Tag Archives: Department of Ecology

IN THE NEWS: Cooperation over contention gets things done on water policy

Yakima Herald Republic

Not long ago, Kittitas County could have been the poster child for tensions between local and state governments on water use. Issues erupted in 2009 and simmered for the next five years or so: The state Department of Ecology imposed a moratorium on drilling domestic wells, the U.S. Geological Survey found groundwater makes its way to surface streams, and that water wells are diverting the flow from those rivers and streams; the state Supreme Court ruled that counties must assure that development applicants have legal access to water before they approve new developments, and Kittitas County lost a growth management lawsuit.

All this stems from competition for a water resource that is fully appropriated. As it stands now, water rights are required for all new wells in the county, a situation that particularly affects the upper county housing industry. The lack of a certain water supply has served to spook prospective home builders, buyers and lenders,

Out of that legal and regulatory contention arose a Kittitas County water bank, in which a party can buy a water right to offset the impact of a new well. The bank is a very promising idea with a potentially sticky provision in Kittitas County: The water right has to come from the same general area as the intended new use; acceptable areas are indicated in color-coded county maps.

The information is now easier to access. Earlier this month, the announcement came that the state has set up a water bank website, in which interested parties can click onto the web address and find information that includes water prices, priority dates, locations of water and contact information.

As an example of the contention yielding to cooperation, the Ecology Department runs the website, which the Legislature created through a bill sponsored by state Sen. Jim Honeyford, a Sunnyside Republican who understands well the inherent tension between growers and Ecology. Honeyford touted “a one-stop shop of information” that the website provides.

The real-estate industry also sees this as a promising development, with a Cle Elum real estate broker saying the industry is continuing to work with the state on the website as they strive to smooth out the process.

Kittitas County has company in setting up water banks. The website includes information for the Yakima River Basin, the Columbia River, the Walla Walla River Basin and the Dungeness River Basin on the Olympic Peninsula.

Kittitas County lies at the nexus of many competing entities — agriculture, fishing, residential — that covet the water that flows from the county’s mountains and snowpack. The cooperation displayed in the water bank program shows that working out compromise is the most productive way to resolve these sensitive issues. Compromises by nature don’t please everyone, but once implemented they provide certainty and allow competing entities to get on with their business. That’s exactly what is happening now in Kittitas County.

* Members of the Yakima Herald-Republic editorial board are Bob Crider, Frank Purdy and Karen Troianello.

The original article, published July 21, 2016, can be viewed here.


Water banking web page goes live thanks to Honeyford bill

A new web page devoted to water banking information has been launched thanks to legislation sponsored by state Sen. Jim Honeyford. Passed with overwhelming support during the 2016 legislative session, Substitute Senate Bill 6179, directed the state Department of Ecology to create a web page on its website that provides the public with information on all of Washington’s water banks. The web page went live Wednesday.

“Farming communities are keenly aware that water is essential to their livelihood. Setting up a one-stop shop of information for those who have water banks and those who may want to utilize a bank is the first step in providing transparency on this water management issue,” said Honeyford, R- Sunnyside.

Information about water banking that DOE must maintain includes:

  • Amount charged for mitigation, including any fees,
  • Priority date of the water rights made available for mitigation,
  • If applicable, any geographic areas in the state where the department may issue mitigated permits,
  • The processes utilized by the water bank to obtain approval to use the water rights as mitigation for new water uses,
  • The nature of the ownership interest in the mitigation being sold to landowners,
  • Whether mitigation is recorded on the title.

The water banking web page can be accessed at http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wr/market/trk-wawtrbnks.html.

Priorities: Yakima Valley School, state lands, invasive species, radio towers

Because the 2014 session is only two months this year, there are a number of issues I’ll be addressing right from the start.

YAKIMA VALLEY SCHOOL. One bill that is very important to me would help keep the Yakima Valley School open. In 2011, the Legislature passed a measure that kept the residential facility for the developmentally disabled in Selah from closing immediately. However, as part of a last-minute deal to save the Yakima Valley School, the final measure required the facility to no longer accept new patients but allowed the then-81 residents to stay for the rest of their lives. Continue reading

State government abuzz after Honeyford mosquito bills become law

MosquitoThe governor has signed two bills sponsored by Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, dealing with mosquito-population control. Senate Bill 5002 will update state law to allow local mosquito districts more flexibility in their operations, while Senate Bill 5324 will encourage municipalities to use state Department of Ecology design guidelines when constructing stormwater-retention ponds in an effort to reduce the mosquito population.

