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Gov. Gregoire celebrates new projects to grow our state’s wine industry, wraps up tour of E. Washington

For Immediate Release: August 2, 2012

OLYMPIA – Gov. Chris Gregoire today, wrapping up a two-day tour of Eastern Washington, helped break ground on a new pump that will deliver a reliable water source to Red Mountain near the Tri-Cities, enabling the region to expand its grape-growing land – creating more job opportunities and the ability to produce even more world-renowned wine.

“I couldn’t be more pleased to back this innovative solution,” Gregoire said. “When this project is complete, we expect to be able to water more than 1,700 acres of new vineyards in a highly prized viticulture area. That means more Washington fine wine, more than 100 new job opportunities, and the injection of $9.2 million into the economy annually. At the same time, more water will recharge a low-flowing section of the Yakima River at a crucial time of the year for salmon and steelhead.”

Gregoire and Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant presented a ceremonial $10 million check to help fund the $17.2 million project, with most of the remaining funds coming from the Red Mountain’s Local Improvement District. Once complete, the Kennewick Irrigation District will have moved its diversion point on the Yakima River from Prosser to Kiona – enabling 11,005 acre-feet of water to be added to Yakima River stream flows to improve fish habitat. The increased water supply will also allow for an additional 1,785 acres of wine grape vineyards to be planted.

Following her time at Red Mountain, Gregoire visited the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center, named for the late Dr. Walter J. Clore, who was recognized as “The Father of Washington Wine” by the state Legislature for his research and contributions to the wine industry. The facility has received more than $2 million in state funding, which will help support a new 15,000 square foot Clore Center building that will host a brand-neutral wine tasting room as well as exhibits focusing on Washington’s world class wine and agricultural products. Construction of the facility will begin this fall and will open in 2013.

Gregoire ended her tour with a celebration at Railex – which broke ground today on a new $20 million, 500,000 square foot wine storage and distribution facility at its Burbank location. The new warehouse will allow Railex to store up to 10 times more wine, adding an estimated 25 employees. Railex ships wine and other produce in refrigerated freight cars between its facilities in Washington and New York state.

“While only three percent of our wines are internationally exported now, we’ve increased exports year over year by 39 percent – twice that of California,” Gregoire said. “And this state-of the art storage facility will be a leap forward in our capacity to ship even more Washington wine. We know we’ll need the extra capacity. Our wine industry has grown significantly over the last seven years.”

Since 2005 when Gregoire took office, the number of licensed wineries in Washington has more than doubled from 360 to more than 700 in 2012. The state has also added more than 13,000 acres of vineyards during this time — from just over 30,000 acres in 2005 to more than 43,000 acres. The industry supports nearly 30,000 jobs in Washington state, and attracts 2.4 million tourists to our state’s wine country annually.

The Port of Walla Walla received $2.75 million in the 2012 state capital budget to develop infrastructure necessary to support Railex’s new warehouse. In previous years, the state has provided the Port of Walla Walla $4.4 million to develop the industrial park where Railex is located. The Railex facility has been credited with expanding markets for Washington produce and agricultural products.

To learn more about Gregoire’s work in Eastern Washington, visit: http://www.governor.wa.gov/news/eastern_wa_accomplishments.pdf