Mercy, that was difficult: Last night lawmakers finally reached a deal to fix the state Supreme Court’s Hirst decision, a ruling which strangled building in rural areas and held back their economies. Now, families stuck in court-appointed purgatory can restart building projects.
While it wasn’t the bill Republicans would have written on their own, it did represent a triumph for GOP legislators. A carryover issue from last year, Republicans stood their ground, stuck together, and never wavered in their strategy. The party used its leverage – holding up the capital budget (which requires 60% approval to sell bonds, so Republican votes were needed) until Democrats would strike a deal.
Result of long negotiations
The final bill passed 35-14 in the Senate (with two Republicans and maverick Democrat Sen. Tim Sheldon voting no) and 66-30 in the House (six Republican no votes). The bill reached the chambers after intense negotiations since the new legislative session kicked off last week.
Gov. Jay Inslee signaled he will sign the measure. The public announcement by Inslee was viewed as necessary by the GOP after the governor vetoed a B&O tax incentive for manufacturers last year. Republicans and Democrats had negotiated the incentive as part of a budget deal. Inslee insisted his veto didn’t violate the deal because, while his party’s legislative leaders agreed to it, he had not. Some Republicans privately said the incident showed Inslee can’t be trusted.
Different rules for different watersheds
Under the new law, homeowners seeking to build with a well will pay a $500 fee, significantly reduced from earlier drafts. Existing wells will be grandfathered in.
It sets up $300 million in spending for mitigation projects over 15 years, and the state Dept. of Ecology will again be able to sign off on water availability, as was the case before the Hirst decision. Homeowners will be able to use at least 950 gallons a day, and up to 3,000 gallons in some watersheds.
The law “will grant rural property owners the same privileges as urban dwellers,” Rep. Vince Buys (R-Lynden) said. “Once this bill goes into effect, if you own land; if you have a well, you can start building tomorrow.”
It wasn’t all smiles in the Republican camp, though. Buys and fellow negotiator Rep. David Taylor (R-Moxee) expressed worries about the bureaucratic local boards the law requires and if the law is a first step toward metering statewide. “Time will tell,” Taylor said.
Dissenting Democrats cite tribes
The legislative Democrats most aligned with tribes and environmental groups panned the bill. Rep. Gerry Pollet (D-Seattle) said the bill continues a “long line” of state actions that ignore tribal fish rights.
Some sounded like they wanted no “fix” at all. “I think a better solution would have been to figure out…how to administer the Hirst decision,” Rep. Derek Stanford (D-Bothell) said. He predicted, “I think there will be a lot of litigation in the meantime that may well derail a lot of this.”
Rep. David Sawyer (D-Parkland) said the state was passing water law for “water that doesn’t belong to us.” He told the House he felt he should warn homeowners who think their well water allocation is safe: “Just because the state says you have a water right doesn’t actually give you a water right. We don’t control the water, entirely.”
Republican unity on bill positive sign
With Republicans now the minority party in both chambers, observers are watching for signs of caucus disunity or horse-trading. The Hirst issue showed a united front, despite withering Democratic criticisms over linking Hirst to the capital budget. Republicans had a plan and they stuck to it.
With Hirst settled, lawmakers quickly passed the $4.2 billion construction budget.
Bob Smalser says
Pure fraud. Take a shovel and dig the 18-24″ down to the hardpan in winter. You’ll see a heavy sheet flow of water across the top of that largely impervious surface that also extends under lake and stream bottoms, which is the water that fills our streams, NOT water from aquifers 150 feet deep. Which is why most of the small streams dry up in summer. You’ll have to show me a geological study that defines the percentage of stream water from the aquifer versus sheet flow before I buy into any argument that single-family wells have any impact at all on salmon.
From what I understand from listening to testimonies on TVW, is that the Hirst decision was based on a fraud. (The Hirst decision, needs to be overturned) From what I’ve understood, is that private wells use about 1 percent of the ground water. Of that 1 percent, 90 percent is returned back to the ground water through septic systems. Hirst needs to be overturned, or they will eventually, try to meter and tax our private wells, which would probably lead to some bloodshed as there are people that will refuse.
It does need to be overturned but unless alot of citizens sue the state then move up the ladder to the US supreme court, especially since the state supreme court is bought and paid for by western liberals, then nothing but more fees buy what is legally the land owners property to start with. Libs use anything to get tax monies. I believe the people of Washington should investigate rulings of the US supreme court and Iowa supreme court for guidelines
I’m the first person to admit, I have no clue as to how this could be made to happen, I just know that as long as the Hirst ruling stands, we’re headed for trouble.
Contact your state rep and ask them why they don’t sue the state to finally get things fixed. Also ask if they support metering of rural wells for taxation purposes.
Molly Crocker says
Hirst was based on the Growth Management Act. It’s the GMA that needs to be overturned. Besides, where will Inslee house all of the illegals and refugees he needs to get re-elected?
