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Orca recovery bills alive after cutoff

Tuesday was the last day for bills to pass out of the opposite chamber’s fiscal committees. Now, the House and Senate have until the end of the day next Wednesday to pass bills that aren’t budget-related off the floor.

Over 550 bills are still in play. And, as foreshadowed in Gov. Inslee’s State of the State address and investments in his proposed budget, a handful of those bills address Southern Resident orca whale recovery.

A bill aimed at increasing the population of chinook salmon, as recommended by the Southern Resident Killer Whale Task Force, recently passed through both chambers.

Another orca bill, HB 1578, looks to improve “the safety of oil transportation” by requiring tug escort for certain oil tankers and is expected to see the Senate floor today.

Other orca bills on-the-move include:

  • SB 5577, which establishes and enhances several limitations related to whale watching. It increases the distance within which a boat can approach an orca to 300 yards; sets a speed limit to follow within one-half nautical mile of an orca; directs the Department of Fish and Wildlife to convene “an independent science panel to analyze the most current and best available science regarding noise impacts to orcas” by boats and to implement a commercial whale watching license; and requires the Department of Commerce to include “sustainable whale watching” in its statewide tourism marketing plan.
  • Also related to whale watching is SB 2918, which requires the Boating Safety Education Program to include materials on whale watching guidelines and laws.
  • HB 1314, which prohibits drones from coming within 200 feet of orcas.

To watch floor activity live, tune into TVW’s Senate and House channels.

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