Governor vetoes dollars for Lake Sammamish State Park
May 15, 2012
By Warren Kagarise
Questions about long-term funding for a proposed concession and event facility at Lake Sammamish State Park led Gov. Chris Gregoire to eliminate the $3.1 million legislators had set aside for construction.
The long-term plan for the state park included the concession and event facility as a supplement to the aging amenities at the lakeside destination. Officials questioned a plan from the cash-strapped state parks system to pay for the facility.
The governor struck the state park facility from the supplemental capital budget. The document authorized more than $1 billion in public works spending statewide, including a $4 million project to replace a problem-plagued Issaquah Salmon Hatchery dam.
Gregoire signed the supplemental capital budget April 24.
State Sen. Cheryl Pflug, a Maple Valley Republican and the representative for Issaquah, joined other senators to pressure the governor to preserve funding for the state park facility, but also raised questions about long-term funding.
The plan to fund the proposed state park facility included $1 million from long-term bonds. Gregoire vetoed the project due to concerns about the facility not generating enough revenue to cover initial operating costs and bond-related debt.
Pflug said the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission estimated the cost of paying off the bonds at $170,000 per year against $250,000 in projected revenue per year.
“Is the parks commission saying the concession facility would generate $250,000 in new revenue, or is that $250,000 already being derived from current fees, with no allowing for the additional revenue from the concession facility?” she asked in a statement. “We need those answers, and more — like why the projected annual surplus of $80,000 is not adequate. How much overhead is being attributed to this facility?”
Legislators created the Discover Pass, a $30 annual recreation pass, last year to generate revenue for the state parks system and other agencies responsible for state lands.
“We’re in a really tight spot,” commission spokeswoman Virginia Painter said. “We’re depending upon Discover Pass sales to make our budget happen — to make operations continue and so forth — and there’s a question about what kind of horsepower do we have or what kind of capacity do we have to pay a loan like this?”
Pflug raised concerns about revenue from the Discover Pass and other user fees at the state park to pay off the facility.
“That’s my concern, is that the $250,000 is actually existing revenue and they weren’t actually figuring in what the new concession would be, that they were wanting to use the existing revenue to tide them over,” she said in a later interview.
Pflug voted against legislation to create the Discover Pass, but in the 2012 legislative session she cosponsored a measure to make the pass transferable between vehicles. (The transferability legislation later passed and Gregoire signed the measure into law.)
“I’ve been pretty reluctant to see that as a good idea anyway, because it is kind of that last bastion of family activity that doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg,” she said in the interview.
“This isn’t over yet. Our community has contributed a lot of money and labor to building and maintaining recreational enhancements at Lake Sammamish State Park. We also drive a fair amount of revenue in the form of current use fees,” Pflug said in the statement. “The parks commission had better think again if it believes it can thank us for our donation and siphon all the funds off to pay for other facilities.”
Meanwhile, Gregoire approved funding for a project to demolish the aging dam upstream from the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery and add boulder weirs in Issaquah Creek.
The shelf-like apron on the dam blocks adult salmon attempting to migrate upstream to spawn. The fish, marooned on the structure, die in large numbers on the dam each year.
The project, a long-held priority for local and state leaders and environmentalists, could start as soon as next spring.
“This is great timing,” city Surface Water Manager Kerry Ritland said in a statement. “We are just finishing up the design plans now, so the project will be shovel-ready.”
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.