Hirst compromise bill passes Legislature
'If you own land; if you have a well, you can start building tomorrow,' says Buys
Landowners will finally see relief from a state Supreme Court decision that has halted rural development thanks to a bill passed by the Legislature today.
Senate Bill 6091 alleviates the pressure landowners, counties, banks, and homebuilders have been facing ever since the court curbed the drilling of permit-exempt wells throughout Washington state in a case known as the Hirst decision.
Under the bill, water usage will be set at a minimum of 950 to 3,000 gallons per day, depending on the watershed, and existing wells will be grandfathered in.
House Republican negotiators are calling the bill an overall success, one that will finally restore some certainty to rural families.
“We started this process with an urban state Supreme court dictating new water law across rural parts of the state with a one-size-fits-all approach,” said Rep. David Taylor, R-Moxee. “With the rights of rural citizens and private property owners in mind, I believe we ended with an acceptable compromise that will help ensure citizens will be able to access water to realize the American Dream of owning a home; one that keeps housing affordable in rural Washington.”
In some Water Resource Inventory Areas (WRIAs), landowners will pay an additional $500 when submitting a building permit and have the ability to use 3,000 gallons per day. In other WRIAs, landowners will pay the same fee, but they must manage stormwater and may use as much as 950 gallons per day, except during drought. However, water needed for wildfire buffers will be permitted.
“Those of us who represent rural Washington have been saying for more than a year now that our communities need real relief — a solution that will grant rural property owners the same privileges as urban dwellers,” said Rep. Vincent Buys, R-Lynden. “Once this bill goes into effect, if you own land; if you have a well, you can start building tomorrow.”
The legislation also provides for $300 million over 15 years for projects to improve instream flows, and stream restoration and enhancement.
Taylor and Buys have concerns about the mitigation process, saying it may rely too heavily on bureaucracy and not enough on citizen input.
“Time will tell,” said Taylor.
The bill now awaits the governor's signature.
###Washington State House Republican Communications