Invasive Plant Workshop – This Wednesday, April 25th

Thurston Conservation District invites local residents to a free invasive plant workshop, “Winning the War on Weeds” on April 25th. Participants will learn how to identify and manage problem weeds that could be invading their property. The workshop will be held Wednesday, April 25 at 6:30 at the Griffin Fire Hall, 3707 Steamboat Loop NW, off Steamboat Island Road.

Topics to be covered include pasture weeds, ornamental invasives, plant identification and control strategies. Participants are welcome to bring samples of unknown plants for identification.

Noxious weeds can cause many problems for property owners. Some are poisonous to humans and livestock, and most grow rapidly and are difficult to control. Weeds can also reduce crop yields, destroy native habitat, clog waterways and diminish land values. The hard part is to know where to start and how to tell the weeds apart. This workshop will help you learn to identify the worst invaders and give you some tips for effective management.

Pre-registration is requested, but not required. To register or receive more information, please contact Sara Carter @ 360.754.3588 ext. 136 or scarter@thurstoncd.com.

Free “Septic Sense” Workshop at Griffin Fire Station, May 3

Thurston County Public Health & Social Services Department sponsors a free “Septic Sense Workshop” at Griffin Fire Station, 3707 Steamboat Loop NW, May 3, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm.

Click here to register online or by calling Thurston County Environmental Health at 360-754-4111; TDD line is 754-2933.

Participants will receive take-home materials and a coupon for $10 off of tank pumping.

Dr. Diana Yu, health officer for the Thurston County Public Health and Social Services Department, published an article entitled “Don’t let septic system go bad” in the April 14th issue of The Olympian. Click here to read that article and learn more about the critical importance septic tank health plays in the groundwater all of us drink

GNA Board To Build a Strategy to Oppose Conference Center

The GNA Board has decided not to pursue a technical legal appeal of the County Commissioner‘s decision on the Conference Center. Instead, the GNA will focus its resources to positively address the Environmental Impact Study requirements and to oppose the Special Use Permit improperly sought by the developer in order to build this commercial business on residential property.

Here is some background:

In the technical legal challenge, the Griffin Neighborhood Association asserted that the conference center application had lapsed according to County regulation timelines. In the appeal to the Commissioners, the GNA also noted that the County erred when it allowed the application to continue, long after deadlines stated in the County’s own regulations.

While County Commissioners admonished their own staff over the handling of the deadlines, two of the Commissioners ruled that declaring a lapsed application would be too great a penalty, that would be borne entirely by the applicant (The Willis Family Trust) who was not responsible for the error.

Following this decision, members of the GNA Board met with counsel and heard that this precedent-setting circumstance in a court case would likely be decided in agreement with the majority Commissioner’s decision, rather than impose the penalty of lapsing the application.

What we plan to do next:

By deciding not to pursue the rather technical issue of how County staff mishandled this application, the GNA Board has decided to focus efforts to oppose the Conference Center related to the Environmental Impact Study and the issuance of a Special Use Permit, which was not in keeping with the “community club” definitions in the County regulations at the time of the application. The Board believes it is much more likely to be able to defeat the project in this way.

The Board has begun to develop a strategy to oppose the Conference Center’s application in public hearings, in the press and in our neighborhoods. A fundraising effort will continue so that the GNA can afford the kinds of expert witnesses required to counter claims by the developer and the County that no traffic mitigation is required, that the project will not affect drainage or water quality, parking, and that residential property can converted for this commercial use.

How you can help:

  • Stay informed via the GNA website at http://www.GriffinNeighbors.org
  • The GNA will be creating small groups to develop our case, for public hearing, against the conference center. These groups will focus on these key areas:
    • Legal strategy
    • Water
    • Traffic/Parking
    • Noise/Outdoor Light
    • Quality of Life
    • Fundraising and Public Outreach
  • The Board will soon be asking for volunteers to help staff these groups. Bring your time and input to small group meetings that will brainstorm and plan for opposition strategies.
  • One of these groups will be coordinating a letter-writing campaign. Volunteer to write letters to the County, to The Olympian, and elsewhere.
  • Volunteer by contacting the GNA: Leave a voice mail message at 252-6047 or email us at conferencecenter@griffinneighbors.org
  • If you are not already a member of the GNA, click here to join us!

Thank you for becoming involved in preserving the rural nature of our community.

