State Agencies

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

Department of Ecology opens online forum on water management

September 1st, 2010  |  Published in Department of Ecology

From the Ecology press release:

“The era of cheap, abundant water supplies is over,” said Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant. “With population growth, the need for economic development, the challenges of restoring fish runs, and coping with climate change, unless we change the way we manage our water resources, there won’t be enough water to meet essential needs. Washington’s future quality of life depends on water, and if we don’t make some changes, that quality of life will suffer.”

The Department is going online to solicit comments from the public, asking a series of questions to flesh out the public’s opinion on water management.

For example, the current question deals with watershed plans and if their development should be extended:

Should the Watershed Planning Act be amended to give watershed groups and their sponsoring lead agencies an additional four years of financial support to continue the implementation of locally adopted watershed plans?

Since that questions was put to online commenters earlier this week, there have been 17 responses. Here are a couple:

Mike Rolfs says:

Yes. The WRIA40a group was successful in developing a plan and is now in phase 4. We continue to meet and are actively working toward completion of the goals set forth in the plan. The public support provided in phase 4 is crucial to the success of the group. Without the formal program, it is unlikely that the various watergroups and users would work together as they have within this program. I am excited to continue to work with our WRIA40a group to implement our Phase 4 goals.

And:

Robert N. Crittenden says:

No. These local watershed planning processes have been an abject failure. They should either be terminated or substantially restructured.

I have participated either as a seat-holder or as a consultant to a group who was represented at the table in five different WRIAs in Western Washington and in several of the watershed councils before them. The following comments apply pretty much all to them:

The WRIAs and watershed councils were not representative of the public but were carefully assembled so as to balance opposing elements among the public and, thereby, eliminate any effective influence that the majority might have had over the outcomes of those processes. That was done by over-representing entities that agreed with departmental policies and under-representing the general public, if, indeed, they were represented at all. Thus, they were not “local” process but processes imported from Olympia and largely directed by them or by local government agencies who collaborated with them. — If the watershed planning process is continued, it should be restructured to be representative of the local constituency.

You can read more comments are participate in the online forum here.