Walsh says DNR ‘land swap’ bill will benefit state’s community and technical colleges

A bill sponsored by Senate Republicans designed to help community and technical colleges expand was signed into law recently by the governor. Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, was part of a group of lawmakers who worked collaboratively on the bill and supported its passage through the Legislature. Senate Bill 5924, sponsored by Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, provides for the transfer of lands managed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges.

“We hear a lot of talk about 'Career and Technical Education' or 'Career Connected Learning.' And those are important things, great ideas. But they need more than just talk. We have to give our Community and Technical Colleges the tools they need to thrive and grow,” said Walsh. “This law is one of those tools. It puts a practical point on an important land-swap agreement that's been in the works for years, but was having problems getting done. It gives the colleges the room, literally, to expand and grow. And I have to say, it was a pleasure to work with Sen. Joe Fain on moving these projects out of bureaucratic limbo and on a clear path to completion.”

DNR is responsible for managing a variety of State Trust Lands on behalf of the state. One of the federally granted Trusts is the Charitable, Educational, Penal and Reformatory Institutions (CEP&RI). In 1985, the Legislature directed several state colleges to be constructed on CEP&RI land. DNR managed the land that was then leased to the colleges. Highline, Green River, South Seattle and Grays Harbor community colleges all utilize CEP&RI land managed by DNR.

By 1990, the state had acquired an additional 3,492 acres of forest land. The land was designated by the Legislature as a source of revenue for the long-term capital improvement needs of the state's community and technical college system. Because the use of the land was defined by the state, not the federal government, it did not have the same restrictions as CEP&RI.

Walsh and others, helped design the bill that allows DNR to exchange a portion of community and technical college forest reserve with land of equal value, including CEP&RI. DNR will then transfer ownership of the land to the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges.

“These four community colleges are economic drivers within their local communities and add great value to Washington's economy overall. Thanks to the good work by Rep. Walsh and others, they'll have much more flexibility to add space on campus for high-demand programs and services in the future,” said Jan Yoshiwara, executive director of the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges.

Grays Harbor College is among the group that will immediately benefit from the DNR land swaps. The college plans to use the land for a campus expansion project, as well as additional facilities that will be shared with the Aberdeen School District and local YMCA. In a letter, James E. Minkler, President of Grays Harbor College, sent his thanks for Walsh's work on the bill.

“I am writing to thank you for all of your efforts in regards to the transfer of the DNR lands over to the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges. Grays Harbor College has greatly benefited as a result of your support and taking action for us. We deeply appreciate it along with your support for our region in general.”


Washington State House Republican Communications