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Published on Monday, December 12, 2016

AWC actively monitoring possible legislative responses to the Hirst decision

In October, the Washington State Supreme Court decided a major water resources case, Hirst v Whatcom County, and held among other things that counties have an independent duty under the Growth Management Act to determine the legal availability of water before issuing building permits, irrespective of any action or inaction by the State Department of Ecology. This may have a significant impact on water management in the state and presents a whole host of unanswered questions about the management of water by counties, and potentially cities, if this ruling moves forward unchanged by the legislature.

We are actively discussing the Hirst decision with cities and municipal water attorneys to determine potential impacts. Right now, we are hearing from those involved that they don’t believe there are direct impacts to cities because of the regulations and requirements in place for city water systems and the lack of new permit-exempt wells in cities. If you believe that this decision will have an impact on your city, please let us know.

We do anticipate legislation this session to address this issue for counties, and we will be closely tracking it to monitor any indirect impacts on cities for water or GMA regulations, and for opportunities to ensure that cities have access to a well-functioning water management system that allows us to secure water for our current and future needs. Please contact Carl Schroeder if you would like to be involved in these efforts. Stay tuned in this space for future updates.