In addition to providing essential public services, Benton County continues to support community-building programs and projects throughout the region in 2010. Sustainability in the areas of agriculture, industry, transportation, tourism and recreation are key to our community's progress during these challenging times.
As the largest employer over the greatest area for the longest time, agriculture retains its primacy in shaping the culture and economy of our region. Benton County ranks third in Washington and 43rd in the nation in market value of agricultural products. In order for agriculture to remain viable over the long term, dependable water supplies and reliable transportation infrastructure are essential. Today, Benton County continues its efforts to plan for our community's water needs, focusing on better conservation, more efficient delivery and greater storage capacity. The county is involved in critical planning for both of our major water sources: the Columbia River, which surrounds the county on three sides, and the Yakima River, which bisects the county east-to-west. The rivers have drastically different dimensions and personalities, but each needs to be managed regionally for fisheries, commerce and hydropower needs, but also locally to provide for the municipal, industrial and agricultural uses.
Safe, modern and well-planned transportation infrastructure is not only key in supporting the farm-to-market part of the economy, but also in enhancing opportunities for industry, enriching the experience for our visitors and improving the commute for our residents. Benton County continues to work with our state and local partners to update and expand transportation networks serving our citizens.
Two major projects for 2010 include realignment of the existing railroad crossing of Webber Canyon Road in Kiona to eliminate automobile/railroad conflicts and continued work toward recalibrating the freeway accesses to Interstate 82 with a redesigned interchange at Benton City and a new interchange serving Red Mountain and West Richland.
Tourism, conventions and recreation steadily become larger slices of the overall economic pie each year in our region. In response to the needs of our citizens and guests, Benton County continues to upgrade its park system and the fairgrounds to support a variety of uses.
In 2010, the county will mark the first year of its highly successful disc golf course at Two Rivers Park in Finley, new trails will be added to the Badger Mountain Centennial Preserve south of Richland, which will celebrate its fifth anniversary, and a new hunters' education center will be added to the Rattlesnake Mountain Shooting Facility.
Another major 2010 endeavor will be the opening of the new county animal control facility, which will be operated by the sheriff's office. The facility and associated animal control services are intended to help deal with the issue of stray, nuisance and abandoned dogs in the unincorporated parts of Benton County that are not served by Tri-City Animal Control.
This is going to be another challenging year economically for our community. The county is working to streamline operations and make the delivery of services more efficient for the public. We also are working with our community partners to identify and develop new industries for our region, such as energy research, and to deal with trends in the labor market, such as the aging Hanford work force.
Benton County is proud of our community and the people that make this a great place to live. We enjoy working with our partners on the programs and projects that showcase the progress we have all made and we continue to look for creative solutions to our collective challenges in 2010.