As the 2017 regular legislative session winds down, the chair of the Senate committee that covers water issues said she is appalled that House Democrats have chosen to continue to allow rural families, workers and communities to suffer under the state Supreme Court’s Hirst decision by failing to join the Senate in approving Senate Bill 5239. The Senate passed that bill on February 28.
In late 2016 the court issued its Hirst decision, which turned longstanding state water policy on its head, leading to new, severe restrictions on the use of household wells throughout the state. Because a household well is needed to obtain a building permit in areas without municipal water service, the court ruling has essentially halted rural development. Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, who introduced SB 5239 to end the Hirst crisis, issued the following statement.
“We sent House Democrats a reasonable and affordable solution for Hirst weeks ago. But they killed our bipartisan remedy and didn’t pass any bills of their own, even though the situation around small, household wells continues to get worse for Washington families. In fact, despite their public promises to fix Hirst, House Democrats have still not reached out to me with a proposal. In light of their refusal to pass the Senate bill, it just looks like they don’t want to help.
“The epicenter of the Hirst decision, Whatcom County, just extended its building moratorium for another six months. Families in that county and communities around the state cannot wait any longer. This crisis continues to grow. I am daily hearing from people who are running into problems resulting from the Hirst decision. Even farmers who want to build farmworker housing for workers are facing new obstacles because of Hirst.
“I stand with the families, farmworkers, small businesses and workers across Washington who have to be stunned by the House Democrats’ failure to step up for them. We simply must deliver a reasonable policy that lets property owners have access to water on their property without undue burdens and costs that will make their lives harder. I am committed to approving this legislation again in the special session to help Washington families.”