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.
- 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