“West Nile virus is – and will continue to be – a serious public health risk,” Honeyford added. “In the past ten years, the number of reported cases of West Nile virus has increased steadily, so I’m thankful the Legislature and the governor saw fit to support these bills; hopefully they’ll go a long way toward keeping the public safe.” Continue reading

Honeyford-sponsored public health, land and water bills pass Senate

Senate Floor DebateOver the past several days in the Washington State Senate, Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, saw three of his bills approved and sent to the House of Representatives.

The first to pass on Friday was Senate Bill 5324, which would encourage municipalities to use state Department of Ecology design guidelines when constructing stormwater retention ponds in an effort to reduce the mosquito population. In addition, DOE would need to consult with the state Department of Health about strategies to prevent West Nile virus, and any retention pond found to contain West Nile virus would be the responsibility of the area’s mosquito-control district. Continue reading

Water rights permit processing reaches new levels

I received an e-mail from Maria Bellon, Water Resources Program Manager for the state Department of Ecology. She was excited to tell me about updated decision numbers for the water rights they have been processing this fiscal year. Including the month of May, the decision count for the last 11 months was:

  • 661 decisions (excluding withdrawals)
  • 166 withdrawals
  • For a total of 827 applications being taken out of the backlog this fiscal year. Continue reading

An update on the status of my bills

We’re past the cutoff point for both House and Senate bills not considered necessary to implement the budget to be passed out of committees. From this point on, each day will be spent debating and passing bills in either the full House or full Senate, with the exception of certain committees that have to consider last-minute budget bills. It appears that some of my bills may not make it out of the House for purely political reasons, which is very unfortunate. I’ve never played politics with my bills and I firmly believe that every bill should be considered on its own merit rather than used as trade bait for passing other bills. In fact, I’ve lost bills because of that belief and I am willing to lose another should it come to that. Continue reading

My bills that survived cutoff

Four of my bill proposals have moved over to the House of Representatives to be considered by their committees. Three of them are bills I introduced this session, and one is a bill that carried over from the 2011 session. Since all bills are viable during the biennium (two-year budget cycle) in which they were introduced, my bill from last session was reintroduced by resolution at the beginning of this session.

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Senate unanimously approves my bill to help Sunnyside treatment facility

With a unanimous vote Friday, members of the Washington State Senate approved Senate Bill 6027 to help the City of Sunnyside return clean, cool water to the Yakima River. My bill would provide access to low-interest loans for a project vital to the community’s continuing economic growth.

Sen. Jim HoneyfordAgriculture and food processing are essential to the economic viability of our region. My constituents, their businesses, workers, and families will all benefit from enhanced economic development made possible by this wastewater-capacity expansion. It will be a strategic investment for our region.

The Port of Sunnyside operates several lagoons in which process water is treated. The port is converting land it purchased near the Yakima River to wetlands; the funding ability authorized by his bill may help construct a pipeline from the treatment lagoons to the new wetlands.

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A new ranking Republican on the Senate ag committee

Sen. Honeyford in committeeWhen the 2012 legislative session begins Jan. 9, what is now the Senate Agriculture and Rural Economic Development Committee will add “water” to its title and list of policy duties. I will also be the new Republican leader.

I’m currently the leader of what is now the Senate Environment, Water and Energy Committee, and a member of the Senate agriculture committee. But the Senate majority party has decided to devote a committee to environmental issues, which meant moving water and energy policy matters to other committees.

I’ve been on the water committee since coming to the Legislature in 1994, and I wanted to stay with water issues. I’m still interested in and concerned about energy and electrical power – but I couldn’t be leader on both committees, now that water and energy will be split, and water policy is more important to my district.

My priorities as Republican leader of the new Senate Agriculture, Water and Rural Economic Development Committee will include water storage, accelerating the water-permitting process, and keeping tabs on the performance of the state Department of Ecology, especially now that the agency’s level of funding has been linked to its ability to process water-rights applications.

I’m also interested in bringing the tracking of water rights into the modern age. When property is sold and water rights are transferred it can be difficult to keep track of who owns what and where they are. All those records are available someplace, on paper, but we could use a better system, and you’d think modern technology would offer a solution.