Jon Higley says
I understand the concern of bureaucratic boards; I’m on a Planning Commission board in Pierce Co. But, I don’t understand where Rep. Taylor (R-Moxe) is coming from in expressing “…worries about the bureaucratic local boards the law requires…”. If these wells are mostly in rural areas. Most of those potential board members will mostly be conservatives who understand the issue, should they choose to serve on the board. This is a perfect example of why everyone needs to be involved in some capacity in their local government!
I personally don’t trust boards. These “boards” are many times, not elected, but appointed. This is the type of governance, like one would find in a communistic system. People’s voices are shut out and people are left at the mercy of some board with no way of getting rid of the board members. Also, it’s not unheard of for radical environmentalists, that have the mindset, that these rural areas need to be cleansed of all people, infiltrate into these boards. In my county, there’s a substantial amount of these people that affect local elections, but are from the Seattle area. They’ve bought small pieces of land in my county, east of the mountains, so that they can control and manipulate local rural areas that the enviros have targeted. Listen, for yourself, to Future Wise’s testimony at the hearing on Dec. 12 at the 1:43 min. mark to the 1:46 min mark, on TVW. They have targeted counties, and are willing to provide, “relief for “some” development”. Their ultimate goal is for making it extremely difficult for people to live outside of their “smart cities”. https://www.tvw.org/watch/?eventID=2017121027
Boards with term limits.
Jon Higley says
@asmith1234 – I would tend to agree with you based on my six year experience on the planning commission board I’ve sat on here in my county. While the radical environmentalists are organized and persistent in implementing their agenda for control through local boards, it seems to me that this happening, in part, because conservative non-radical environmentalists are occupied by either time & energy required to run their business, or are possibly just not interested in being active participants in their local governments in some capacity. For me, this is why I accepted my appointment to the planning commission by my county councilwoman after losing an election for one of the legislative representative races in my district after retiring from my full-time career. So, my opposition is rather considerable and it takes one who has strong understanding and conviction to counter their insidious agenda of control of the masses. I’ve found it very frustrating to have learned over time that much of what goes on at the county level of decision making is dictated by state level agencies – Ecology, GMA, SMA, etc. – and their set policies that essentially force county councils to comply. One hundred years ago, when this state was predominantly of the self-reliant and independent individual who understood the concept of private ownership, it was easy to maintain one’s rights. Now, as socialism has morphed the earlier liberal mindset to one of communistic “group think” today, it seems the individualist mindset is being overwhelmed as they persistently push for dominance through organized and coordinated laws and policies at every level. I can’t help but wonder what a conservative, independent individual is to do in such a situation, but try to fight it as best one can and pray things change for the better before it’s all lost.
David Boleneus says
The libs knifed rural Washingtonians, farmers, ranchers.
Molly Crocker says
I’m not seeing a victory here. Limiting usage will require metering. Metering will require much, much more than $500 to apply for the well. Why require anything at all? Wells represent less than 1% of river flow. A Hirst fix is no fix. The Growth Management Act upon which it was based needs to be repealed.
The Hirst decision gave control over water to local governments, who largely ignored their new responsibilites (a point not mentioned in this account, for some reason). After enough local inaction, the Democrats in the legislature were willing to step in and use state government to provide relief, but the fake Senate Majority Coalition existed (quite openly, loudly, and proudly) as the graveyard for any liberal idea. Republicans in this state are so embittered after decades of voters rejecting Republican candidates and ideology, they have become sufficiently obstructive that one Republican legislative leader actually had to die before voters could remove the obstructionist “majority” and solve this problem.
Bonus points for Shift’s repeated hectoring at Inslee to do something about Hirst, only to use anonymous sources to call him a liar after he agreed to collaborate on a solution. Do let us know if you still can’t understand why Republicans just can’t ever seem to appeal to a majority in this state.
“Rep. David Sawyer (D-Parkland) said the state was passing water law for “water that doesn’t belong to us.””. Just who does Mr. Sawyer represent? Again, the State owns everything and bi-partisanship means we agree with him.
The entire notion of restricitng water usage is a fraud. The largest aquifer in WA is the Chehalis basin. The USGS monitoring well south of Tumwater and North of Grand Mound has actually risen in water table during the so called drought, even with all the pressure from well usage (https://groundwaterwatch.usgs.gov/AWLSites.asp?mt=g&S=465033122570202&ncd=awl ).
Furthermore, the Columbia river waters much of central WA agriculture and could easily provide water for the entire state. The lowering of Lake Roosevelt every year for spring melt could provide water for all of us alone. Those are just a few examples. And finally, the earth is 71% covered by water. Build infrastructure to utilize such vast amounts of excess water. The scare mongering politicizing over water usage is just that, a tyrannical tool to control and generate money for the elite.