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Legislative Bill to “Fix” Hirst

On Behalf of | Jan 31, 2018 | Agricultural Law, Land Use, Environmental Law

On January 19, 2018, the Washington State Legislature passed, and Governor Jay Inslee signed into law, a bill for issues facing rural homeowners stemming from the Washington State Supreme Court decision in Hirst. Since the 2016 Hirst decision, Washington counties had been left with uncertainty regarding land use planning and liability in permitting – and many rural landowners were unable to obtain basic residential building permits if the residence would rely on a permit-exempt well.

What does this mean for water restrictions?

In short, rural homeowners and construction businesses are now able to more freely build on and develop plots of land that rely on well water, now that SB 6091 has become law.

The legislation gives clarity to counties’ long-range planning, and a process to approve building permits and subdivisions as follows:

  • A building permit applicant must pay permitting authorities $500 to build on a plot of land reliant on well water
  • Applicants building in basins with existing watershed planning may then be approved to use a permit-exempt well for domestic use for up to a yearly average of 3,000 gallons per day
  • Applicants building outside of those basins, may then be approved to draw up to 950 gallons per days out of their well

The measure also clarifies counties and cities may rely on Ecology’s instream flow rules when complying with the Growth Management Act (GMA) water availability standards. However, be aware that if you are located in Skagit Count, there may be additional requirements under state law to observe.

While this decision may not be what everyone was hoping for, Governor Inslee stated in an online statement, “While far from perfect, this bill helps protect water resources while providing water for families in rural Washington”.