies.

“This won’t come close to solving our problems,” he said. “Nobody had any idea of how bad it would be.

“Gov. Jay Inslee did a good job of vetoing items from the budget to reduce spending,” Takko commented. Inslee vetoed some appropriations which Takko supported, but the senator said everyone lost expenditures, and the goal of freeing money for covid-19 response is worth it.

The adverse covid-19 impact on the economy will affect state revenues. The legislature will face a tremendous challenge next session to deal with loss of gasoline tax revenue for the Transportation Budget, and the legislature is waiting for resolution of a court case challenging the initiative to lower vehicle license fees.

Takko added that he and other Democrat senators have written to Inslee to ask him to allow construction on single-family and other housing to resume.

Broadband internet funding sought

Takko and other officials agreed that the pandemic crisis shows the need for funding of expanded high speed, broadband internet access in the county and other rural areas of the state.

“I think the virus has highlighted our need for rural broadband,” said Wahkiakum PUD Commissioner Gene Healy, a member of a committee trying to expand broadband county wide.

Sen. Takko agreed, pointing to difficulties students have accessing their studies from home computers.

“It just reinforces what we already knew,” Takko said.

Poor internet service is impeding the work-at-home efforts of Health and Human Services employees and their clients, Bischoff said.

“Almost daily, that comes to our attention,” he said.

“I saw, on Facebook, where a student had to sit in a car in the high school parking lot to connect to wifi,” Healy said. “I think, that as a society, we’re better than that.”

Officials: Resume hunting, fishing

Commissioners also said they would like to see the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife allow fishing and hunting this year.

The department ordered some spring seasons closed earlier this month and is considering closures of other seasons later this year.

Commissioners said they would draft a letter for signature next week to request the opening of the seasons.

By Rick Nelson

April 16th, 2020|News|
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    State review of Kalama methanol plant may progress without second study

State review of Kalama methanol plant may progress without second study

From The Daily News

Signaling a potential “change in attitude,” the state Department of Ecology may back off its demand for second study of the potential climate change impact of the proposed $2 billion Kalama methanol plant, according to area legislators.

“We believe (Ecology) can complete a through and effective evaluation of the project and come to a timely permit decision without resorting to a second” study of the plant’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to a March 12 letter from the legislators to the Cowlitz County commissioners and Port of Kalama. (See copy of the letter attached to this story on TDN.com.)

Ecology indicated a willingness to help modify a county/port greenhouse study that the agency found “insufficient,” according to the letter. In November, Ecology announced it would do its own, a process it said could take a year.

Legislators representing the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th districts met with Ecology during the recent legislative session about its second study requirement. On Tuesday, some of those lawmakers said Ecology has made no commitments, but they are hoping the project will move forward.
Ecology has been committed to doing this environmental review as quickly as possible, said Jeff Zenk, Ecology spokesman.

“We are open to exploring how we might be able to work with Cowlitz County and the applicants to share in the workload of providing the additional analysis that we require for this project,” he said in a statement. “We have had some initial discussions to see if that is feasible.”

State Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, said the March 12 letter asks the county to reach out to Ecology and formally request clarification on what the agency found wrong with the county/port greenhouse gas study. Walsh said he’s optimistic the county and Ecology can remedy the existing study.

Generating a new analysis would involve a “significant amount” of taxpayer money and Ecology staff time, Walsh said.

“Leaving aside local politics, I think that’s not a great use of taxpayer resources,” Walsh said. “NWIW (Northwest Innovation Works) paid for the existing EIS. It seems to me a better bang for the taxpayer’s buck is to remedy the shortcomings Ecology sees in that rather than to start the process all over again, funded by taxpayers.”

Ecology requested $600,000 for the study, but that money was not included in the budget the Legislature approved earlier this month, said state Sen. Dean Takko, D-Longview.
Northwest Innovation Works wants to build the methanol plant at the Port of Kalama to convert natural gas to methanol to be shipped to China to make plastic.

The county/port analysis said the plant would result in a reduction of millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions by offsetting coal-based methanol production in China. Environmentalists scoff at that scenario and say it is based on old assumptions.

According to the legislator’s March 12 letter, Ecology officials indicated to lawmakers they would be willing to work with the port and county to address their concerns about the existing study.
Elaine Placido, county community services director, said Tuesday she is “happy to expand the collaborative effort with the port and the Department of Ecology.”

