As many of the readers of Liberty Road know, we’ve advocated for personal property rights, most importantly water rights, since we began covering property rights issues in 2012. The Washington State Senate recently passed SB 5239, to address the moratoriums put in place to address the Washington State Supreme Court (WSSC) ruling on the “Hirst, Harris, Stalheim, Brakke, Melious, and Futurewise,” lawsuit that has upended rural properties across this state. That bill is now in the State House, and has a lot of support from the 42nd District Representatives.
Our 40th District Representatives have failed to help move this legislation forward to bring it to the floor for a vote. Specifically, Rep. Kristine Lytton, 40th Dist., is not representing you. Why? Is it because she is using this water issue as leverage to get tax increases passed for the McCleary Public Education case? McCleary, is another of the WSSC’s judicial overreach that is going to cost the tax paying citizens of Washington State “billions” of dollars in increased spending. Did you get your 2017 Property Tax bill? How much did your public education portion of your property tax bill increase for 2017? Are you willing to gamble your water rights on another property tax or state income tax scheme, that may or may not pass? And at what cost to you and your family?
The Hirst and Postema cases require proof that you will not negatively affect water quantity due to groundwater withdrawal, based on instream flow measurements and hydrolic-continuity, of any senior water right holders or closed watersheds. When given a study that clearly showed removal of trees and vegetation from your property will reduce the overall amount of groundwater withdrawal on your property, the Whatcom County PDS rejected it. You have a proven study that there will be no negative effect? You’ve actually proven that you will decrease the annual withdrawal from your groundwater resource, but that study is not accepted as a mitigation tool. Why?
Is this issue really about water quantity? Do we ever actually run out of water in Whatcom County? Whatcom County is above the median average of instream flow requirements over 80% of the year. Instream flow requires that we be above the average 50% of the year. So what’s the real issue here?
The following information has been provided by Sue Croft:
There is a company in Fife, WA who has been working with Tacoma Pierce County on hydrologic reports that use calculations to show the removal of trees/vegetation fully mitigates water usage in response to the Hirst decision. I gave Whatcom County one of those reports to see if they would accept this type of analysis. Here is their response:
It is our intent to be consistent with the Department of Ecology and the Pollution Hearings Control Board determination and therefore will not accept the removal of vegetation as mitigation for a site.
Please read this message from Sue Croft, who has been working with the state legislators by testifying and following this issue closely for us, in Olympia.
As you know, ESS SB 5239 is stuck in the House committee. Vincent Buys (42nd District) who’s on that committee, is with us on this. But Kristine Lytton (40th District, which includes southern Whatcom County) is less likely to back it. SEND HER YOUR STORY. Send it to each of the committee members named below. Tell them how restrictions on new private wells are affecting you, your family, your financial situation. Individual stories seem to be having a big effect.
See the newsletter from BIAWC below:
Hirst bill – contact House committee members now
Sen. Judy Warnick (R-Moses Lake) has been on the frontline of this issue, offering a solution to be able to use private wells in the form of ESS SB 5239, which passed the state Senate (28 yes, 21 no). This bill is currently the only piece of legislation considered still viable to fix this critical issue. The House had a number of bills that did not make it past the various legislative deadlines.
Now the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee must consider ESS SB 5239. [Committee Members: Blake, Brian (D), chair; Chapman, Mike (D); Buys, Vincent (R); Dent, Tom (R); Chandler, Bruce (R); Fitzgibbon, Joe (D); Kretz, Joel (R); Lytton, Kristine (D); Orcutt, Ed (R); Pettigrew, Eric (D); Robinson, June (D); Schmick, Joe (R); Springer, Larry (D); Stanford, Derek (D); Walsh, Jim (R)].
Regardless of where you live, send them your comments about how restrictions on new private wells are affecting you. For their contact information, click on:
ESS SB 5239 does the following:
- Allows counties and applicants to rely on Ecology’s water management rules to protect water resources
- Allows a water well report to be used as proof of water if area is not prohibited by Ecology’s rules.
- Does not require landowners to do individual mitigation
- Does not require impairment review of an exempt well at building permit or subdivision
- Allows for flexible mitigation of impacts to fish or aquatic resources that is not necessarily water for water
For more information please contact, Sue Ann Croft at (360)-961-9083 and follow Sue on her Whatcom County Exempt Well Owners Facebook page.