That explains the legal world of water. Like actual water flowing in a stream, where there are constant changes in a steady stream, the courts are making decisions that affect our ability to access the water that is under our land.
State law has always said that without drinkable water and enough water, the property owner cannot get a building permit. Now water has to be “legally available” too. In several Washington counties, lawsuits relating to the flow of a river have stopped the use of new wells. For Pend Oreille County, our risk is increased by a 1976 rule specific to the Little Spokane River watershed south of Newport which set a water level that has not been met every year. Since the 1976 rule, there have been changes to the law, and many legal cases which have redefined the connection between wells (ground water) and the water levels in rivers and streams. Because of a recent Supreme Court decision (Hirst v Whatcom County), Pend Oreille County now finds that new wells in the Little Spokane River watershed may have to be banned by our County, or we could face lawsuits from either the Department of Ecology, impacted senior water rights holders, or special interest groups.
This is an issue I have been working on even before my election. Working with our colleagues in other counties who are dealing with the same problems will help us understand the challenges we face concerning water law, and the opportunities we wish to provide for future generations. I am committed to finding a solution and protecting the interests of our neighbors throughout Pend Oreille County. My goal is to both preserve future water use for residential, commercial, and economic development for the entire county while preserving the enjoyment of rivers and streams.