Dan Serres, Columbia River conservation director, said Ecology has been willing to help the county and port correct errors in the analysis, but the agencies have “consistently refused to do the scientifically sound environmental review necessary.”

The county/port analysis misrepresents the purpose and impact of the facility, Serres said, and doesn’t consider the potential burning of the methanol as fuel or the climate changing pollution associated with all aspects of the project. (Northwest Innovation rejects the contention that it will sell the methanol as fuel.)

“We will continue to support the State of Washington in holding this company accountable despite the company’s attempts to mislead the community and regulators,” he said.

Sen. Takko said he’s frustrated that it has taken so long to review the project, which first was proposed in 2014.

“This thing has been handled poorly to take this much time,” he said.

The plant would create about 200 permanent jobs, generate millions in local property and sales taxes and train a new generation of workers, according to Northwest Innovation Works.

“We believe this project represents a defining opportunity for rural economic development in Washington State,” says the March 12 letter, signed by state Reps. Walsh, Ed Orcutt (R-Kalama), Brian Blake (D-Aberdeen), Paul Harris (R-Vancouver), Brandon Vick (R-Vancouver) Larry Hoff (R-Vancouver) and state Sens. Takko and John Braun, R-Centralia.

By Katie Fairbanks

March 25th, 2020|News|
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    Capitol Dispatch: Lawmakers secure funds for Longview police station, Community House

Capitol Dispatch: Lawmakers secure funds for Longview police station, Community House

From The Daily News

When the 60-day legislative session concluded Thursday night, the supplemental capital budget included money for a number of local projects, including $250,000 for a Longview satellite police station in the Highlands and about $250,000 for Community House on Broadway to purchase a new building and upgrade its kitchen. It also allocated about $55,000 for lead paint remediation at Cathlamet’s Pioneer Center.

All four local Republicans, however, said they were frustrated with the spending in the supplemental operating budget, which adds about $1 billion to the $52 billion two-year budget passed by lawmakers last year.

Sen. John Braun, a Centralia Republican, said the majority party didn’t spend all the money they had, which “showed some good restraint.” The final budget has an ending fund balance of about $800 million.

“They did an admirable job not spending all the money, but that said, they did spend quite a lot. It represents an overall growth 20% from the last budget,” Braun said. “So it’s hard to say it’s all good news.”

In response to the Republicans, Democrat Sen. Dean Takko of Longview said, “They probably would have said that no matter what we spend.”

Local Republicans and Democrats all praised the transportation budget as “bipartisan.” It released almost all of the projects that had been “frozen” after funding uncertainty related to Initiative 976, including Longview’s $1.9 million Beech Street extension, which is expected to open up about 48 acres for development.

All six local lawmakers — Democrats and Republicans — said they were pleased that major gun control and carbon emissions measures were knocked down. These measures included an assault weapon ban, high capacity magazine ban, ammunition tax and a low carbon fuel standard.

Coronavirus

The Legislature also approved $200 million from the state’s rainy day fund to combat the new coronavirus. Local lawmakers agreed that was the right amount of money, but Rep. Ed Orcutt of Kalama said he would have liked to fund it with additional tax revenue, rather than emergency funds.

“We are going to have an economic downturn at some point, whether the virus causes it or something else does,” he said. “I’m concerned that we dipped into that when we didn’t really need to.”

Rep. Jim Walsh, an Aberdeen Republican, said Washington’s coronavirus outbreak is an example of what the emergency funds are there for.

Sex education

Discussion of sexual health education legislation dominated the last week of the session. Lawmakers said it spurred the largest response from constituents they had seen in a while.

“I’ve heard from more school districts and people on this bill than any other bill in last 10 years,” said Rep. Richard DeBolt, who has served more than two decades in the Legislature.

DeBolt, Walsh, Orcutt and Braun all said they opposed the legislation primarily because they felt it moved control over curriculum away from local school boards to the state.

“To have this control at the state level doesn’t make any sense to me,” Braun said. “(Teaching this topic) is a parental issue and a school board issue. We shouldn’t step into that as the state.”

Democrats Takko and Rep. Brian Blake of Aberdeen disputed that claim, saying school boards still get to decide the curriculum, as long as it meets state standards of being “scientifically and medically accurate.” Both said there’s been a lot of misinformation about the bill.

Takko said he spoke with local superintendents this week and they told him the new legislation doesn’t differ much from what they are currently doing.

