NEWS FROM OLYMPIA, WASHINGTON yesterday is very good for Mason County rural land owners who want to dig a new well. Back-to-back votes ended a yearlong standoff created by the state Supreme Court’s Hirst ruling. Senate Bill 6091 received bipartisan support in both chambers and passed by comfortable margins, 35-14 in the Senate and 66-30 in the House. Gov. Jay Inslee issued a statement saying he will sign the Hirst bill.
For those who have not kept up on this issue, the Washington Supreme Court's 2016 decision in Whatcom County v. Hirst (commonly known as the Hirst decision was based on the assumption that each new well draws water from streams and harms fish. The ruling left individual landowners in the position of having to prove otherwise.
The Hirst decision stemmed from a lawsuit brought by environmentalists over how Whatcom County was carrying out the Growth Management Act. It cast a doubt, however, over whether new wells would be allowed anywhere throughout the state.
“This bill provides a path forward for the people who just want to build on their few acres,” said Moses Lake Sen. Judy Warnick, the lead Republican on the Senate Agriculture, Water and Natural Resources Committee.
From where I sit at Windermere Peninsula Properties, selling land has been made difficult over the question of new buyer’s water rights. Without some ruling to guide counties to authorize well drilling permits, land sales have been slowed. With this question now resolved in favor of land owners, I predict 2018 will be a banner year to sell undeveloped land in Mason County