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Good News on Hirst

https://www.warealtor.org/resources/news-articles/2018/01/19/good-news-on-hirst
Hirst update by Bill Clarke, Director of Public Policy | Jan 19, 2018

The final Hirst legislation includes the following components:

  • For local building permit and subdivision decisions, local governments do not have to review new exempt wells for “impairment” of instream flows. This reverses the basic legal conclusion of the Supreme Court’s Hirst decision.
  • For projects in basins with Ecology-adopted exempt well limits or mitigation requirements, those rules still govern.  In other basins, specific allowances for new wells are created in statute.  The limit is 950 gallons per day average annual use per connection; other basins are up to 3,000 gallons per day; while other basins (non-GMA counties or areas with no instream flow rules) can again operate under the 5,000 gallon per day exempt well limit.
  • Certain areas of state are excluded from the bill and thus these exempt well allowances:  the Skagit Basin, and the Yakima Basin (Kittitas, Yakima, and parts of Benton County).
  • Existing wells are grandfathered, and deemed to have satisfied the requirement to have a legal water supply under the State Building Code.
  • The bill allows local governments to rely on existing Department of Ecology rulesfor purposes of meeting the requirements of the Growth Management Act.
  • There are no new mitigation or metering requirements tied to well construction or new building permits, and there is a one-time fee of $500.

Additionally:

  • Local committees are established to identify projects to offset impacts to instream flows.  The scope and composition of these committees varies by whether the county completed a Watershed Plan under the state’s Watershed Planning Act.  Local committees may recommend rulemaking changes to Ecology, but the committees themselves are not regulatory.  Ecology retains its current rulemaking authority.
  • $300 million ($20 million per year over 15 years) is allocated to fund projects and local planning efforts to restore instream flows and aquatic habitat.
  • Certain cities and water purveyors are allowed to proceed with water rights permitting, and a Legislative Task Force is established to make recommendations on how new water rights for municipal uses can be mitigated.

Click HERE to see a table prepared by the Washington Water Policy Alliance, with a basin-by-basin breakdown of the applicable exempt well allowances.

Questions on the Hirst Decision?
Email Bill Clarke, Director of Public Policy
Washington REALTORS®

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A two-year, $51.9 million community investment plan

“Now we are starting to target dollars to West Plains…” – Ben Stuckart Spokane City Council, President

Article via Jeff Humphrey, SpokaneCity.org

A strategic plan to invest in the quality of life of our city now has a financial plan to go with it.

The Spokane City Council approved a plan to invest $51.9 million over the next two years in the health, safety, infrastructure, urban experience, and financial health of the city. The series of one-time investments accelerate street improvements, encourage development, promote water conservation, and invest in recreation, the arts, public safety, homelessness, and reserves. They are possible because of the city’s financial discipline over the past six years and an improved economy.

“These are all things we planned to do,” Spokane Mayor David Condon said. “The economy is allowing us to accelerate them and make generational, catalytic investments in economic vitality.”

Condon and the City Council have spent more than a year developing a joint strategic plan for the city. The plan, also approved by the City Council, integrates two branches of government, three boards, eight divisions and 42 departments around a one vision, one plan and one voice.

Strategic initiatives focus in four key areas:  Safe and Healthy; Urban Experience; Innovative Infrastructure; and Sustainable Resources. Tactics support increases in median household incomes, property values, livable-wage jobs, bond rating, population growth, and social capital, and building the safest city of like-sized cities.

“This plan shifts the city’s economic development approach to a philosophy of organizational responsibility,” Councilmember Amber Waldref said. “It acknowledges that the city is an important regional economic driver.”

Plan highlights include $10 million to accelerate street improvements by advancing the thin grind-and-overlay pilot on arterials as a longer-term solution to chronic potholes, improving residential and unimproved streets, and making infrastructure investments in the target development areas. Another $12 million has been set aside to keep the focus on the river by completing a 3-mile river side trail, improving river access and leveraging the Riverfront Spokane investment to functionally expand the western boundaries of the park to the Monroe Street Bridge.

Safety remains a top priority with $15 million to purchase public safety vehicles and equipment, increase housing for our most vulnerable, and invest in clean and safe neighborhoods. Another $4.5 million will replenish the city’s rainy day fund and advance centers of excellence in targeted areas.

“Financial discipline is delivering a generational investment in the economic vitality of the community,” City Council President Ben Stuckart said.

Nine different sources of money – new, reallocated and existing – are being spread across approximately 20 different areas. Investments were chosen based on a criteria requiring that projects further a strategic outcome, be achievable without adding ongoing cost, leave the investment source healthy, and return either increased revenue or a cost reduction.

“The plan is unique for Spokane and integrated in its resources and outcomes,” Councilmember Lori Kinnear said.

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Spokane County Hirst Decision Update

BUILDING PERMITS AND WELLS: Changes due to a recent court case

I want to build using a well — what do I do now?
Start by talking with your county. Each county is interpreting and applying the court case differently.
→ Some counties have issued temporary laws restricting building that relies on groundwater wells.
→ Some areas of the state remain unaffected by the court decision. This may change over time as counties begin to enact new ordinances.

Click below to read the full update here via Department of Ecology

Spokane Contact: Keith Stoffel
→ keith.stoffel@ecy.wa.gov | 509-329-3464

“Hirst decision” (Whatcom County v. W Wash. Growth Mgmt. Hr’gs Bd. No. 91475-3)
→ Online resources Ecology’s web page about the court decision: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/ programs/wr/ wrhome.html
→ Ecology’s web page on water resources: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/ programs/wr/ wrhome.html