Court Rules Against County in Growth Management Suit, With One Important Exception

The Washington State Court of Appeals has largely ruled against Thurston County, who was hoping the Court would overturn a Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board decision that invalidated certain portions of the County’s comprehensive plan and development regulations. However, there was one victory, for the County, with possibly a significant impact to residents in rural parts of the county.

Click here to read the entire ruling.

“The Board, acting on 1000 Friends of Washington’s challenge to the County’s periodic review, found that the County failed to explain why its urban growth areas exceeded projected population growth by 38 percent, improperly designated agricultural land of long-term significance, and failed to create a variety of densities in its rural areas.”

1000 Friends of Washington is now Futurewise.

In its case, the County sought to have the Court rule that 1000 Friends of Washington did not have standing in this case. The County lost that argument.

The County sought to have the Court rule the Growth Management Hearings Board lacked jurisdiction to review land use decisions the County made years earlier and did not revise in its recent update. The County lost on this point, too.

Perhaps you, like I, are hearing the sound of our tax dollars being siphoned away on losing legal arguments. We’ve seen this before of course: As an example, the sexual discrimination case against the Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, where legal fees mounted to close to $6 million and where the County lost – utterly – and was ordered to pay $1.52 million in damages.

The Olympian, reporting on the Court opinion, quotes Tim Trohimovich, Futurewise planning director, ” The county needs to stop wasting its money on appeals and start meeting its deadlines to protect water quality and preserve rural character in Thurston County.”

The Building Industry Association of Washington and Olympia Master Builders also backed the County in its losing case. Recently, the BIAW and OMB have spent a great deal of money backing similar losing causes (I-933, John Groen’s candidacy for Washington State Supreme Court Justice, Kevin O’Sullivan’s campaign. . . if they weren’t spending so much money on these losing efforts, they might have more to contribute to, as OMB likes to say, “keeping housing affordable”).

The Court found “The County projected that demand for residential urban lands in 2025 would be 11,582 acres. It allocated 18,789 acres for this use. This projection leaves 7,205 acres, or approximately 38 percent of available residential lands, unused at the end of the current 20-year planning period.” In other words, the Court found the Hearings Board was correct: the Urban Growth Areas the County identified were way too big.

I find it worth noting that, long before the Hearings Board took action, 1000 Friends of Washington testified to the County Commissioners that the County was not correctly addressing its requirements with respect to growth planning. The Commissioners ignored those warnings and this case – and the entire rezoning effort in which the County is now engaged – is the result.

In the end, the County won only one point: “In reviewing the County’s rural densities, the Board erred in concluding that the County’s zoning designations did not provide for a variety of rural densities.” What does that mean? Quite possibly, this means rural areas do not have to be rezoned. A knowledgeable GNA member writes, “The court said that the Growth Management Hearing Board put the burden on the county to prove that its ‘innovative techniques’ (cluster development, transfer of development rights, etc.) provide a variety of rural densities when the burden of proving those techniques do not provide a variety of rural densities should be on Futurewise. The court returned the case to the Board for the Board to consider evidence and argument consistent with the court’s decision.”

For those of us who oppose the kind of development along Steamboat Island Road that the County has already allowed (Mr. Nicholson’s tennis club) or is currently entertaining (Mr. Willis’ Conference Center), there is this description of what the Court finds “rural character” means:

“The patterns of land use and development established by a county in the rural element of its comprehensive plan:

(a) In which open space, the natural landscape, and vegetation predominate over the built environment;

(b) That foster traditional rural lifestyles, rural-based economies, and opportunities to both live and work in rural areas;

(c) That provide visual landscapes that are traditionally found in rural areas and communities;

(d) That are compatible with the use of the land by wildlife and for fish and wildlife habitat

(e) That reduce the inappropriate conversion of undeveloped land into sprawling, low-density development;

(f) That generally do not require the extension of urban governmental services; and

(g) That are consistent with the protection of natural surface water flows and ground water and surface water recharge and discharge areas.”

Kinda sounds like our neighborhood, doesn’t it?

I wonder if either the County’s Hearing Examiners or the County Commissioners will get to the bottom of Page #24 to read about what their development efforts so often fail to take into consideration.

The opinion of the Court ends:

“In conclusion, we hold that Futurewise, as a participant before the County, had standing before the Board and that the Board had jurisdiction to consider both revised and unrevised portions of the County’s comprehensive plan and regulations. We affirm the Board’s decision invalidating the County’s current use criterion in designating farm land and the Board’s decision invalidating the County’s urban growth area designations. But we reverse (1) the Board’s invalidation of the County’s parcel size criterion for designating agricultural lands of long-term significance and (2) the Board’s finding that the County failed to provide for a variety of rural densities through the use of innovative techniques.”

