By Jamie Henneman/The Independent Staff
The Washington State Supreme Court passed a decision in early October that many believe may halt development in the state by canceling the ability to drill a domestic well without extensive hydrological study. The 6-3 opinion issued on Oct. 6 may invalidate a provision in state law that exempts domestic wells of up to 5,000 gallons from the permitting process (RCW 90.44.050).
The Supreme Court decision was made in response to a lawsuit from the environmental group Futurewise against Whatcom County that claimed the county’s Comprehensive Plan did not meet Growth Management Act (GMA) Rules. The lawsuit was filed by Futurewise Executive Director Hilary Franz who is now running for the Commissioner of Public Lands in Washington State.
The court decision will require county building departments to approve domestic well applications to determine if they will impact any senior water right holders or in-stream minimums for fish. County residents trying to beat the Oct. 28 enactment of the court decision flooded the Spokane County courthouse last week with “counter-ready” applications for buildings that would not be subject to the new court ruling, according to the Spokesman Review newspaper.
However, the Stevens County Commissioners sent out a public notice on Oct. 27 saying no immediate changes would be made in the Stevens County Building Department.
“While the Hirst decision is specific to Whatcom County, it is also clear that other GMA counties, including Stevens County, will be expected to comply with the newly announced requirement,” the Commissioners said. “However, no timeline for compliance is given except for the compliance schedule imposed under GMA. Consequentially, Stevens County will review its Comprehensive Plans and Development Regulations to determine if any amendments may be required to our building permit process and when those amendments would become effective.”