Archive for October, 2010

Reaction to Lummi v. State decision

October 29th, 2010  |  Published in Department of Ecology, Legal

Here’s an AP story that details the decision of the state Supreme Court to uphold the 2003 Municipal Water Law:

The Washington State Supreme on Thursday unanimously upheld changes the Legislature made to state water law in 2003 – changes that environmentalists fear will encourage sprawl and water speculation.

The changes included characterizing some developments as municipalities – and allowing them to keep the rights to as much water as their system can handle, even if they haven’t historically used that water.

Several American Indian tribes, individuals and environmental groups challenged the changes. They said the Legislature improperly overruled a prior Supreme Court decision and violated the due process rights of people who could lose access to water under the changes.

The justices said Thursday the changes were, on their face, constitutional but suggested they would entertain challenges later on if people claimed to be specifically harmed.

The state Department of Ecology posted a press release on the decision here.

The Foster Pepper law firm also posted a detailed analysis of the decision:

The Washington State Supreme Court has ruled that key provisions of the Municipal Water Law (MWL) are facially constitutional.1 The ruling affects water rights across Washington State, upholding the flexibility and certainty that the MWL provides to purveyors, municipalities, and other “municipal water suppliers.” However, the Court stressed that the ruling is limited to the “facial constitutional challenges” that were before the Court, leaving room for consideration of similar claims in the future that may be advanced under “as applied” challenges.

State Supreme Court posts decision on Lummi vs. State

October 28th, 2010  |  Published in Department of Ecology, Legal

The state Supreme Court posted their decision in Lummi vs. State online this morning. The decision was unanimous with no minority opinion.

UPDATE: Here is an Associated Press story with more detail on the particulars of the decision.

The Lummi Nation, Makah Tribe, Quinault Indian Nation, Tulalip Tribes, Squaxin Island Tribe and Suquamish Tribe, along with several other individuals, fish and environmental groups challenged the 2003 Muncipal Water Law.

Here is some background from the Center for Environmental Law and Policy on the challenged law.

Here is some more background on the case from a Seattle PI story in 2008, after a lower court ruled in favor of the tribes:

The case, considered by some experts the most important water-rights litigation in Washington in two decades, is likely headed to the state Supreme Court. It was closely watched by environmentalists and tribes, who claimed the 2003 law retroactively expanded rights to pump water far beyond what was justified — and is likely to steal enough water from streams to hurt salmon and other creatures.

“It gave away millions of gallons of water a day to municipalities without even having to consider the impact of that on people who already had rights to water in that area,” said Tom Geiger of the Washington Environmental Council, one of the groups involved.

Tribal interests also claimed victory, despite the mixed ruling, because under the current system, “paper water rights” claimed long ago but not yet used eventually could result in cutting water supplies to people who live here now.

Here is a post on the Washington State Supreme Court blog about the case during the oral arguments last winter.

Here is Billy Frank, Jr.’s column in 2008 praising a lower court ruling in the case in favor of the tribes.

Here are the oral arguments in front of the state Supreme Court last winter:

State agencies release 10 percent across the board cuts

October 25th, 2010  |  Published in Department of Ecology, Department of Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife, Puget Sound Partnership, State Agencies

The state Office of Financial Management recently posted (via Washington Policy Blog) proposed cuts by state agencies in response to Gov. Gregoire’s call for across the board 10 percent cuts.

The proposal’s from state natural resources agencies are all linked to below.

The most thorough proposal is from the Department of Fish and Wildlife. The proposal from that agency includes, for example, cutting “fisheries management capabilities”:

This cut will reduce the agency’s fish management capacity causing: 1) a delay in the completion of regional steelhead management plans of 1-2 years; 2) more conservative management of resident warmwater and trout species in lowland lakes in south Puget Sound that will result in lost fishing opportunity, loss of staff support for youth fishing and environmental education activities in south Puget Sound; 3) elimination of work to evaluate chinook and coho salmon release strategies from south Puget Sound hatcheries; and 4) a delay in our ability to respond to external inquiries and fish management concerns, reducing stakeholder satisfaction.

The WDFW plan also details cuts in hatchery production:

This request would close a short term salmon rearing site, reduce Chinook salmon production in South Puget Sound by 2.8M and improve the efficiency of remaining production. In addition, we would reduce Chinook production by 1M in mid Puget Sound to better align current production with conservation and recovery needs for the Lake Washington drainage. Lastly, we would eliminate off-station steelhead releases of 20,000 each, in Willipa Bay and the north Coast of Washington, to reduce negative affects of returning adult steelhead on natural production in those regions.

Reductions would influence the amount of hatchery salmon available for harvest. However, remaining production will allow continued fishing opportunity.

Department of Fish and Wildlife
Department of Ecology
Puget Sound Partnership
Department of Natural Resources
Parks and Recreation Commission
Environmental and Land Use Hearings
Conservation Commission

Ed Johnstone and Mikah McCarty testify on Marine Spacial Planning

October 18th, 2010  |  Published in Legislative Meetings

A couple of weeks ago, a field hearing was held by the Senate Natural Resources, Ocean and Recreation Committee on an update on the implementation of SSB 6350, which established a Marine Spacial Planning process in Washington.

Shortly, Marine Spacial Planning is a process to allocate human activities to best protection natural resources in the ocean.

Testifying were Ed Johnstone, policy spokesperson for the Quinault Indian Nation and Makah tribal council member Mikah McCarty.

Click play on the window below to watch the hearing, starting with the testimony from representatives from the treaty tribes:

You can download or view the entire hearing here.

Here is some background information on SSB 6350.