Senate Passes Bill to Address ‘Hirst’ Water Rights Decision
OLYMPIA (AP) — The state Senate has approved a bill that takes aim at a recent state Supreme Court decision involving water rights and the use of domestic wells.
Senate Bill 5239 would allow so-called permit-exempt wells to be used for development. The measure passed on a 28-21 vote Tuesday night after it was amended on the Senate floor.
Supporters say a "common sense" legislative fix was needed after the Hirst court decision prompted some counties to temporarily halt certain rural development and left hundreds of rural property owners in limbo.
Opponents say the bill undercuts current state water law and allows development with little to no review of its impact on senior water right holders, including existing wells and water kept in streams for fish.
The high court ruled in October that counties must ensure, independently of the state, that water is physically and legally available before issuing building permits in certain areas.