Farm Bureau opposes costly land purchase by university

6/10/02 - Okanogan County Farm Bureau strongly opposes Central Washington University’s proposed 1,671-acre land purchase in Okanogan County, WA for a total estimated cost of $8,775,500. Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) ratepayer dollars would be used to build an environmental field research station on 6.2 miles of land on the west side of the Okanogan River.

The appraised “conservation value” of this 1,671 acre purchase is $7 million and would cost ratepayers $6,212,000 over a four-year period with the bulk paid in the first two years. Other cost-share monies and additional funding sought through the Salmon Recovery Funding Board would further add to the taxpayer burden.

Okanogan County Farm Bureau opposed the project in a letter to Northwest Power Planning Council and asked that funding be denied. The letter outlined:

·        Over 80% of the land in Okanogan County is already in “protected” status through government ownership and control, which does not include the significant government and land trust accumulations of conservation easements.

·        Economic hardships to the County and citizens through ratepayers and taxpayers burdens and payments in lieu of taxes remain stagnant, do not offset production potential, do not contribute to local levies for important community services, and shift tax burdens to citizens.

·        Long-term funding for planning and research have no direct benefit to fish.

·        Facts were misrepresented regarding water rights and County support.

Scientific findings quoted in the project were also questioned which included the Okanogan Subbasin Summary and Limiting Factors Analysis, both prepared by the Colville Tribe, and the Upper Columbia Salmon Recovery Funding Board draft strategy prepared by a regional Technical Advisory Committee. Lack of public involvement and input into these leading technical documents for Okanogan County was strongly opposed.

Joel Kretz, Okanogan County Farm Bureau President, said, “This proposal just doesn’t make sense in an area with overwhelming government ownership and an ever-shrinking tax base. If CWU is determined to acquire and ‘protect’ land in Okanogan County, we strongly suggest they pursue land already government-owned and ‘protect’ that all they want. The last thing the people of Okanogan County need is higher power rates, a greater tax burden and the loss of productivity associated with private land ownership.”

Okanogan County Farm Bureau will continue strong opposition to stop this impractical and extremely costly land purchase from going forward.

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