Clallam to pause on trust land request

The city of Port Angeles wants 3,082 acres of state Department of Natural Resources timber trust land taken out of production to protect its water supply, but Clallam County wants to hear from its Revenue Advisory Committee before deciding whether to support it.

“The establishment of the Revenue Advisory Committee was very ambitious and really important, and it really doesn’t surprise me that other counties will be watching,” said Clallam County Commissioner Mark Ozias during a commissioner work session on April 29.

Of the 3,082 acres in the Elwha River watershed, 1,877 acres are managed to support Clallam County and its junior taxing districts — such as hospital and fire districts, the library and pool districts, school districts and the port — primarily through the sustainable harvest of timber, according to a staff memo to the commissioners.

DNR wants an answer by May 15 and the Revenue Advisory Committee doesn’t meet until May 20, but Revenue Advisory Committee chairwoman Connie Beauvais said DNR just needs a letter because the agency knows they don’t have enough time to respond.

“And just to be clear, since the letter won’t be coming back through us, what it will be is a letter to DNR letting them know that we’re not going to make their May 15 deadline because we are going to be working with our Revenue Advisory Committee,” commissioner Mark Ozias said.

“And the only final request would be if they do have a hard deadline sometime during the summer or fall to make sure we understand what that is so that we can work backwards from that,” he said.

The financial impact of the timber land removal on the junior taxing districts funded by such lands was an important topic of discussion.

“If I recall, 13 percent of that revenue goes to roads, 12 percent goes to general fund,” commissioner Randy Johnson said. “And again, it’s going to affect the library district that’s looking to expand. But here we go.”

“We’re talking big, important dollars here,” Beauvais said. “Two sales were removed because of this request from the city. And there’s also a sale that’s in the early stages of planning that’s not moving forward until DNR solves this.”

The 2,819-acre Alley Cat sale and the 3,555-acre Tree Well sales have a combined bid price of $2.5 million, which would provide about $1.8 million to state schools within the next couple of years, Beauvais said.

“So it has a pretty large short-term impact,” she said. “Just what’s online for this coming year that would affect the Port Angeles School District is $1.9 million, and they were just out on strike for a week over $127,000. So this money will have a huge impact.”

Ozias said he wasn’t comfortable making decisions that would impact other taxing districts, but this situation validated the commissioners’ creation of the Revenue Advisory Committee to get input from those districts.

“And this is, I wasn’t expecting this to be put in our laps quite in the way that it has, but it just underscores the validity of the concept, in my opinion,” Ozias said.

“Because it is not a comfortable position to be asked to make decisions that impact the revenue of other governments.”