Processing of water rights applications debated in state House

 

The House of Representatives today passed a bill placing further costs on those who apply for water rights with the state.

Rep. Bruce Chandler, R-Granger, voted against the bill due to an amendment approved on the House floor.

Senate Bill 6267 as passed the Senate would have provided full-cost reimbursement to the state in exchange for expedited applications. Chandler had a companion bill in the House to do the same thing and said the measure would have tied costs to getting applications moving.

But an amendment made on the House floor today essentially attached House Bill 2591, which was deferred after a contentious debate in the House two weeks ago. That bill would have increased fees for the application of a water right, as well as require registration of an exempt well.

“This legislation now has nothing to do with actually processing water rights,” Chandler said. “It places exorbitant fees on hopeful home owners, employers, farmers and everyone who is trying to access water, which by Western water law, is a right, not a privilege. If people who have been in line for decades do not pay up, they would lose their place in line. This bill would create a disparity between those who have the money to move up farther in the line and those who do not. Meanwhile, it provides no guarantee that the backlog of water rights applications, some submitted as far back as 25 years, will be shortened or that anyone would receive water.”

Chandler said the fee increase, which would amount to a 500 to 1,000 percent increase, is an additional hardship on growers, cities and small businesses struggling to remain viable in Washington with increasing regulations and costs to do business.

“Agriculture is a leading employer and economic driver in this state, and yet hard-working farm families' futures are dismissed to help grow a failing bureaucracy,” Chandler said. “This bill would replace money diverted from the water resources program. If we stopped diverting money from dedicated purposes to fund new programs, we wouldn't have this problem.”

During the House debate, proponents of the amended bill claimed the fees would help reduce the backlog at the Department of Ecology.

“We have sent more funding to Ecology in the past specifically to work on the water rights applications, and there was no reduction in the backlog,” Chandler said. “Instead, the department shifted resources to research global warming. Our state government is not being responsive to its constituents. No one should pay a single dollar for a service they may not receive. This bill is a great disservice to the people of this state, who have a right to water to build homes, businesses and the American dream.”

The bill now goes to the Senate for approval of the House amendment.

Contact: Sarah Lamb, public information officer, (360) 786-7720

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov