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Commissioner says all trust lands at risk in PUD/McKenna case

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Washington's Lands Commissioner, Peter Goldmark, says his fight with Okanogan County over a power transmission line has implications for all state trust lands. The Supreme Court last week ordered Attorney General Rob McKenna's office to represent Goldmark in his court appeal to block new power lines.

Okanogan County's Public Utility District says it needs to build a new and more reliable power transmission line in the Methow Valley. To do that it wants to clear a 12-mile right of away across state trust lands.

Commissioner Goldmark tried to block the project but lost in superior court. When he said he wanted to appeal, Attorney General Rob McKenna declined saying there was no legal basis for an appeal.

The Supreme Court has now weighed in and said the Attorney General must file the appeal. Goldmark warns if Okanogan PUD prevails in this case, it could open the floodgates to other local governments to condemn Department of Natural Resource lands.

"Trust lands yield very important revenue today and hopefully future generations and those lands must be managed in a way to preserve that revenue-producing capacity and not chopped up and chewed up by local jurisdictions," Goldmark says.

Washington's public utility association says its members need access to public lands in order to provide reliable electricity to customers.

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Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.
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