The Department of Natural Resources.
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) manages a number of different categories of land on behalf of the State of Washington, each for a specific purpose and under different management requirements. One category of lands managed through the DNR is aquatic lands. The DNR manages more than 2.6 million acres of state-owned aquatic lands and must support a balance of use demands and statutory goals such as public use, environmental protections, trade, transportation, and generating revenue consistent with those goals.
Community Engagement Plans.
Pursuant to legislation enacted in 2021, the DNR and certain other state agencies must create and adopt a community engagement plan that describes planned engagement with overburdened communities and vulnerable populations for purposes of implementing the agency's environmental justice responsibilities. This plan must include best practices for outreach and communication, the use of special screening tools, processes that facilitate the inclusion of community members affected by agency decision-making, and methods for outreach and communication.
Native Kelp Forest and Eelgrass Meadow Health and Conservation Plan.
Subject to available funding, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) must establish a Kelp Forest and Eelgrass Meadow Health and Conservation Plan (Plan) with the goal to conserve and restore at least 10,000 acres of kelp forests and eelgrass meadows by 2040. In developing the various elements of the Plan, the DNR must engage with impacted communities using the community engagement plan that the DNR and other state agencies are required to develop related to overburdened communities and vulnerable populations and must also consult with a variety of other partners, including impacted federally recognized tribes, state and federal agencies, and stakeholder groups that may have vested and direct interest in the outcomes of the Plan.
The Plan must assess and prioritize areas for coordinated conservation and restoration actions, and must consist of four elements: assessment and prioritization; identifying coordinated actions and success measures; monitoring; and reporting.
The DNR must develop a framework to identify and prioritize native kelp forests and eelgrass meadow areas in greatest need. The framework must incorporate conservation of native kelp forests and eelgrass meadows, mapping and prioritization of kelp forest and eelgrass meadow areas, and identification of potential stressors impacting the health and vitality of native kelp forests and eelgrass meadows.
By December 1, 2022, the DNR must provide a report to the Office of Financial Management (OFM) and the appropriate committees of the Legislature that includes community engagement plans and a schedule for Plan development. The DNR must finalize and submit the Plan to the Legislature and the OFM by December 1, 2023, including a map and justification of identified priority areas based on collaboratively developed criteria, a list of potential tools and actions for conservation or restoration of the priority areas, and a monitoring plan based on identified success measures.
The DNR must submit a report to the Legislature that describes the kelp forest and eelgrass meadow conservation priority areas and monitoring approaches and findings. Beginning December 1, 2024, and by December 1 of each subsequent even-numbered year, the DNR must provide the OFM and the appropriate committees of the Legislature with:
The substitute bill makes the following changes to the underlying bill:
(In support) Kelp is an amazing plant. Kelp forests help sequester carbon, provide habitat to important aquatic species, and help prevent ocean acidification. Kelp is also edible and can be used in a variety of ways for both human and livestock food. Kelp forests and eelgrass meadows have seen a 36 percent decline in the decade between 2006 and 2016. Kelp and eelgrass decline has impacted shellfish farmers' ability to propagate oyster seed. This bill proposes solutions to address these losses and builds on work that the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has already done. The Kelp Forest and Eelgrass Meadow Conservation Plan (Plan) includes a collaborative planning process with engagement with a broad coalition of partners and makes targeted investments to improve kelp forests and eelgrass meadows in the state. The results of the Plan will help inform other efforts in the future. It would be a good idea to ensure the Plan preserves native kelp and eelgrass rather than nonnative and invasive species. Amendment language has been shared with the prime sponsor and with the DNR.
(Other) Oyster growers support the goal of protecting and enhancing important species of kelp and eelgrass. Burrowing shrimp continues to devastate kelp and eelgrass in southwest Washington. The bill should specify that the Plan is directed at protecting and enhancing native kelp and eelgrass species, and not nonnative or invasive species. Oyster growers would like to see a voluntary stewardship program that is designed like the program that is currently in place for terrestrial farming.