See the previous post, on the activities of the County’s Planning Commission, and next steps the Commissioner’s may take to respond to the findings of the Board.

Thurston County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Fancher will brief the County Commissioners on the impact of this opinion and possible next steps, at 2 p.m. Thursday. A public presentation will follow, The Olympian reports.

UPDATE: Here is the text of an email sent on April 4 by Futurewise regarding this decision:

Huge win for a better Thurston County! The Court of Appeals says growth should stay in our cities and we must protect our rural and agricultural areas.

Read more about Court’s decision from The Olympian by clicking on the following link: http://www.theolympian.com/101/story/76214.html

Now’s the time to write a letter to the editor to build on the momentum of this win. Ask the County to stop wasting taxpayer money filing appeals the county loses and to enact better protections for our drinking water, preserve more farmland, and reduce sprawl.

Please click on the following link to submit a letter to The Olympian: http://www.theolympian.com/html/services/forms/letter2editor.shtml

Suggested talking points:

  • Protect rural character – More than 21,000 rural acres are zoned at 1 housing unit per 2 acres or greater, this is far too urban for a rural area. Our rural areas don’t have adequate infrastructure to handle urban density so we’ll have to spend more money on improving our roads, schools, and emergency services.
  • Support a sensible rural rezone – We need a greater variety of rural zoning with more land designated at 1 housing unit per 10 acres and 1 unit per 20 acres.
  • Protect working farms – Out of the 74,442 acres of working farms in 2002, Thurston County has only designated 14,000 acres (18.8%) of farmland to protect.
  • Prevent urban sprawl – The urban growth areas (UGAs) are 61% larger than necessary to accommodate the county’s population target. Excessively large UGAs increase sprawl, meaning we spend more time in gridlock and cost taxpayers more money.
  • Don’t waste money on another losing appeal against the public interest – It’s time for the County to start working to meet the Court appointed deadlines to update its plan to protect our drinking water and water quality.

Background on appeal

Futurewise appealed the County’s 2004 Comprehensive Plan because it promoted urban sprawl. On July 20, 2005, the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board agreed with Futurewise and declared the Thurston Plan to be noncompliant with state law for four reasons:

  • Designation of rural lands at urban densities
  • Lack of variety of rural densities
  • Minimal farmland protection
  • Excessively large urban growth areas

The County then appealed this decision, leaving it to the Court of Appeals to decide.

Yesterday, April 3, 2007, the Court of Appeals decided almost entirely in our favor, they:

  • Upheld the Board’s determination that Thurston County’s Urban Growth Areas were too large by 7,000 acres.
  • Agreed that agricultural land must only be capable of use in commercial agricultural, rather than currently farmed.
  • Upheld that the County must provide for a variety of rural densities, which must be less dense than 1 housing unit per 5 acres.

Reversed the Board on two smaller issues:

  • That predominant parcel size rather than farm size may be used in designating farms to be protected
  • That Futurewise rather than the County had the burden of proving that innovative rural zoning techniques were ineffective at ensuring a variety of rural densities

Overall this is a big win for Futurewise and the protection of Thurston’s cities and rural communities!

Please click on the link to submit a letter to the editor, urging the County to stop wasting taxpayer money and to start protecting our drinking water and rural character: http://www.theolympian.com/html/services/forms/letter2editor.shtml

Thank you for your continued support in Thurston County.

April Putney
Futurewise, Field Organizer

–MARK MESSINGER

Emergency Preparedness Fair – Saturday, April 14

Thurston County, the City of Lacey and others are sponsoring a free Emergency Preparedness Fair. Saturday, April 14, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. at St. Martin’s University Worthington Center, 5300 Pacific Avenue SE, Lacey.

Visit the web page at http://www.co.thurston.wa.us/em/fair/ for a complete schedule of events, list of vendors and displays.

Included among the list of presentations are:

  • Prepare Yourself: Individual and Household
  • Preparing a 72-Hour Kit
  • Map Your Neighborhood Resources and Hazards
  • Thurston County’s Exposure to Volcano Hazards
  • What to Do About Bird Flu: Pandemic Influenza
  • Carbon Monoxide and Generator Safety

For More Information Contact: Vivian Eason, Thurston County Emergency Management, at 360-786-5243 or email easonv@co.thurston.wa.us

For information on what the Griffin Neighborhood Association is doing about emergency preparedness right here, click here to see the GNA Emergency Preparedness web page.

