BREWSTER – Property owners and municipalities in Okanogan and Douglas counties are among many others breathing a sigh of relief after the state Legislature approved the $4.17 billion capital budget (Senate Bill 6090) Jan. 22, on the heels of a “fix” for the Hirst water bill (SB 6091) passed on Jan. 18.
The budget passage came at a good time for the City of Brewster that had more than $750,000 held up in manganese abatement funding.
When the budget was initially delayed it affected $2.2 million of a $2.7 million Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Economic Opportunity Grant earmarked for funding of city water projects for the City of Pateros. The city was later notified that a reevaluation of the grant funds resulted in approval for the city to move forward with the projects.
The Hirst decision handed down in October 2016 put new demands on ensuring adequate instream water flows and interfered with permission to drill permit-exempt water wells often critical for rural residential development.
Twelfth District State Senator Brad Hawkins said the new law relies on 62 Water Resource Inventory Areas or WRIAs throughout the state to determine water well regulation. Seven of those WRIAs are in the 12th District.
According to a media release from Hawkins’ office:
In a WRIA without an instream flow rule, which is not listed in the bill, a water well report is sufficient evidence of adequate water supply. This applies to WRIA 44 (Moses Coulee), WRIA 47 (Chelan Watershed) and WRIA 50 (Foster Creek Watershed).
In a WRIA with an instream flow rule that explicitly regulates exempt wells, the terms of the rule must be followed in determining whether an applicant can show evidence of adequate water supply. This applies to WRIA 45 (Wenatchee River Basin), WRIA 46 (Entiat River Basin), and WRIA 48 (Methow Watershed).
In a WRIA with an instream flow rule that does not explicitly regulate exempt wells and where a watershed plan was completed, wells are authorized if the applicant pays a $500 fee. Water use for domestic purposes is set at a maximum annual average of 3,000 gallons per day. This applies to WRIA 49 (Okanogan River Basin), of which a portion is located in District 12.
Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, who was part of the Hirst negotiating team, said that while he was not “thrilled with every aspect of this legislation” a landowner “can go down and get a permit tomorrow and start building.”
Kretz has offered his own solution to the domestic water issue with his proposal, the One Washington Water Act that would apply statewide. Under Kretz’s proposal, 350 gallons of water daily would be the limit for a new single-family home. That usage would drop to 150 daily gallons for multi-family dwellings. Additional water would be cost $1 a gallon. An environmental impact statement relative to impacts on instream flows, Pacific salmon and tribal treaty rights would also be required prior to issuance of a building permit.
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