Outreach for the Lake Roosevelt Forum Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study (RI/FS) and related issues will be significantly affected by Public Participation Grants being zeroed out in the Washington State supplemental budget approved at the end of March. The purpose of these grants is to support community outreach related to toxic-waste cleanups and pollution prevention. Receiving PPG funding has been instrumental to the Forum keeping communities informed and engaged in the multi-year RI/FS process.

Said Don Dashiell, Lake Roosevelt Forum Board President and Stevens County Commissioner, "This type of lapse in funding undermines the many years of productive collaboration that has yielded benefits to the ecosystem, wildlife and human components which overlay Lake Roosevelt."

The Lake Roosevelt Forum used PPG funds to support popular activities such as the RI/FS Public Outreach Guide, conference, tours and newsletters. “Concerns about receiving funding,” said Forum Executive Director Andy Dunau, “started last fall. We were put in the awkward position of being told you may eventually receive some, all or none of the funding request. We moved forward on some priority items like the newsletter and outreach to the Northport community to support residential soil sampling outreach. Other items we put on hold on as we waited to hear our fate.”

For the Forum and other small non-profits across the state, going from July 1 (when funding was scheduled to begin) to April to find out no funding will occur is incredibly difficult. As reported in Investigate West, “The state’s biggest toxic-waste cleanups are affected, including those at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, Seattle’s Duwamish River and Tacoma’s Commencement Bay. Lake Roosevelt, Puget Sound, the Columbia River – all are also affected, and in some cases the public-participation programs will be crippled, the community groups say.”

The genesis of the problem is the state needing to fill a $65 million deficit in funding for Ecology programs supported through the Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA), including PPG. Said Ecology regarding MTCA funding, "The main source of revenues are Hazardous Substance Tax collections. But those are heavily dependent on petroleum prices, which are in a period of high volatility. The enacted 2015-17 capital budget was based on revenue forecasts made when petroleum prices were higher. Since then, prices continued to drop. As a result, MTCA revenue collections have declined significantly below forecasts used to build the enacted capital budget.”

Said Dunau, “The Forum board wants to assure folks that the next Lake Roosevelt Forum conference will be held as scheduled November 15-16 at the Davenport Hotel. We’ll be meeting soon to update our budget to balance out reduction or elimination of certain activities with searching for opportunities to find replacement funding.”

Said Ecology in a statement released to the Forum and others, “We want to emphasize that this is a onetime reduction and Ecology will be asking to restore the appropriation for PPG in the 2017-2019 biennial budget process. Ecology believes in the value of the PPG program and we want to support the work your organizations do for Washington’s communities.”

Said Dunau, “Without leadership from the statehouse and legislature, I’m not personally confident this is a onetime reduction. What I do know is we’re very fortunate to have strong community support and the board has maintained a rainy day reserve, so we can be flexible and innovative as we pursue a path forward.”