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Published on Friday, January 5, 2018

Governor’s proposed water bill scheduled for Senate hearing

Following a December work session on a very similar bill, the Senate Agriculture Committee will hold a public hearing on Monday January 8 on a proposal developed by Governor Inslee’s office to resolve the months-long standoff created by fallout from the Hirst and Foster water resources court cases. The two Republican caucuses have been withholding their support for the bond authorization necessary to fund the state’s capital budget until these issues are resolved to their satisfaction.

AWC continues to be directly and actively engaged in these talks. We are encouraged by the movement shown by this draft, and think it could be a framework that helps bring resolution on this issue. That said, there are still some major deficiencies in the approach that do not work for cities. Primary among them is new vague requirements for cities around GMA planning, building permits, and subdivisions that potentially reinforce the effect of the Hirst decision to push water management responsibilities down to local governments and/or increasing legal exposure for cities.

We are also advocating for a more substantive means to address the Foster decision beyond merely a task force to look at the issue. We would prefer a proposal that includes a “full fix,” substantive reauthorization of the ability of the Department of Ecology to approve new or amended uses of water that rely on mitigation, or at a minimum, the approval of pilot projects to inform the task force on how to establish a framework for mitigation. Without some feasible way to mitigate new water withdrawals, cities with pressing short-term water needs might be stuck with no ability to move forward.

This continues to be a fluid situation and cities who want to ensure that your interests are being considered are encouraged to get in touch with Carl Schroeder.

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