On October 3, 2013 the Washington State Supreme Court handed down its long-awaited decision on the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community v. Department of Ecology case (No. 87672-0). This case challenged the authority of Ecology to use the “Overriding Consideration of the Public Interest” (OCPI) clause to set aside water (for future allocation) after an instream flow has been established for a given stream or river. At issue was the use of that clause to amend the Skagit Basin Instream Flow Rule (WAC 173-503) to add reservations of water to the rule in order to facilitate some rural growth within specified sub basins. The court ruled that Ecology erred in several ways in its application of OCPI and clarified that reduction of an established instream flow could only be justified in “extraordinary” circumstances. Continue reading
The Washington State Supreme Court issued a ruling in March that is believed to represent the last “brick” in the very lengthy water right adjudication process started in 1977. The ruling addresses several thorny issues in the Ahtanum Creek Sub-basin west of the City of Yakima. This sub-basin has the most complex legal history in the entire Yakima Basin and was left until last for that reason.
The significance of the ruling is not so much in its findings as in the fact that this ruling essentially clears the way for the longest-term and most expensive adjudication in State history to be completed. The results can then be used as a basis for water resource management in the Yakima Basin. This is likely to facilitate implementation of several projects intended to enhance the seasonal availability of water throughout the basin and could lead to economically and environmentally advantageous active management efforts.
Ecology’s Water Right General Adjudications webpage provides a good summary of the process, and includes a link to a Yakima Herald newspaper article about the ruling for those who are not inclined to read Supreme Court rulings in their entirety. For those with judicio-masochistic tendencies, the full text of the ruling can be accessed here.
I had seen a presentation at the 2011 NGWA Expo by Mr. Reinhard Klause of Sigmund Lindner, a German manufacturer of precision glass bead products, on an innovative well-design technology—the use of glass beads as filter pack material. I thought the idea merited further discussion, so when I heard that Reinhard was going to visit the Pacific Northwest, my colleagues and I scrambled to organize a seminar.
To maximize the value of the seminar, we invited a broad cross-section of the groundwater community, including drilling contractors, water utilities, well design consultants, the regulatory community, and materials suppliers. We were only able to provide a few days’ notice, but people responded quickly to our invitation. Thank you to all who dropped everything to “come to the party.” I would also like to thank Burt Clothier (RN) and Bill Lum (Ecology) for working to qualify the event for continuing education credits for our driller guests and to Stan French and John Bowman (Lakehaven Utility District) for providing access to the Lakehaven Center meeting facility in Federal Way. Continue reading