Sen. Warnick on the Hirst compromise
After nearly a year of negotiations, Sen. Judy Warnick, former chair of the Senate’s water-related committee and lead negotiator on the bill to address the Hirst court decision, believes the compromise deal will finally bring relief for rural families seeking to drill a small household well, according to a press release from the Senate Republican Caucus.
“It has been an arduous and complex negotiation,” Warnick, R-Moses Lake, said in the press release. “I believe that the compromise we have reached meets the criteria that I stated at the end of last year, namely that any solution must not be a burden on rural families who simply need water to build a home.”
Sen. Shelly Short, R-Addy, joined Warnick in the negotiation talks.
“We had many hours of meetings that went late into the night over this week,” Short said in the release. “Our stance from the beginning was that we needed a bill that would treat our rural landowners fairly so they can drill water wells on their land. Without water, landowners can’t develop their property. The compromise we reached isn’t a perfect fix to the problem, but it’s a solution that allows locally driven plans with flexibility to develop solutions tailored to meet local needs.”
“It has taken us this long to get here because many in Olympia didn’t take the plight of rural Washington seriously,” Warnick said in the release. “We did what we had to do to represent our constituents and get the attention of urban lawmakers who don’t need to worry about where their water comes from.”
Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 6091, sponsored by Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, and Warnick passed the Senate 35 to 14 and the House of Representatives 66 to 30.
“I’m glad that Senator Van De Wege stepped up and supported our efforts to help rural families,” Warnick said in the press release. “This is an example of collaboration among Democrats and Republicans to work for all of Washington.”
Senate Republican leaders had insisted since early April 2017 that there would be no new capital budget without a long-term remedy for the effects of the Hirst ruling. Adoption of the Hirst fix cleared the way for the Legislature to adopt the state’s capital budget.
“This budget is designed with Washington students in mind,” Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside and the lead Senate Republican for the capital budget, said in a press release. “It invests an historic level of support for K-12 reforms.
“In addition to education, we prioritize projects that focus on helping meet our state’s mental-health needs, mitigate the damage of environmental disasters and preserve and develop existing properties – all while leaving capacity in the budget to address unforeseen future needs.”
The $4.2 billion spending plan for funding capital assets like school-building construction and mental-health facilities during the 2017-19 biennium, includes a total of more than $1 billion K-12 education-facility construction, renovation or modernization.
The capital budget includes $860 million in total appropriations for higher-education facilities, including $489 million in general-obligation bonds. Of the total spending authority, about $433 million would go to the community and technical college system and $428 million to Washington’s public four-year institutions, according to the press release.
Major water-use dispute ends; capital budget signed
One of the most important legislative struggles in Washington state came to a surprisingly quick conclusion on Jan. 18 when a water-use bill passed both chambers and was sent to the desk of Gov. Jay Inslee.
In 2016, the state Supreme Court’s Hirst decision essentially halted development across the state when it determined that counties were not adequately examining impacts on stream and river flow levels.
The decision weighed heavily on last year’s legislative session and stalled the capital budget, which pays for state-funded development.
Inslee and party leaders were vocal heading into this year’s session that solving the Hirst/capital budget issue was a major priority, and House Minority Leader Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, said on TVW’s “Inside Olympia” program that a fix was agreed upon on Jan. 17 when leaders from each chamber met with the governor.
“I appreciate that the complexity of this issue required several months of negotiations by many legislators,” Inslee said in a press release. “While far from perfect, this bill helps protect water resources while providing water for families in rural Washington.”
Exempt from the legislation is Skagit County, at the request of tribes that are already working on new water rules in the area, according to Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim. The Yakima and Dungeness watersheds also have other requirements not addressed in the bill.
Van De Wege, an author of the bill, said a December work session provided much of its framework.
The bill allows for limited drilling of new wells, each of which would require a $500 fee from landowners. Local work groups will work with the Department of Ecology to establish water-use guidelines for the next 20 years.
The bill also limits water withdrawals in new wells to 3,000 gallons per day in less crowded areas compared, to 950 gallons per day in watersheds that are densely populated.
The bill passed in the Senate with a 35-14 vote, before immediately making its way to the House, which passed it 66-30.
A capital budget bill also passed both houses, and the governor signed both bills into law.
Opposition came from senators Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, and Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro-Woolley, who urged no votes on the Hirst bill from the Senate because of the bill’s exclusion of Skagit County, which they both represent.
“We’re on a slippery slope,” Wagoner said. “I believe that supporters of property rights and property owners will regret this bill.”
“I wish there had been something done for Skagit so I could vote yes, because the rest of the work of this bill is good,” Bailey said. “But remember, you’ve got friends and neighbors that this bill does not help.”
Also in opposition were Sen. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, and Rep. Gerry Pollet, D-Seattle, who argued that the Hirst fix does nothing for many of Washington state’s tribes, which hold treaty-established senior water rights.
The tribes, McCoy said, “have tried to work with others to come to a reasonable solution … In my opinion they were ignored.”
“The right to take fish at usual and accustomed places is guaranteed to the tribes of Washington under the treaties of 1855,” Pollet said. “Unfortunately, the state will continue a long line of ignoring sovereign rights.”
Rep. David Taylor, R-Moxee, said that while he is not happy with every aspect of the bill, the cooperation that went into its passage is more important.
“We’re here to lead, so I’m asking for a yes vote,” he said. “Let’s get Washington working again.”
By Alex Visser, WNPA Olympia News Bureau. This story is part of a series of news reports provided through a reporting internship sponsored by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation.
Funding for projects in George included
The 2017-2019 Washington state capital budget that was recently passed by the Legislature includes funding for the Port of Quincy’s road infrastructure project and the city of George’s water infrastructure project at the Port’s Industrial Park No. 5.
Industrial Park No. 5 is north of Interstate 90 and west of State Route 281, in the Port of Quincy district and inside the George city limits. Various businesses have been very interested in expanding and/or locating at the Port of Quincy’s Industrial Park No. 5, according to a press release from the Port, if the water and road infrastructure projects are completed.
The businesses would invest millions of dollars in private-sector funds into the local rural economy and create many new jobs, helping to provide employment for George residents, of whom 85 percent are of low to moderate income.
In particular, the capital budget includes $700,000 to assist the city of George in the design and construction of a water system at Industrial Park No. 5 and $412,000 to help the Port of Quincy build a road in the industrial park, according to the Port.
Sen. Judy Warnick, Rep. Tom Dent and Rep. Matt Manweller, of the 13th Legislative District, were instrumental in helping to secure the funding, the Port said. Dozens of letters in support of these economic development projects were sent to the Legislature by individuals, companies, businesses and organizations, including: Big Bend Community College, City of Quincy, Grant County Board of Commissioners, Grant County Economic Development Council, Grant County Fire District No. 3, and Quincy Valley Chamber of Commerce.
By Post-Register Staff