Congress Cuts Conservation Fund from Transportation Bill —

Congress Cuts Conservation Fund from Transportation Bill

By Bianca Fortis
The Centralia Chronicle

The future of Lewis County parks projects may be threatened after the Land and Water Conservation Fund was cut from a $120 billion federal transportation bill that Congress passed last week.

The fund was established in 1964 as a way to benefit recreation and conservation projects around the country with funds generated by oil and gas royalties. The fund is authorized to receive up to $900 million per year, although it often receives less.

This year the city of Chehalis applied for a $250,000 grant to renovate its community pool; the city council designated the pool to be one of the city’s priorities.

“Being a priority, it certainly goes at the top of the list,” Chehalis Community Development Director Bob Nacht said. “But the issue is we don't have sufficient funding to do anything other than keep

the doors open. We can't fix things as they may break. A lot of it is held together with band-aids and bubble gum.”

The grant must be matched; the Chehalis Foundation pledged another $250,000 to meet that requirement.

Nacht said it’s the only public outdoor pool in a 25-mile radius.

“It’s critically important that these types of projects get funded for the benefit of our regional aquatic facility,” he said. “It’s important to keep it open and functional, but it’s increasingly difficult to do that.”

Lewis County has benefited from the grant in the past; it was used two years in a row to help develop a community park project in Mossyrock.

Rebecca Sutherland, the leader of that project said government grants are very important to rural communities.

The community has raised $45,000 on its own, but that’s not enough to complete the project.

“Without the grant this project never would have happened,” she said. “We never would have been able to get this project off the ground.”

Hannah Clark, a spokesperson for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition, said despite the result of the transportation bill, the push to keep conservation funds isn’t over.

It could still survive if Congress supports it in its annual appropriations process.

“We’re continuing to ask Congress to provide enough funds to get these projects in Washington on their feet,” she said.

Nacht wrote a letter to Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, asking her to support the fund.

“I understand the federal government has as many problems as anybody, but these types of programs are funded from dedicated accounts set up many years ago for these purposes,” Nacht said. “It’s important our elected officials at federal level recognize that these proprietary funding sources are used for what they were designed for. It’s certainly important at the local level to have funding sources available.”

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Bianca Fortis: (360) 807-8245, twitter.com/biancafortis and facebook.com/biancafortis

Read the complete story at The Centralia Chronicle
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