A bill to implement measures intended to improve cooperation between electric utilities and firefighting agencies, introduced by Sen. Brad Hawkins, R-12th District, is working its way through the state Senate.
SB 5158 would implement recommendations of the Electric Utilities Wildland Fire Prevention Task Force, which released its final report in December. The report is available here: http://bradhawkins.src.wastateleg.org.
The bill was passed by the Senate committee on Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks on Jan. 28. On Monday (Feb. 15), it was passed by the Senate Ways and Means Committee after an executive session.
The bill will now go to the Senate Rules Committee.
Hawkins told the Methow Valley News last week he also hoped the bill would “keep the momentum going for this task force,” which was created by the state senate in 2019.
“If they do good work and it doesn’t get implemented, we don’t benefit from it,” he said.
Recommendations include a model agreement for managing problem trees and other vegetation on utility rights of way on state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) land, improving communications between local utility districts and the DNR, and creating investigation protocols for wildfires.
The measures are intended to both decrease the chance of utility-caused wildfires, and to improve work between state and local agencies when wildfires occur.
“There’s often, across different levels of government … a less than ideal communication flow,” Hawkins said. “We need an all-hands-on-deck approach.”