Googlemaps Mashup Shows Whether Sea Level Rise Will Put You on Waterfront Property

So, you’ve been following the discussions about whether the new location for Olympia’s City Hall will be under water, in a few years, and are wondering about your own property? Wonder no more. Someone’s created a Googlemaps mashup which allows you to dial in various amounts of sea level rise and zoom right in on your property.

Start here, then locate your property of interest, zoom in and set the sea level rise as you desire. You’ll have to convert feet to meters, when it comes to rising ocean levels (1 foot = 0.305 meters but, if you want to do this all online, go to http://www.onlineconversion.com/length_all.htm to do the conversion).

County Planners Split Over Rural Lands Rezoning

The Olympian is reporting the nine-member Thurston County Planning Commission has failed to produce a unified recommendation as to “how much of county’s rural lands to rezone — 28 percent, 40 percent or neither.”

Click here to read the entire article.

The County Commissioners will need to come to a decision. They will discuss the three Planning Commission proposals on April 5. “After that,” according to the newspaper report, “commissioners will likely conduct a public hearing before making a final decision.”

Residents hereabouts are likely to ask, “What’s the big deal?”

Much of Thurston County is zoned residential, 1 house per 5 acres. Back in July, 2005, the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board ruled the county needed to add more low-density zoning districts. Exactly how to go about doing that is the big issue. How can the county rezone in a way which will both protect natural resources, preserve some sort of rural character, and yet will not reduce the value of people’s property?

Five planning commissioners supported a proposal to rezoning significant portions of the county at one home per 10 acres. In addition, no land would be rezoned only for the reason of preserving so-called “rural character.”

A minority proposal, supported by two commissioners would rezoning portions at one home per 20 acres. More than 1,000 acres would be rezoned one home per 20 acres to preserve rural character.

Joyce Roper, Chair of the Planning Commission and a member of the GNA Board, didn’t vote for either option. According to The Olympian, Roper prefers to rezone some land to preserve rural character, but wants a one-home-per-10-acre zoning district.

Now’s the time to reacquaint ourselves with the issues surrounding these important decisions. If there are to be public hearings, they will likely be over the specific Planning Commission proposals.

For more information on rural rezoning and the Planning Commission’s activities, click here to visit the County’s Rural Rezoning web pages.

APHETI Issues Alert Regarding Commercial Use of Shorelines

From The Association for the Protection of Hammersley, Eld and Totten Inlets (APHETI), we received this notice:

Dear Neighbor –

This is to inform you of our State’s interest to turn control of the Puget Sound beaches over for the profit of the commercial shellfish industry:

Celia Barton, Washington State Department of Natural Resources, in The Peninsula Gateway, Oct. 4, 2006 – “All tide (beds) should be made available for aquaculture”;

Douglas McCrae, Washington Shellfish, in conversation with property owner at Gig Harbor Rosedale Hall concerned citizens meeting, October 4, 2006 – All tidelands are farmlands; and

Peter Downey, Pacific Shellfish Growers Association, in a letter to the Pierce County Planning Commission, Jan. 15, 2007 – “Private tidelands are misrepresented as residential/recreational beaches. The County must recognize that the primary purpose of privately held tidelands is shellfish farming and not residential recreation…moreover, shellfish farmers have every right to post these private tidelands and prevent trespass”.

Visit the APHETI website (www.apheti.com) for a pictorial slide show of results of this flawed public policy. Presently, there is virtually nothing to stop what you will see from happening to the beach in front of you! Is it environmentally sound? – No.

The inter-tidal zone of a beach lies between the low and high tide line. It is the most critical habitat for supporting all life species in Puget Sound (see Science Links in the APHETI website). However, the commercial shellfish industry is given nearly free reign by State and local County agencies to decimate these areas.

Shellfish companies insert some 43,500 PVC tubes per acre into the inter-tidal substrate as “predator” exclusion devices. An acre of tubes may stretch across 700 lineal feet of beach – wider than 2 city blocks. Up to 5 infant Geoducks are planted in each tube to grow 3-4 feet into the substrate. The entire acreage of tubes is covered with giant nets which frequently ensnare and kill shore birds and marine mammals.

When mature after several years, the clams are harvested by high-pressure hydraulic jets. This liquefies the inter-tidal zone, killing surface and substrate organisms down to a depth of 3-4 feet. Suspended sediment, carried long distances by the tide, smothers critical inter-tidal organisms. The beach is left cratered like a “moonscape” (Seattle PI article). The area is harvested several times to get every last Geoduck. Thereafter the area is repeatedly replanted and the whole process continues without end.

