WASHINGTON — The legislative volleyball over the Alpine Lakes Wilderness area is moving to the U.S. House after its passage in the Senate Wednesday. But the outcome of the legislation’s fourth run through Congress remains as murky as ever.
The bill, sponsored by Washington Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, would enlarge the popular Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area east of Seattle by more than 22,000 acres. It also would protect the Pratt and portions of Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers under the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
The Senate passed the bill by unanimous consent, an expedited procedure for advancing measures if no one objects. It now goes to the House, where Republican Rep. Dave Reichert of Auburn first introduced the bill in 2007. Reps. Suzan DelBene of Medina, Jim McDermott of Seattle and Adam Smith of Bellevue are co-sponsors.
The House passed the bill in 2010, but it died in the Senate closing days of the 111th Congress. Then in the last Congress, the bill failed to move out of committee in either chamber.
Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, has promised a hearing on the bill. A federal wilderness designation is the highest form of protection, and makes development, motor vehicles and even bicycles off limits. Hastings has said such restrictions should be carefully applied.