Blake said the bill is intended to reduce teen pregnancies, suicides, bullying, sexually transmitted diseases and child molestation.

The bill passed out of the House 56-40 and out of the Senate 27-21.

A voter referendum to repeal the legislation was submitted on Friday. If it gets enough signatures, it would be on the November ballot.

Other matters
  • Orcutt said he was concerned that legislation regulating facial recognition tools got “watered down” this session and may not adequately protect citizens. He said he expects to revisit the matter during next year’s session.
  • Takko said he was proud of legislation allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote.
  • Braun said he was pleased there was some progress on special education funding and support for developmentally disabled people, although not quite as much as he had hoped.
  • Braun also successfully passed a constitutional amendment authorizing future payroll tax revenue to be invested in stocks and bonds. The matter will come before voters on the general election ballot in November.
  • Blake said he was pleased to secure $24 million for the Department of Fish and Wildlife, which gets the agency close to being fully funded.
  • Walsh said it was “a good session for conservatives” because they were able to knock down some major progressive efforts.
  • DeBolt, who announced he won’t run for re-election, said he was pleased to pass a bill during his final legislative session that focused on salmon recovery, flooding and culverts in the Chehalis basin. “We’ve got to make sure that keeps moving,” he said. “The neat thing about Olympia is when you leave, somebody else comes. It’s kind of their job now.”

By Rose Lundy

March 15th, 2020|News|

Sen. Takko secures money for Pacific County drug task force

From The Longview Daily News

Pacific County will receive $391,000 in state funding to establish a drug task force thanks to a budget proviso by state Sen. Dean Takko, Takko’s office reported Thursday.

“This has been a goal of mine for a long time,” Takko, D-Longview, said in a prepared statement. “The community brought this problem to me, and I’m glad we can provide law enforcement the resources they need to keep our county safe.”

Pacific County had a drug task force from 2006 to 2015, paid for jointly by state, federal and local money. It disbanded in 2015 due to lack of funding.

“This is huge for us,” Pacific County Sheriff Robin Souvenir said in a prepared statement included with Takko’s. “One of the big issues here we have is the drug problem. We don’t have dedicated and sustainable funding. As a rural county, there’s no way we could fund a program on our own.”

March 13th, 2020|News|

E-News: Coronavirus – what the state is doing to help

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

The Legislature is taking this health crisis extremely seriously. We have now appropriated $200 million to fund our state’s response, including monitoring, testing and support for local health departments.

We have also acted to

  • make sure that people receiving unemployment insurance can continue to do so even if they can’t meet the work search requirement due to quarantine
  • support businesses that rehire employees who had to go on unemployment insurance because of the coronavirus emergency
  • reimburse nursing homes that aid in the coronavirus response
  • allow school employees to maintain health insurance eligibility for the rest of the school year even if they come up short of required work hours because of the coronavirus state of emergency

The federal government has passed an $8.3 billion coronavirus response plan. Of that, $11.2 million came immediately came to Washington state for public health responses. Our congressional leaders are hard at work negotiating a supplemental bill that is intended to include additional Medicaid funding, housing support, and SNAP benefits.

State agencies have announced measures to help people and businesses whose lives are disrupted. The governor’s office has assembled a central list of resources here. Below are some of the most important changes that can help you.

Worker and employer assistance

If an employer temporarily shuts down operations because of coronavirus, workers may be eligible for unemployment benefits and the employer may receive relief of benefit costs.

If workers are exposed to coronavirus and asked to isolate or quarantine by a doctor or health official, they may receive unemployment benefits while they are temporarily away from work. A bill passed recently by the Legislature waives the requirement that people in this situation must be actively searching for work.

Health care coverage 

The Washington Health Benefit Exchange has opened a special enrollment period for health insurance through April 8. You can call 1-855-923-4633 between 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Insurance assistance 

The Insurance Commissioner has required all insurance plans to cover coronavirus tests with no cost-sharing and no prior authorization requirement for people who meet the CDC criteria for testing.

He has also required insurance plans to allow enrollees to refill their prescriptions early one time in order to maintain an adequate supply.

