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Washington Lands Commissioner Loses PUD Right-Of-Way Battle

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Austin Jenkins
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Public utility districts in Washington have the right to place power lines through state trust lands, the state Supreme Court has ruled.

This ends a years-long legal fight between Washington’s elected lands commissioner and the Okanogan PUD.

Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark has fought for years to keep Okanogan PUD from stringing transmission lines through state trust grazing and forest lands. He lost in superior court. When he wanted to appeal then-Attorney General Rob McKenna refused saying the case didn’t have legs.

The Supreme Court then ordered McKenna to represent Goldmark on appeal. Now three-and-a-half years later the Supreme Court has handed the PUD a decisive victory saying that state law ‘expressly authorizes’ public utility districts to install electrical transmissions lines through state trust lands.

Goldmark was unavailable for comment. A spokeswoman for the Washington Department of Natural Resources called the ruling disappointing.

Previously, Goldmark warned this case could open the floodgates to other local PUDs to condemn DNR grazing land.

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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.