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Have a water rights application pending within the Lake Chelan Basin? Act fast or you could lose out on a chance to get water.

The Department of Ecology (“Ecology”) has initiated a “Coordinated Cost-Reimbursement Program” (the “Program”) to allocate approximately 5,200 acre-feet per year, which represents all of the remaining allocable water from the Lake Chelan Reserve. The water will be allocated to applications for surface water permits, ground water permits, and permit-exempt groundwater uses.

There are more than 150 pending applications for these uses on file with Ecology for water in the Lake Chelan Basin, and participating in the Program is no guarantee that your water right will be granted. However, if you don’t participate, you may never get your water right processed, unless more water is someday added to the Lake Chelan Reserve — and anyone who participates in the Program will have their application processed before yours, no matter when you first applied. Applicants who do not participate can still try to purchase an existing right, but that opportunity is rare and expensive.

To participate in the Program, you will be asked to pay a contractor the state hires to process your application. Ecology estimates this may cost between $5,000 and $15,000. For now, you must tell Ecology prior to February 1, 2018 of your interest to participate in the Program. If you do not, your application will be rejected and you will have to reapply for water rights. If you do not want to participate in the Program, but want to keep your application on file to maintain your filing date, YOU STILL NEED TO REPLY to Ecology by February 2, 2018 — or your application will be rejected. Anyone who wants to obtain a water permit but is unsure of paying the cost should at least express interest. After collecting interest in the Program, Ecology is required, by law, to give a cost estimate to each applicant and a timeline for processing the applications. Only after receiving this information does an applicant need to commit to participating in the Program and pay the cost.

You may have received a letter about this process from Ecology. Be sure to respond by the deadline. If you have not received this letter and believe you have an application for water within the Lake Chelan Basin, you should contact Ecology immediately.

Should you need guidance through this process, JDSA is here to help.