Carlton Complex fire economic recovery proposal receives public hearing; House approves $1.2 million for recovery

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Jan. 29, 2015

CONTACT: Sarah Stewart, Public Information Officer – (360) 786-7720

Carlton Complex fire economic recovery proposal receives public hearing; House approves $1.2 million for recovery

A proposal to provide funding for economic recovery in Okanogan County after the devastating Carlton Complex Fire received a public hearing in the House of Representatives today. Hours later, the House approved an amendment to the 2013-15 supplemental operating budget that allocates $1.2 million for recovery efforts. The state dollars are aimed at obtaining federal matching funds.

House Bill 1125, sponsored by Rep. Brad Hawkins would provide an additional $500,000 in the 2015-17 budget for economic recovery after the fire. The dollars would be provided from an existing fund called the Economic Development Strategic Reserve Account, which is administered by the Washington State Department of Commerce. The dollars could also be leveraged for federal funding.

“While touring the area with the governor after the fires swept through, he mentioned this account to me and how it might be able to help with some of the recovery. This is a very small amount, but it’s one of the tools we can use and I want to turn over every rock to help,” said Hawkins, R-East Wenatchee. “This is just the beginning of the recovery, and I’m committed to helping however I can to ensure our region comes back stronger. While these fires were devastating, there’s also a positive story in the midst of this about the resilience of our communities and people.”

The funding would be directed to the Carlton Complex Fire Long-Term Recovery Group. Several members of the group and other local officials traveled to Olympia to testify today.

Jon Wyss, chairman of the Carlton Complex Long Term Recovery Group, testified that the size of the fire was about the size of Kitsap County and shared a video created by the Group that showed the devastation.

Roni Holder Deifenback, executive director of the Okanogan County Economic Alliance, shared that the area had always struggled with economic stability and was just starting to realize a strong local business base before the fire.

Julie Muyllaert, president of the Winthrop Chamber of Commerce, talked about the impact of being without power and phone service for eight days on local residents and tourism.

Carlene Anders, executive director of the Carlton Complex Long Term Recovery Group and a volunteer firefighter in Pateros, shared the stories of local businesses who lost buildings and products, and the students and teachers who lost their homes just before the school year started.

Amy Stork, executive director of Twisp Works, shared that about 10 percent of the businesses in Twisp were directly impacted by the fires and resulting floods. She said the funding can help the area become a model for rural revitalization and shared how the group is helping entrepreneurs and their plans to rebuild.

At the end of the hearing, a representative of the Washington Public Ports Association testified against the bill, saying it would set a precedent for use of the small account for future disasters.

Hawkins notified the lobbyist the fund had already been used after the Oso landslide to help with economic recovery.

The chair of the committee announced the bill would be voted on in Monday’s committee hearing.

Hawkins and the group met with the Speaker of the House afterward to talk about the fire and recovery efforts.

“I appreciate everyone for making the trip to share the work of our communities and the recovery group,” Hawkins said. “They gave compelling stories and evidence of the need for state support.”

For more information about Rep. Hawkins, visit: www.representativebradhawkins.com.

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Rep. Hawkins’ media:
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Washington State House Republican Communications
www.houserepublicans.wa.gov
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Olympia, WA 98504-0600
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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov