After several days and nights of hours-long talks, Senate and House negotiators reached a compromise this week on legislation to fix the situation caused by the Supreme Court’s Hirst ruling, and again offer rural landowners a path for drilling household wells.
The Senate voted 35-14 Thursday night to pass Senate Bill 6091. The House approved it 66-30 later that night. Gov. Jay Inslee signed the bill into law on Friday.
Sen. Shelly Short, R-Addy, voted in favor of the Hirst-fix legislation, saying it will help rural landowners in the 7th Legislative District and other areas of Washington.
“For most of the 7th District, this agreement essentially takes us back pre-Hirst,” Short said. “This negotiated agreement is a bittersweet accomplishment, given that we were not able to fix all of the issues surrounding the Little Spokane River watershed. The new rules give a green light to new wells and construction in areas where city water does not reach, and will prevent a collapse of property values estimated by one study to be $37 billion.
“Without water, landowners really cannot exercise their fundamental right to own, develop and enjoy property. The compromise we reached isn’t a perfect solution, but it allows for new domestic wells to be developed within the framework of current instream-flow rules. The legislation also recognizes the work of locally adopted watershed plans in developing projects that may help improve water quantity, quality, habitat and stream function,” Short added.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize the tireless work of former Senators Scott Barr and Bob Morton in establishing laws that empowered local counties to work toward local water solutions,” Short pointed out. “But just as importantly, we had individuals, such as Stevens County Commissioner Wes McCart, former county commissioners and so many others, who had the foresight to work through the ups and downs of local watershed planning to follow through on the work Senators Barr and Morton started. Their foresight and steadfast efforts protected property rights and use of water, now and into the future. I cannot emphasize enough how important their work was because it became a critical turning point in the Hirst negotiations.”
Short was one of the negotiators of the Hirst legislation that passed the Legislature, along with 13th District Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake.
“We had many hours of meetings this week that went late into the night,” Short said. “Our stance from the beginning was that we needed a bill that would treat rural landowners fairly so they can drill water wells on their land.”