A bipartisan bill from 12th District state Representative Keith Goehner, which would support back-country rescue operations, has moved from the Washington State House to the Senate Ways and Means Committee this week.

Image of Representative Keith Goehner of Drydenn from TVW
Image of Representative Keith Goehner of Drydenn from TVW

The measure would create a grant program to fund search and rescue volunteers' planning, equipment, training, exercise, and operation costs.

It would also allow counties, cities, and towns to get reimbursement through the program for search and rescue costs.

Chelan County has seen a major spike in back country search and rescue calls because of its well-known mountains, trail systems, and rock-climbing options.

Goehner-R, who lives in Dryden, says the funding would fill a crucial need.

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"Local entities, law enforcement, volunteers and others involved in those missions may receive little or no funding," said Goehner. "The rescue operations can be very costly, especially in treacherous terrain, and when helicopters are needed."

The Washington State Military Department's Emergency Management Division estimates there are about 1,000 search and rescue missions a year.

Under the measure, House Bill 2257, the Military Department would administer the program, and an account would be created in the state treasury.

The account would accept money from legislative appropriations, donations, gifts, grants, or funds from other public or private sources.

Goehner said there's no funding established in the bill at this time.

"The goal is to get a funding mechanism or grant program in place so it would be available to our local entities and volunteers in the near future," Goehner said. "Volunteer search and rescue groups reached out to me during the end of last session expressing a need for a dedicated account private entities could donate to the collective efforts of our search and rescue needs."Goehner's bill has nine co-sponsors, including seven Democrats. Fellow 12th district Republican Rep. Mike Steele-Chelan is also one of the co-sponsors.

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