Bill to speed up water rights applications signed into law

 

Land owners, cities, irrigators and other public water entities trying to access water for development will no longer spend years waiting for the Department of Ecology to process their water right applications because of a bill signed into law today.

Senate Bill 6267, was co-sponsored by Sen. Jim Honeyford and has a House version co-sponsored by Rep. Bruce Chandler. When the law goes into effect in July, it will result in more water applications being processed and encourage the department to contract with the private sector to complete some analysis and technical work on the applications.

Chandler, R-Granger, said it was important to note the bill was requested by the Department of Ecology so the agency could process water rights applications more quickly. The 15th District lawmaker worked across party lines to put forward the legislation and amend it through the process.

“I appreciate the governor signing this bill, it will mean a lot for irrigators and municipal authorities to get an answer back sooner so they can proceed forward,” Chandler said. “This final product is probably the biggest win in the fight over water this year.”

Chandler voted against a change to the bill in the House that would have placed exorbitant fees on applicants, without a guarantee that the backlog of water rights applications would be shortened or that anyone would receive water. The Senate ended up stripping the amendment added in the House. Those who do not wish to pay the fee will not lose their place in line for processing under the new law.

“We have applicants who have been waiting for a decision for decades,” Chandler said. “A simple increase in funding for the department has only led to the shifting of resources away from water rights. The legislation signed into law today will ensure applicants receive something for their money and the department can sustain staffing for the water program to expedite those applications.”

The governor vetoed two sections which would have allowed well relocation for ground water rights already issued by the agency. Wells occasionally need to be moved within a quarter mile from the original well needing extensive repair or when ground water is compromised. Those sections vetoed would have codified the practice.

Despite the section vetoes, Chandler said the legislation is still a great move forward.

“This recognizes the value of water, and improves government efficiency,” Chandler said. “These applicants are taxpayers whose support make state government work. They are property owners, neighbors and local government officials who want our communities to grow and thrive, and we can't do that without access to water. The bill signed into law today will directly tie costs to services and give applicants an assurance their government is providing value for them.”

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

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov