Dear friends and neighbors,

We are just days away from the 2024 legislative session beginning Jan. 8! This past summer has been my chance to get out in the community, talk with folks about the bills and budgets we passed in 2023, learn about how they’re being implemented and what’s working and what isn’t, and figure out the next steps we need to take.

A couple of the things I’ve been up to:

Winning federal support for Whatcom

I had the honor of traveling to Washington, DC, this fall with legislators and community leaders from Washington and Oregon to speak with the Biden administration about their Building Better Communities initiative. It was a productive series of meetings, both learning more about the work they’ve been doing for our community and letting them know what parts can work better. Swifter flood response was my #1 ask.

I am very excited about the $1 billion planned investment in clean hydrogen energy production in our state announced recently and the potential for a lot of that investment to come here to Whatcom County. But that’s not all – we’re also seeing investments like a new electric ferry that’ll be built to serve Lummi Island, support for climate-smart agriculture practices from the Inflation Reduction Act, new electric vehicle charging infrastructure on our highways, and a whole lot more.

I had the chance to go to the White House earlier this fall and talk with federal officials about the work we’re doing in Whatcom County and at the state level to grow our economy and create jobs with cleaner energy, green manufacturing, better agricultural science, faster flood responses, and more. I’m thrilled to know we have their partnership in making our community as strong as possible.

Bipartisan nuclear tour

When it comes to cleaning up carbon emissions from electricity, we need a lot of options on the table, and that includes nuclear energy. I’m a member of the Legislature’s bipartisan Nuclear Energy Caucus, and recently we were able to tour and meet with four amazing energy companies advancing nuclear power and fusion technologies across the globe, based right here in Washington. We started the day at Ultrasafe Nuclear in Seattle, then went to Everett to visit Helion Energy and Zap Energy to see some fascinating new fusion technology up close. We ended the day at TerraPower in Everett to learn more about the advanced nuclear reactors being used these days around the world. Earlier in the summer, we visited the Columbia Generating Station, PNNL, and other nuclear startups in the Tri-Cities.

All options need to be on the table when it comes to decarbonizing our electricity sector, and while fission has remained stubbornly expensive due to safety concerns, innovations in small modular and next-generation nuclear design safety have been encouraging. Fusion is a totally different story, and while it isn’t commercially viable yet, it is safe enough to be regulated by state health departments (it uses isotopes similar to those in an MRI) rather than the Federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

A Lummi Island–Point Roberts success story

The people of Whatcom County are smart, strong, ambitious folks who have the ability to work together and make big things happen, and my job as an elected official is often just to be there to help empower them with the tools they need and help make the connections to get it done. This summer, I heard from folks on Lummi Island and Point Roberts that they were looking for better options to compost food and yard waste, but those services weren’t available to them, like they would be in an urban setting. Cities are great for people who want to live in them, but people should be able to live in rural areas and get high-quality services and amenities; they just might look different. Because these two groups were working on the same issue, I felt they might be able to learn from and help each other navigate grants and regulations at the county and state levels. The conversations went beyond composting, and I’m excited to see what comes out of the collaboration.

Infrastructure to protect us from flooding

Many people in our community are still recovering from the 2021 floods on the Nooksack River, and it’s important that as we rebuild, we do so with newer, better protections to keep folks safe from surging waters in the future. We provided funding in the state’s capital construction budget to help build levees and berms, and I had the chance to join folks from the county in a tour of our flood protection infrastructure on the Nooksack and learn about the next steps we need to take. You can read about this work in the Cascadia Daily News here.

A note for any teachers who might be reading

Last session, one of the most fun things I got to do was work with students from Meridian High School who wanted to lobby on behalf of a bill to expand the College in the High School program, another option like AP or Running Start for high school students to get college credit. They came down, talked to legislators, and we passed the bill! If any other teachers have classes that you’d like to connect with a bill or something legislative, please let me know – my office and I would be happy to do what we can to help facilitate such a project.

These are just some of the things I’ve been up to! What issues are important to you? We’re preparing our 2024 legislative agendas, and your input and stories help me know what bills and issues need our focus. I’ve got some ideas about supporting agriculture and our farmers, cleaning up pollution from our transportation system, improving affordability, and building more housing that I’m excited to talk with you about soon, but I want to hear what you think! You can reach me any time at Thanks for reading!

Sen. Sharon Shewmake