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“Cities, tribe gain water rights” – NOT Yelm, NOT yet!

John Dodge reported in The Olympian this morning:
“The state Department of Ecology was to announce today that it has granted major water rights for the cities of Olympia and Lacey and the Nisqually Tribe to support growth and development for the two cities and tribe for the next 30 years.”

“Ecology officials are also poised to grant new water rights for the City of Yelm, but the permit to serve growth for the next 20 years in Yelm has been appealed to the Pollution Control Hearings Board and wont be resolved until next summer.”

Ed. Note:

The appeal in Yelm is from a property owner just outside of the city’s limits who has ‘standing’ and would potentially be affected by being within close proximity and “downstream” from the City of Yelm’s well, which is located on land in the Tahoma Terra development.

JZ Knight, who owns property near the appellant was recently victorious in Washington State’s Supreme Court for similar water issues involving Tahoma Terra’s development:

– Knight did have “standing” to challenge the City of Yelms approval of these five subdivisions (one of them being Tahoma Terra, where the city’s new well is located), her property being only 1,300 away,

– The Washington Supreme Court clearly stated that municipalities cannot run roughshod over, and must consider the publics interests to ensure adequate water sources before approving a developers plat application.

– The WA. States Dept. of Ecology filed an amicus curiae brief supporting Knights claims showing Yelm had over pumped its allocated water rights since 2001,

– The City of Yelm fought very hard to justify their unlawful approvals of 5 plats in Knight vs. City of Yelm, spending almost $300,000 in legal fees plus staff time to defend their actions. Washington State law requires that cities make a finding of water availability at the time of preliminary plat approval – the City of Yelm didn’t take this requirement seriously until Knight sued. State laws were cited in the Supreme Court decision to which the Yelm City Council should have adhered.

Knight vs. City of Yelm will be a showcase for future citizens desiring to challenge local governments who endanger their precious water resources. This means citizens can cite this case in future water issues with municipalities.

Bottom line:
Those property owners who have standing and add their names to the appeal of the granting of additional water rights by Ecology for the City of Yelm will further hamper the City of Yelm being automatically granted additional water rights for unbridled development.

Stay tuned!

From the Dept. of Ecology Press Release of Jan. 3, 2011:
“Ecology issues significant water rights, praises innovative collaborative agreement to allocate water in closed basin”

– “Another portion of the package Ecologys decision to approve a permit for Yelm that allows the city to receive rights to an additional 840,000 gallons per day of new water is under appeal to the Pollution Control Hearings Board, which handles all such appeals. If Ecologys decision to approve the permit is upheld, the permit will meet Yelms anticipated growth over the next 20 years and avoid the need for a building moratorium. Resolution to the appeal is expected during the first quarter of 2012.”
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Posted by Steve on January 3, 2012 at 6:49 am | Permalink

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