Saturday, July 20, 2024

Goehner bill to create Backcountry Search and Rescue Account passes House unanimously

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OLYMPIA - House Bill 2257, sponsored by 12th District Rep. Keith Goehner to create the Backcountry Search and Rescue Account, passed the state House of Representatives unanimously on Tuesday.

Goehner said the bill results from considerable input and work behind the scenes to develop a funding mechanism for the search and rescue missions.

"No matter what the circumstances, there will always be a need for these missions as more and more people access our state's beautiful backcountry. However, the cost and financial burden continue to increase," said Goehner, R-Dryden. "The volunteers, local entities and first responders receive little or no funding. This legislation is a great opportunity to change that at no cost to the state."

The state's Military Department Emergency Management Division estimates approximately 1,000 search and rescue missions annually in Washington.

The bill would:

  • Create the backcountry search and rescue grant program.
  • Provide grants to search and rescue organizations for backcountry search and rescue volunteers' planning, equipment, training, exercise, and operation costs.
  • Allow counties, cities, and towns to recover backcountry search and rescue costs that are not reimbursed through other sources.

"Legislative appropriations, donations, gifts, grants or funds from other public or private sources would support the account. There has been a lot of interest from groups, organizations, and private individuals interested in financially assisting search and rescue missions," said Goehner.

The Washington State Military Department would administer the program, and the account would be created in the state treasury.

"We live in one of the best states in the nation when it comes to the diversity of hiking, biking, swimming, skiing and other activities to do in this state, especially in the 12th District. However, with that comes accidents and unfortunate incidents," said Goehner. "We want ensure those who are risking their lives and helping those in need are reimbursed for their efforts."

The bill is now in the Senate for consideration.

The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn on March 7.

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