Lawmakers approve Hirst water agreement, capital budget bills
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SUGGESTED LEAD: After nearly a year of intensive negotiations, an agreement was reached on a Hirst water rights fix and Thursday evening, lawmakers passed the bill from the House floor. The vote was 66-30. John Sattgast reports from Olympia.
SATTGAST: You could almost hear the collective sigh of relief, not only within the Capitol walls, but across the entire state of Washington.
TAYLOR: “This evening, we were able to get passed with bipartisan support in both chambers a permanent solution that provides permanent legal reliable water to property owners throughout Washington state.”
SATTGAST: That's Representative David Taylor of Moxee, House Republican chief negotiator on the Hirst water solution. Since October of 2016 when the state Supreme Court ruled in Whatcom County versus Hirst, Futurewise, certain rural property owners across the state have been in limbo, finding it nearly impossible or prohibitively expressive to drill a well on private property.
Taylor says the new Hirst fix retains 1998 water law in seven of the state's 15 critical water basins, but with some reductions of per gallon usage. It protects legal access to water for pre-existing wells. It returns water management from the counties back to the Department of Ecology. And most important. . .
TAYLOR: “You can go and get a building permit tomorrow and you can drill a well tomorrow. There's some limitations on the gallons-per-day usage. But the fact of the matter is if you own property and you've been in limbo waiting to get a building permit, you can move forward because we have taken care of the obstacle the Supreme Court has created.”
SATTGAST: Once the logjam broke through on Hirst, the House and Senate voted to approve and send to the governor a capital construction budget, along with the bond bill, which drew far more votes than necessary to pass. Representative Richard DeBolt is the ranking Republican on the House Capital Budget Committee.
DeBOLT: “I am really glad to be at this point. I appreciate the five-corners agreement that got us to this point. It's been a long-time coming.”
TAYLOR: “All in all, from the standpoint of the entire package of bills that moved forward, I would certainly say that the people of Washington have been well served today.”
SATTGAST: John Sattgast, Olympia.
###Washington State House Republican Communications
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