Other problems with these practices pertain to impacts on Carrying and Flushing capacities of the shallow embayments where Geoduck farms are sited:

Carrying Capacity is the amount of “life” that can be supported by the finite amount of microscopic food and oxygen in the water which is the foundation of the marine food chain. How much of this limited food supply is being consumed by the tens of millions of Goeducks being planted? How much is too much? – Unknown!!

Flushing Capacity is the ability of tidal currents to flush away unwanted waste. The shellfish industry promotes the filtering ability of Geoducks to clean the water. A single Geoduck filters in about 31 gallons of water per day. A single farming operation can contain millions of individual Geoducks. A Geoduck is an animal – what goes in comes out as biological fecal and pseudo fecal waste matter.

The waste can cause eutrophication of the marine environment, furthering oxygen depletion, killing everything and leaving a dead zone. How much of this waste can our local marine environments handle?? – Unknown!!

No site specific Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) are prepared prior to inter-tidal Geoduck farms being allowed to operate. After the damage occurs, and the shellfish industry has left with millions in profit, it is the public who is left to pay for cleanup and attempt restoration. In some cases the damage is irreversible.

Response by the State Legislature –

Substitute House Bill 2220 is moving through our State Legislature. It proposes a “review of literature” and several studies to examine the effects of intensive Geoduck farming on the natural environments of Puget Sound. This bill is not a compromise between the shellfish industry and concerned citizen groups and has a number of serious shortfalls:

  1. Studies are not mandated but may be performed “as needed”;
  2. Much of the scientific literature available for review is biased by way of being directly produced by or paid for by the shellfish industry;
  3. Studies for Carrying and Flushing Capacities are not identified;
  4. The State Deptartment of Natural Resources is allowed to lease 25 acres per year of state owned lands for inter-tidal commercial Geoduck farms;
  5. State monitoring of the environmental impacts of lease operations is secondary to the “economic viability” of the leases;
  6. There is no moratorium on continued expansion of inter-tidal Geoduck farming while the proposed studies are being completed – if they ever will; and
  7. Site-specific, Environmental Impact Statements are not mandated for current and future inter-tidal commercial Geoduck farming operations.

Through your generous donations, APHETI has retained a highly experienced environmental law firm and marine environmental research group employing marine scientists with both field experience and PhD academic credentials. Both organizations provide expert input and testimony to this issue.

Regardless of law and science, the final outcome of this issue will come right down to how many individual citizens take the time to express their concerns to those who make the decisions. Individual voices do make a difference.

Please take just a small amount of time to provide your individual input regarding inter-tidal Geoduck farming practices and Substitute House Bill 2220 to the Mason and Thurston County Planning Departments and to your local State Legislators. Contact information follows:

THURSTON COUNTY

Mr. Michael Welter, Director
Thurston County Development Services
Building 1, Second Floor
2000 Lakeridge Drive SW
Olympia, WA 98502
(360) 786-5490
Welterm@co.thurston.wa.us

Mr. Mike Kain, Manager
Planning and Environmental Services
Thurston County Development Services
2000 Lakeridge Drive SW
Olympia, WA 98502
(360) 786-5490
KAINM@thurston.wa.us

MASON COUNTY

Mr. Emmett Dobey, Director
Mason County Community Development
PO Box 279
Shelton, WA 98584
(360) 427-7262, Ext. 263
Emmettd@co.mason.wa.us

Mr. Robert Fink, Manager
Mason County Planning Services
PO Box 279
Shelton, WA 98584
(360) 427-7262, Ext 366
Rdf@co.mason.wa.us

WASHINGTON STATE LEGISLATURE
Toll Free Legislative Hotline – 1 (800) 562-6000

22nd STATE LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT
Includes the East shoreline of Eld Inlet; the shorelines of Budd and Henderson Inlets and the Nisqually Reach.