School updates

Several school districts around the state have closed, but many still remain open. This is a quickly moving situation, and the latest updates will be reflected on individual school district websites or here. Here are links to the school districts in the 19th Legislative District:

Aberdeen / Adna / Boistfort / Castle Rock / Chehalis / Cosmopolis
Elma / Evaline / Kelso / Longview / Montesano / Napavine
Naselle Grays River Valley / North River / Oakville / Ocean Beach
Ocosta / Pe Ell / Raymond / Rochester / Satsop / South Bend
Wahkiakum / Willapa Valley / Winlock

Protect your health and your loved ones

Remember, if someone you know has a fever and non-acute respiratory distress, they should call their doctor – not go to the clinic or hospital. Symptoms to watch for are fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

The best preparations are to prevent infection with simple yet effective actions:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds (singing happy birthday twice).
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with your elbow, sleeve or tissue (not your hands).
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Bump elbows with friends rather than giving hugs or handshakes.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Use hand sanitizers when unable to wash your hands.

If you have symptoms and do not have a doctor to call, you can call the Washington State Department of Health call center at 1-800-525-0127.

Sincerely,

March 12th, 2020|E-News|

Takko secures funding for US 12-rail separation project

From The Aberdeen Daily World and The Montesano Vidette

The City of Aberdeen will receive $700,000 for the Highway 12 Rail Separation Project in East Aberdeen, thanks to a provision added to the Legislature’s final transportation budget by Sen. Dean Takko, D-Longview.

The money will fund preliminary work for an overpass and roundabout to raise South Chehalis Street above Highway 12 and the Puget Sound & Pacific Railroad, where train traffic regularly causes congestion and backups on Highway 12 near the Gateway Mall at the entrance to Aberdeen.

The number of freight trains traveling along this corridor has significantly increased over the past 15 years and is predicted to continue growing as the Port of Grays Harbor handles cargoes of timber, agricultural products and autos, among other goods.

“This funding is a major milestone for the project, officially moving the project out of the planning stage and into preliminary engineering,” said Kris Koski, Aberdeen City Engineer.

“An added benefit is that this State support will strengthen federal grant applications for additional funding. The City is already planning the next grant application due in May of this year through the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) federal grant program, so the timing of this news is perfect. The project is gaining momentum,” he said.

“This funding is crucial because it keeps this project moving and positions us competitively for big federal transportation grants,” said Takko. “Having more freight trains on the tracks is a sign of a strong economy — a good problem to have — but we need the overpass to cut down on traffic jams when those trains come through town.”

Koski said the project’s roots go back to a 2006 regional circulation plan and that planning has been underway since 2017,

“The design concept for the project was identified through a rigorous alternatives analysis completed in 2015. Planning work has been underway since 2017, including geotechnical explorations, traffic modeling, and public outreach. It takes a long time to complete big projects like this, but progress has been steady, and this funding will allow work to go on while we continue to search out funding for the next phase of work,” Koski added.

The City of Aberdeen, Grays Harbor County, and the Port of Grays Harbor together have committed $700,000 to match the state’s appropriation.

A 2019 cost-benefit analysis calculated that this project will return a benefit of $1.72 for every $1.00 invested.

By Thorin Sprandel

March 12th, 2020|News|

Takko secures funding for drug task force in Pacific County

Pacific County will receive $391,000 in state funding to establish a drug task force to coordinate between local law enforcement agencies in criminal investigations, thanks to a budget proviso added by Sen. Dean Takko (D-Longview).

“This has been a goal of mine for a long time,” said Takko. “The community brought this problem to me, and I’m glad we can provide law enforcement the resources they need to keep our county safe.”

Pacific County had a drug task force from 2006 to 2015, paid for jointly by state, federal, and local money, but it was disbanded in 2015 due to lack of funding.

“This is huge for us,” said Pacific County Sheriff Robin Souvenir. “One of the big issues here we have is the drug problem. We don’t have dedicated and sustainable funding. As a rural county, there’s no way we could fund a program on our own. This will allow us to coordinate with the South Bend Police, the Raymond Police, and the Long Beach Police to take on drug trafficking.”

According to the Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute at the University of Washington, the number of drug cases across the state has ticked up in recent years.

There are several federal drug enforcement funding programs that provide grants to local law enforcement, but Pacific County does not qualify for these because there is no active federal border patrol presence. This makes the state funding all the more crucial.

March 12th, 2020|News Release|

Museum set to receive state funds for roof repairs

From the Chinook Observer

ILWACO — After getting battered by storms in January, the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum is on the road to relief.

The Washington State Legislature’s supplemental capital budget bill for the 2020 session was approved unanimously and contains $150,000 in state funds earmarked for the repair of the museum’s roof. The bill now awaits Gov. Jay Inslee’s signature.

