On May 23, the Washington Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Cornelius et al v. Washington Dept of Ecology et al, known by many as the “Washington State University golf course case.” Rachael Paschal Osborn represents the appellants: Scotty Cornelius, the Sierra Club, and the Palouse Water Conservation Network. This case is complicated with many important issues but a key one is whether Ecology is correct in allowing old water rights that were never called “municipal” to be treated as “municipal” under fairly recent Municipal Water Law statute. Ecology’s expansive interpretation of “municipal right” means that Washington State could revive, long unused water rights, and put part of those rights to a brand new golf course in the middle of the Palouse. CELP and other community groups filed a “friend of the court” brief as did several Tribes in support of the Cornelius plaintiffs.
We expect the Supreme Court will issue its decision in 6-8 months.