CAPR Skagit Water Forum a Successful Step in Citizen Participation!

CAPR Skagit Water Forum a Successful Step in Citizen Participation! Thank you Rep. Elizabeth Scott, R-Monroe, Sen. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe, Rep. Dave Hayes, R-Camano Island, Jim Cook, a sitting Skagit Public Utility District commissioner, for your attention to the issues discussed at the CAPR Skagit Water Forum! Moderator Glen Morgan and the panel on the stage. Well water issues spill over at forum By Daniel DeMay | Posted: Thursday, September 18, 2014 6:00 am MOUNT VERNON — Many of a thirsty group of residents, legislators and political candidates generally agreed Wednesday night that Skagit County doesn’t have a water shortage and the state and county shouldn’t be stopping rural landowners from building homes. More than 80 people filled pews at Emmanuel Baptist Church for a forum organized by the Skagit Citizens Alliance for Property Rights. The forum focused on the aftermath of last year’s state Supreme Court decision that left more than 5,700 parcels in rural Skagit County with no legal right to water. “Do we have a water shortage?” asked Mike Newman, of the Citizens Alliance, during his presentation at the forum. “I don’t believe so myself.” After presentations from Zach Barborinas, co-founder of Just Water Alliance, Newman, two legislators, a handful of candidates and several county residents suggested solutions and asked questions of what to do about the matter. The forum was intended to give legislators the chance to offer ideas about how to remedy what has become a contentious issue in Skagit County and beyond. The forum was opened up to citizen comments near the end. Barborinas, who began researching the issue three years ago after facing issues getting a well at his own property, said the whole in-stream flow rule was flawed. The Skagit Basin, he argued, has more than enough water for all the rural residents to have wells and still leave enough water for fish and other natural resources. “It’s just a fundamentally flawed rule,” he said. Newman pointed to the water supplies for Snohomish and King counties, and said the Skagit Basin has far more water than either and yet serves far fewer residents. Rep. Elizabeth Scott, R-Monroe, suggested the issue may be more about the Department of Ecology and its rule-making authority. “It’s not just Ecology,” Scott said. “A lot of agencies are getting tyrannical with their power.” She said she had been meeting with Sen. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe, about drafting House and Senate companion bills to address the in-stream flow rule that prohibits exempt wells in the county, though she offered few details about what that legislation might look like. Rep. Dave Hayes, R-Camano Island, agreed that a solution was needed but said that pushing any legislation through would be a big challenge. “We can fully expect (Ecology) to come in and potentially oppose any legislation we bring in, and they won’t be alone in that,” Hayes said. The general consensus among citizens who spoke (most of whom indicated that they get their water from wells) was that the in-stream flow rule needed to be re-evaluated at the least, and possibly the entire administrative control of water in the state needed to be changed — on the more extreme end. Jim Cook, a sitting Skagit Public Utility District commissioner, suggested giving some of PUD’s water rights to rural residents and perhaps some of Anacortes’ as well. A roar of applause went up in response. Scott said the issue isn’t even really about resource management. “It’s not really about fish, it’s not really about water,” she said. “It’s about control.” Moderator Glen Morgan, the grassroots director with the Freedom Foundation, also noted that, if residential water rights are not restored, the properties will need to be reassessed, thus lowering their value drastically and lowering the tax revenue for the county. Also in attendance was Richard Fox, a Sedro-Woolley resident who is currently in a legal fight with the county, and now Ecology and the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, over his well and pending permit to build a home on a rural lot near his present home. The county, along with Ecology, will hold a public meeting at 6 p.m. Oct.1 at the Lincoln Theatre in downtown Mount Vernon, to discuss progress on solutions to the issue. — Reporter Daniel DeMay: 360-416-2148,, Twitter: @Daniel_SVH,

September 19, 2014