State Senator Karen Fraser
404 Legislative Building
PO Box 40422
Olympia, WA 98504-0422
(360) 786-7642
Fraser.karen@leg.wa.gov

State Representative Sam Hunt
438B Legislative Building
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7992
Hunt.sam@leg.wa.gov

State Representative Brendan Williams
420 John L. O’Brien Building
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7940
Williams.brendan@leg.wa.gov

35th STATE LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT
Includes the East and West shorelines of Totten Inlet and the Eld Inlet shoreline of the Steamboat Island peninsula

State Senator Tim Sheldon
412 Legislative Building
PO Box 40435
Olympia, WA 98504-0435
(360) 786-7668
Sheldon.timothy@leg.wa.gov

State Representative William “Ike” Eickmeyer
328 John L. O’Brien Building
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7902
Eickmeyer.william@leg.wa.gov

State Representative Kathy Haigh
431 John L. O’Brien Building
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7966
Haigh.kathy@leg.wa.gov

Finally, APHETI is paying attention – and – looking out for your concerns. If you are not already a member – Join us at http://www.apheti.com/contactus.asp

If you are a current member, please renew your membership.

Membership information is kept confidential and used only for member notices. Return your membership form and check to: APHETI, PO Box 11523, Olympia, WA 98508-1523.

Conservation District Offers Free “Healthy Pastures” Workshop – March 11

FREE Workshop: Grow Healthy, Productive Pastures
Sunday March 11, 2007, from 1 – 5pm
Griffin Fire Hall, 3707 Steamboat Island Loop, Olympia WA

Come to this fun and informative workshop to learn the basics of pasture management. This workshop will cover many aspects of healthy grass production and will give you the information you need to grow amazing pastures for your horses or livestock.

Topics to be addressed include: soil testing, fertilizing, grass species, pasture rejuvenation, weed management, rotational grazing and heavy use area development.

A Farm Visit & Pasture Walk at a local livestock facility will take you out into the field to get an even better understanding of specific pasture management options and methods.

FREE.

Registration is requested, although not required. Please contact Sara at 360.754.3588 x136 or scarter@thurstoncd.com for more information or to register.

Sponsored by Thurston and Mason Conservation Districts

Click here for the Thurston Conservation District web site.

Now Is the Time to Support Legislation to Reduce Off-Road Vehicle Noise in Our Neighborhoods

A GNA member writes, “We have been able to get SB 5544, making it easier to deal with nuisance noise from recreational riding of ORVs in neighborhoods, to the Rules Committee. We really need your help this week to get the Senators to pull it from Rules and put it on the Senate calendar.”

The increasing recreational riding of loud off-road vehicles (“ORVs”) in rural residential neighborhoods is disrupting the peace and quiet of communities and negatively impacting the health of residents and property values. This legislation allows simple, common sense tools to be available to neighbors and law enforcement officers so that peace and quiet can continue to be available in residential areas.

Interested residents are invited to call or email as many members of the Rules Committee as possible, even if they are not your Senator, and ask them to support SB5544 and move it to the Senate calendar.

The legislative hotline number is 1.800.562.6000.

The Rules Committee page is: http://www.leg.wa.gov/Senate/Committees/RULE/members.htm

There have been misleading statements, from opponents, about what this legislation would and would not do.

What SSB5544 IS about:

1) Sets reasonable limits on noise from the recreational use Off Road Vehicles (ORVs*) in residential neighborhoods Here is what the bill does, in summary:

reduces the allowable tailpipe decibel (Db) level from 105 to 96 Db – this is the level supported by the industry, most states, and many in the ORV community

makes it an infraction for an ORV to be so noisy as to be plainly audible and disturbing to a reasonable person or in excess of 45 Db within the home and 10 feet around the home

sets escalating fines (starting at $100 and capped at $800) for repeat violations, and

allows limited circumstances for recovery of costs and attorney fees for individuals who bring nuisance lawsuits

2) Codifies the existing law, WAC 173-60, which limits residential noise, at the property line, to 55 Db during the day and 45 Db at night.

3) Protects the health of neighbors from the negative impacts of noise and the bullying behaviors that some ORV riders use because there are no clear standards being enforced

What SSB5544 IS NOT about:

1) This bill does not prohibit ORVs or dirt bikes from riding. It just requires them to be properly muffled and used in a respectful way.

2) This bill does not limit use of ORVs to manage land. This bill exempts the use of ORVs to manage forest and agricultural land.

3) This bill does not prevent the use of home maintenance machinery (the bill does not limit home maintenance machinery such as lawn mowers and chain saws).

4) This bill does not prevent users from loading or unloading machines for use elsewhere (ORVs in residential neighborhoods are exempt from noise standards for brief time periods to service and load and unload for transport).

5) This bill does not prevent use of off-road vehicles in designated or permitted parks or tracks.


* Also referred to as Off-Highway Vehicles (OHVs), quads, All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) and generally including dirt bikes.