For the 2014 session, I will be providing weekly updates on your state legislature thanks to the generous support of donors like you.
Of the many bills Sen. Doug Ericksen has introduced so far this session (yes, we will be getting to all of them), there is one that is so narrowly focused, it might as well have been addressed directly to Futurewise. SB 5983 limits the ability of the Growth Management Hearings Board from hearing petitions relating to exempt (small) wells.
When explaining the Growth Management Act, I usually use the metaphor of a teacher and a student. The Growth Management Act says that every student (county) has to do their homework (create a legally sound plan for how their county will grow). For decades, Whatcom County has refused to do their homework (get in compliance with the Growth Management Act), and has allowed developers to build willy-nilly all throughout our farmland. Futurewise, the smarty-pants in the back of the classroom, has been jumping up and down tattling on Whatcom County, reminding the teacher (the Growth Management Hearings Board) that Whatcom hasn’t done their homework.
This legislation removes one of the main homework assignments. In essence, Sen. Ericksen is saying, you can’t tattle on us about this because this doesn’t count. Will this actually roll back the decision made on Dec. 2nd in Futurewise’s favor? I don’t think so, but it could affect future challenges.
So what are the real world impacts of this change? The challenge was over the use of small exempt water wells. Basically, a developer would sidestep a whole host of water rights issues by just drilling a series of small wells (“a six pack”) to provide for a subdivision. The problem was everyone began doing that, resulting in a huge drain on the groundwater supply which affected rural access to water. The eloquent Jean Melious goes into depth on some of these issues on her blog here and here.
The bill has been referred to the Agriculture Committee. It has drawn four other co-sponsors and Rep. Vincent Buys has introduced a companion bill in the House (you will remember that Buys managed to get one piece of legislation passed last year, a bill relating to rural wells). The committee is overseen by conservative Democrat Brian Hatfield who represents Aberdeen and Grays Harbor County, so it will probably get a hearing at least.
Stay tuned later this week for more legislative coverage. Also, thank you to Bellingham Herald reporter Ralph Schwartz who said, “Sweeney is a seasoned observer of all things political and a fun read, from a partisan-Democrat perspective.” Thank you for the link. As for partisanship, I aim for total transparency. I’m a proud Democrat, but not a blind one. I’ve been critical of Democrats in the past and will be in the future.
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