Pacific Northwest
A budget proposal in the Washington State House of Representatives calls for planners to begin preparing to replace the state’s requirement that construction cause “no net loss” to habitat with a higher standard backed by environmental advocates — “net ecological gain.” It appears that it would be a U.S. first, if successful. The 2016 photo shows construction in Seattle.

WA - With orcas in jeopardy, Olympia considers making new development pay for past sins

In a move promoted by environmentalists and others as key to staving off the extinction of Puget Sound orcas, but opposed by the building industry, Washington may soon take a first, small step toward requiring that development benefit the environment.

The budget proposed by the House of Representatives calls for planners to begin preparing to replace the state’s requirement that construction cause “no net loss” to habitat with a higher standard backed by environmental advocates — “net ecological gain.” It appears Washington would be the first state in the nation to do so.

The budget put forward by the Senate has no such provisions, though. Legislators in both houses are expected to negotiate an agreed budget in coming days.

The proposed new standard would be something of a sea change for land use in Washington. Builders doing damage to the environment would be required to create or restore more ecological capacity than their construction destroys. The century-plus-long decline in Washington water quality and the diminishing numbers of salmon might begin to be reversed.

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