HIRST DECISION RESOURCES
WHAT IS IT
The Washington State Supreme Court issued a 6-3 opinion on October 6th, 2016, that effectively blocks rural development throughout Washington state based on water rights. The complete opinion in Whatcom County v. Western Washington Growth Management Hearings
Board is online here:
WHAT DOES IT MEAN
Landowners should be aware this ruling may have a significant impact on their ability to develop property when relying on private (“exempt”) wells as the water source.
The Supreme Court essentially ruled:
· Development permit applications that are proposing to use a private well water supply (in a basin that is closed
or partially closed to surface water withdrawals by the Department of Ecology) must demonstrate that groundwater withdrawal will not impair a senior water right, including instream flows established in Chapter 173-501 WAC (the Nooksack Basin
Instream Flow Rule);
· It is the County’s responsibility under the Growth Management Act to determine legal availability of water for purposes of issuing land use decisions, not the Department of Ecology.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
This second point, above, is where Spokane County commissioners see an opportunity to issue an Interim Ordinance that permits most property owners to continue to move forward with private wells in Spokane County. The Interim Ordinance, and other Spokane County resources on this issue, is available online here:
WHAT DO I TELL MY CLIENTS
Tell them nothing. Washington REALTORS® advises all members to NOT offer any opinion regarding the availability of water rights on any parcel. You can, however, refer your clients to Spokane County to answer ALL of their water rights questions.
If the information provided on the county link above does not offer an answer to your specific questions, directed a special inquiry to:
John Pederson, Spokane County Planning Director, (509) 477-3675.
Additionally, Washington REALTORS® offers these resources to brokers in an effort to support your work with your clients as best as possible. These are posted in order of date published.