RIVERSIDE — A wildlife crossing project on Highway 97, in the Okanogan Valley, did not receive funding from the state Legislature.

That’s despite the fact that in April a Washington State senate and house proposed transportation budget included $18 million to build six wildlife underpasses and 11 miles of deer fencing on Highway 97 between Janis Bridge and the town of Riverside.

However, according to Conservation Northwest, a key advocate of the project, the Legislature “did not resolve disagreements around how to raise revenue for the 16-year Forward Washington transportation projects spending package.”

The $18 million for the Highway 97 project would have come from the Forward Washington package.

“Without agreement from the state for a transportation projects spending package including Safe Passage 97, countless deer and vehicle collisions will continue to occur, with lives at stake,” said said Jay Kehne, CNW’s Safe Passage 97 project manager in a news release. “We are too close to doing something really positive for a rural community in eastern Washington to let it slip away.”

The money would have allowed the state Department of Transportation to continue work along another 11 miles of Highway 97.

Each year, 350 or more deer are hit and killed on about a 12-mile stretch of the highway, which runs through the Okanogan Valley. Some research indicates the number could be higher.

According to a CNW news release the organization will continue to advocate for funding of the project. “We’re confident funding for this win-win project will eventually pass as part of the broader transportation spending package,” CNW spokesman Chase Gunnell said in an email.

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