Water News – December 2014

Skagit Rule Headed to Court Again?  The Washington Realtors, Building Industry Assn and Farm Bureau petitioned Ecology on November 20, seeking repeal or amendment of the original Skagit River instream flow rule.   The original rule was replaced in 2005, but was successfully challenged by the Swinomish Indian Tribe for allocating water that would harm Skagit basin instream flows.  In October 2013, the Supreme Court invalidated the 2005 rule, reinstating the original rule.  The BIAW petition claims that Washington law requires that instream rules allocate water for domestic uses.  Ecology must answer the petition in 60 days.   Read CELP’s comments and the petition here.

Hirst Case Stays Put in Division 1.  On Friday, December 5, the Washington Supreme Court denied Whatcom County’s request to transfer the Hirst v. Whatcom County appeal from the Court of Appeals to the high court.   Hirst is an important GMA case, and promises to elaborate on the 2011 Kittitas County decision that held that counties must adopt and implement Growth Management Act plans and rules that are consistent with Washington water resource laws.  CELP filed an amicus brief, as did the Department of Ecology, Building Industry Assn of Washington, and the Washington State Assn of Counties.  Read the Hirst Amicus Brief Here.

WSU Study Pinpoints Economic Futility of Yakima Dams.  A new study of the Yakima Integrated Water Plan, commissioned by the 2014 State Legislature and conducted by a team of economists led by Professor Jonathan Yoder of WSU, concludes that new and expanded dams and other “concrete-intensive” storage projects are economically infeasible.  The report recommends focus on fish passage and water markets as projects that will repay public investment.   The Columbia Basin Bulletin quotes CELP senior policy advisor Rachael Osborn on the study.   Read the Bulletin article and CELP’s comments here.

Endangered Species Plan for Washington’s Shorelands Receives Comment.  CELP joined an alliance of Puget Sound conservation advocates to comment on the Washington Dept of Natural Resources’ new Aquatic Lands Habitat Conservation Plan.   DNR’s duties to manage and protect aquatic lands derive in part from the public trust doctrine – a legal doctrine that informs CELP’s origins.   Read the letter here.

Enloe Dam Economics Study Shows Losses Ahead.   In November, CELP and allies published an economics report showing that Okanogan County ratepayers will lose large amounts of money if the PUD moves forward with its plan to re-power Enloe dam.   The report, prepared by Rocky Mountain Econometrics, details the financial peril to the PUD and its customers. Read the full report and news release here.  The conservation groups, including CELP, continue to challenge water quality and water right permits for the project.