Water rights bill clears first legislative hurdle

Agreement on a so-called Hirst fix has vexed the Legislature for a year.

OLYMPIA — A bill to resolve a protracted dispute over water rights policy cleared a state Senate panel on a unanimous vote Thursday.

The legislation is in response to the 2016 Supreme Court Hirst decision making counties responsible for ensuring there is an adequate supply of water before allowing drilling of new wells for homes and residential tracts.

As a result of the decision, some rural area property owners have found themselves unable to drill wells or facing the potential threat of not being able to drill in the future.

With Senate Bill 6091, property owners will be able to drill new wells. The fee for connection will be $500, down from $1,500 in the original bill. Communities will be given three years to craft management plans for water resource inventory areas identified in the legislation.

Agreement on a so-called Hirst fix has vexed the Legislature for a year. The disagreement has been marked by Republicans refusal to pass a state capital construction budget until there is an agreed-upon deal on a new water policy.

The legislation now goes to the Senate Ways and Means Committee for consideration.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

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