In Consideration Against HB 1793

Open letter in Consideration against HB 1793 Fellow citizens consider this letter regarding an inadequate remedy to a civil and human rights deprivation of the water rights of some rural citizens deprived of their water rights. Please call your local Senator and the chair and vice chair of the rules committee and ask them to refuse this bill a hearing on the floor. Brad Owens Chair 360-786-7700 and Pam Roach Vice Chair 360-786-7660. Consideration Against HB 1793 Citizens’ Alliance for Property Rights is in opposition to HB 1793 Working within the existing in-stream flow rules adopted by the department of ecology to provide a suite of tools, applicable to property owners located in areas with limited access to legal new water withdrawals, for alternative water procurement that does not result in a net loss to area surface waters. Which is now in the Rules Committee. We pray for relief from the passage of this bill because if enacted, it would avoid addressing the over-riding issues that have caused the harm to property rights with the passage of Ecology’s flawed In Stream Flow Rule in Skagit County, and will do nothing to restore water rights to those suffering personal and financial hardships due to the passage of that flawed rule and the subsequent Court Case Swinomish Indian Tribal Community v. Washington State Department of Ecology as of January 1, 2015. The remedies proposed in 1793 to the current In Stream Flow Rules in Skagit County are an affront to the human and civil rights of the thousands of people who have lost the use of their properties, and the nearly 500 property owners that have been notified that they have interruptible water if the only gauge in the Skagit River that measures flow drops below a certain level. That level is much higher than any of the flow registered during the dry summer months for the last 70 years. The county assessor has been forced to devalue those properties. Land has become all but worthless if it’s undeveloped. Those property owners’ homes with working wells drilled after 2001 now faced with interruptible water supply cannot sell because buyers can’t obtain mortgages. Nor can the homeowners refinance. Properties have been devalued by up to 90%. The department of ecology in a severely flawed rule making process has set up a situation in which new unmitigated, adequate, and reliable legal water supplies are not available to properties. The alternative water sources suggested by HB 1793 are scientifically unfounded, extremely expensive, and impractical. Piping water for very long distances to properties with functioning and healthy wells is a prohibitively expensive idea that has very little chance of ever occurring. Water banking or transferring of existing water rights is difficult to show an affect on the theory of no net loss to area surface waters, cannot, but should require a case by case scientific justification of the taking of water rights and is expensive, cumbersome and questionable in the application of the scheme. A combination of trucked water and rain water collection and distribution is not only prohibited by the health department, it would introduce chemical treatment those with wells have not had to use, requiring a complicated and expensive hazardous waste disposal, and would also be a cumbersome and complicatedly regulated alternative method of water supply not available to all needing water. This bill seems to be worded to apply statewide and not be limited to a certain watershed or In Stream Flow Rule. Outside of legislative intent, it inequitably limits the proposed remedies to rural domestic water uses, and not to other water uses. The costly, uncertain remedies proposed in the bill do not provide for economic development and in fact would hinder economic activities. This bill requires local governments to adopt specific ordinances relating to when and how alternative water sources can be used, while at the same time directing the department of ecology to coordinate with local governments and utilities to identify possible capital projects by October 2015, reporting their findings to the legislature. It is improbable that this could be accomplished by an agency that has created this flawed rule-making process on a regional or statewide basis in this short time frame when considered relative to how many years it took to get the In Stream Flow Rules created, and implemented. The focus of Ecology has clearly not been to identify capital projects, as perhaps should have been the case for many years. What will be the economic impact if such capital projects could be designed, and who exactly would bear the economic burden? If such projects could be designed, there would be a lengthy process and an extensive time frame for getting them accomplished, the bill only requires they be identified by October 2015. This bill does not provide for immediate remedies to those thousands of property owners presently deprived of their water rights. It does nothing to ensure that remedies would ever actually occur. HB 1793 attempts to fit current and problematic rules into a bill that would systematically promote the continuation of the current problems without resolving the issues, and would promote the continuation of a flawed In Stream Flow Rule making system on a state-wide basis while providing inadequate solutions to the problems created by that Rule Making. It is not surprising 1793 was passed with a margin of only 53 yeas to 45 nays. Those in the House of Representatives objecting were correct in their analysis of this bill. Even with strikers or amendments this bill is still unable to accomplish the intent of working within the existing in-stream flow rules adopted by the department of ecology to provide a suite of tools, applicable to property owners located in areas with limited access to legal new water withdrawals, for alternative water procurement that does not result in a net loss to area surface waters. The data that would need to exist for making this determination has not been collected or provided in a way which would allow for this remedy to happen. To allow for this kind of flawed rule-making to go without correction and then be applied statewide would be a travesty, and cause untold hardships and costly problems to citizens municipalities and inevitably, the state. Citizens’ Alliance for Property Rights would respectfully request the rejection of this bill in the Senate. There are most certainly more well thought out, productive solutions to the problems caused by In Stream Flow Rules. Thank you, Cindy Alia Citizens’ Alliance for Property Rights

March 31, 2015