The Water Wars in Whatcom County
Water is a big issue these days. No new wells are allowed in Skagit County. Now it may be happening in Whatcom County.
The Washington Supreme Court issued their decision in Hirst et al. vs. Whatcom County, yesterday. This case is about Whatcom County’s use of exempt wells (household wells) to allow construction in the unincorporated portions of Whatcom County, especially in areas where the watershed had not been closed. The County said that it was able to rely on the Dept. of Ecology’s determinations concerning water availability to decide about and to grant permits for construction where the water would be provided by an exempt well.
Futurewise, along with David Stalheim and Eric Hirst, challenged the ordinance and the corresponding provisions of the Whatcom County comprehensive plan. Their argument is that exempt wells were not appropriate in watersheds where the minimum in-stream flow was not met and, therefore, the County should not issue building permits where water is supplied via an exempt well in any such watershed.
The Court sided with the Futurwise and associates.
What does this all mean? The implications of this decision are huge. What will the Whatcom Planning Department do next.
If you have property in the unincorporated portions of the County, you are going to want to look at this issue very carefully. If the intend to build on this site, you will want to verify the availability of water through a certificated water right, shares in a water association, or other established, documented permit process.
Will this stall building in the County? What’s next? Will you be able to use your land?
image of water-by-gioconda-beekman- courtesy flickr-com