As the new administration and Congress consider making major investments in the nation’s infrastructure, a coalition of Washington state organizations representing cities, counties, ports and private-sector businesses is making the case that Washington is a wise choice.
The state moves more than $70 billion worth of goods through its ports and contributes well over $300 billion annually to the U.S. economy, making the state’s infrastructure vital to the national interest, and yet Washington’s total infrastructure needs are estimated at more than $190 billion, according to a recent report.
The report, “Building the Economy: Infrastructure Needs in Washington,” highlights both the needs facing the state’s infrastructure, as well as the benefits to the economy that would come from making smart investments in roads, bridges, ports, energy and other areas.
Benton County’s wine region would benefit from the investment, the report said.
“The growing wine industry, especially in Eastern Washington, is critically dependent on irrigation and water infrastructure in the Columbia and Yakima basins to thrive,” the report said.
Benton County boasted the highest wine production in the state in 2014, producing nearly 9.5 million cases of wine and has about 25,000 acres planted in wine grapes and another 5,000 acres planted in juice grapes as of 2015.
The Odessa Aquifer project in Adams County also is highlighted in the report. The groundwater in the Odessa Subarea has deteriorated to a degree where farmers’ ability to irrigate their crops is affected. As much as $840 million annually in economic activity and 3,600 jobs will be lost when the aquifers decline to a point that they are no longer usable, the report said.
The proposed water replacement program would supply 164,000 acre-feet of surface water from Banks Lake to irrigate 70,000 acres, which is currently being irrigated with groundwater. Potatoes are an important commodity in the region, worth hundreds of millions of dollars each year and supporting two processing facilities that are major local employers.
The Association of Washington Business (AWB), the Association of Washington Cities (AWC), the Washington State Association of Counties (WSAC), and the Washington Public Ports Association (WPPA) commissioned the report.
The report uses existing data on needs and illustrative projects from throughout the state to highlight investment opportunities in the critical areas of transportation, water, energy and communications.
“We are anticipating a renewed commitment to infrastructure and this report lays the groundwork to position our state to take advantage of opportunities that arise,” said AWB President Kris Johnson. “This is an unprecedented partnership between our four organizations and it occurred because we recognize what’s at stake. Investing in Washington’s infrastructure will provide jobs and lead to a healthier economy throughout the state.”
The report outlines Washington’s many economic contributions to the nation’s economy, including a contribution of well over $300 billion. For example, the state is home to 10 Fortune 500 companies, moves more than $70 billion worth of goods through its ports each year, and is home to more than 7,000 small businesses.
Underpinning the state’s growth and success is a vast and interconnected infrastructure system – and that is where Washington’s 281 cities and towns, 39 counties, and 75 port districts come into the picture.
The report explains that ports depend on well-maintained highways, railroads and shipping channels. Cities and counties need upgraded water and wastewater infrastructure and transportation networks to serve existing and future residents and businesses.
“The infrastructure needs in our state are great, and we need long-term and continuous investment to maintain our economy and prepare for natural disasters,” said AWC CEO Peter B. King.
The associations estimate Washington state’s total infrastructure needs to be over $190 billion. Likewise, this level of investment is estimated to create 600,000 to 660,000 direct and indirect jobs.
“One-time investment packages are great and help meet the most immediate needs, but sustained investment and managing the public assets with a long-term view is critical,” King continued.
He explained that underinvestment in infrastructure leads to increased costs, reduced income, reduced economic output and firms looking for other places to do business.
“The fact is, people are moving to Washington State and we are poised for that growth,” said Eric Johnson, WSAC executive director. By 2040, an additional 2 million residents are expected to move to Washington.
“Local agencies and the private sector have a long history of working together to prioritize infrastructure needs,” said Eric D. Johnson, WPPA executive director. “Washington State is ready for this investment.”
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