Betsy Millard, the museum’s executive director, said the 55-year-old building has worn down over time and undergone several patch jobs as museum staff tried to come up with funding for fixes.

Noreen’s pet project

The building was formerly home to the Ilwaco Telephone Utility Company and was constructed in 1965 as a sort of “super-structure” that tied together several buildings. When the company was acquired by Pacific Telecom in the early 1980s and its employees relocated to Vancouver, the building was deeded to the city of Ilwaco. Noreen Robinson, a city councilor during that time, was tasked by the mayor to figure out what to do with the building.

After holding brainstorming sessions with other community members, the group decided to use the building to host a museum. Robinson was able to obtain help from the Smithsonian Institution, which sent her information and recommended she get professional guidance. Robinson hired an intern from the University of Washington’s museum studies program, who instructed the all-volunteer staff on how to manage the museum.

It has gone on to become a model professionally managed facility under Millard, serving as a sort of “mini-Smithsonian” for the memories and heritage of history-rich South Pacific County.

Patched up

The last time the museum had any major work done was 1990. During that remodel, a second roof was added to the original roof. Millard said that the current situation is untenable.

“We’ve patched it, but you can sort of see some of the areas where the water comes,” Millard said. “We’ve had leaks and we’ve had random leaks. We’ve just been patching, patching, patching.”

The situation got worse a couple of years ago, and the museum had two different roof companies come and submit bids of what it would take to make the necessary repairs. Both bids came in around $200,000.

“We were like ‘Oh my God,’” said Millard, who noted the museum is funded solely by grants, donations and fundraisers, not public funds. “We run this place on less than $200,000 a year. That includes all of our salaries, electricity — the whole shooting match.”

The roof problems got worse in January, when torrential rain and severe wind caused substantial flooding throughout the building. It was during an American Legion meeting in the museum’s community meeting room when one of the legion’s members said that the museum needed some help.

Takko comes up with funds

From there, several community members reached out to Sen. Dean Takko, D-Longview, to see what could be done at the state level. Takko grew up in Ilwaco, and Millard said that he has deep connections with the museum and other organizations in the city.

“He knows the museum and he knows what an important place it is in the community,” she said.

It didn’t take much time for the museum staff to hear that funds for the repair had been set aside in the capital budget. The $150,000 from the state will cover about 75% of the expected repair costs, with the museum on the hook for about $50,000.

Millard said that the museum’s facility meeting met earlier this month with representatives from the city to discuss other potential fundraising opportunities. The museum will also make an appeal to its supporters for donations, and hopes to be listed in the Pacific Community Foundation Spring Grant Catalog.

By Brandon Cline

 

March 12th, 2020|News|
  • Permalink Gallery

    Takko secures $700,000 to cut traffic congestion in Aberdeen

Takko secures $700,000 to cut traffic congestion in Aberdeen

The City of Aberdeen will receive $700,000 for the US 12 Highway-Rail Separation Project, thanks to a provision added to the Legislature’s final transportation budget by Sen. Dean Takko (D-Longview).

The money will fund preliminary work for an overpass and roundabout to raise South Chehalis Street above US 12 and Puget Sound & Pacific Railroad, where train traffic regularly causes congestion and backups on US 12.

The number of freight trains traveling along this corridor has significantly increased over the past 15 years and is predicted to continue growing in the coming decades.

The Port of Grays Harbor, at the western end of the Puget Sound & Pacific Railroad, is the closest port to Seattle with direct access to the ocean and is crucial for transporting timber, agricultural products, and autos, among other goods.

“This funding is crucial because it keeps this project moving and positions us competitively for big federal transportation grants,” said Takko. “Having more freight trains on the tracks is a sign of a strong economy — a good problem to have — but we need the overpass to cut down on traffic jams when those trains come through town.”

Without this funding, the project would miss a key deadline and the planning process would need to be restarted, setting the work back by months and costing an additional $300,000. The state’s $700,000 will help get the project construction ready by 2023, which will make it more competitive for federal INFRA and BUILD grant programs.

Local support for the project is strong. The City of Aberdeen, Grays Harbor County, and the Port of Grays Harbor together have committed $700,000 to match the state’s appropriation.

A 2019 cost-benefit analysis calculated that this project will return a benefit of $1.72 for every $1.00 invested.

March 11th, 2020|News Release|