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2nd Yelm citizen’s case accepted by WA Supreme Court – a rarity!


City of Yelm’s new well being drilled at end of Tahoma Blvd.,
Photo Copyright © 2010, 2012, 2015 Yelm Community Blog.
Photo taken with zoom lens June 21, 2010

– That the WA Supreme Court has accepted a 2nd water rights case from property owners in the same city’s watershed, Yelm, is extraordinary and should have been underscored! [JZ Knight’s was the other.]

– A stunning achievement for Yelm property owner Sara Foster:
This week’s headline story in the Nisqually Valley News titled “State Supreme Court Accepts Yelm Water Right Case” is a landmark achievement for Yelm property owner Sara Foster, yet the newspaper’s story was all about Mayor Ron Harding’s needs for Yelm to have the DOE approval of more than doubling Yelm’s water rights affirmed for his continued growth plans. I found very unfortunate that NVN Reporter Steven Wyble did not present the merits of Foster’s case weighed in contrast to Mr. Harding’s needs to grow Yelm even more.

– The merit of Foster’s case
Sara Foster submitted an Appeal against the City of Yelm and the Dept of Ecology November 18, 2011 to stop the pumping of 942 acre feet of water, every year for 20 years, from the aquifer. She asserts Ecology had just rubber-stamped Yelm’s Mitigation Plan and the city was approved to begin pumping and that this amount has huge environmental impacts to the aquifer. Foster suggests wells of property owners in a vast surrounding area [outside of Yelm city limits] could drop in static level and people would have to drill new wells. She contends the city’s new well (pictured above), even at a depth of 750 feet, would impact Foster’s well “downstream” in the same aquifer less than a mile away, affecting her property.

– Two Amicus Briefs filed supporting Foster’s case
“In Foster’s case, an Amicus Brief (friend of the court) was also filed on behalf of The Carnegie Group and CELP (Center for Environmental Law & Policy), Washington’s water watchdog, protecting streams, rivers and aquifers.
These groups found that Foster’s lawsuit was not frivolous and had merit.
Published in the Yelm Community Blog June 23, 2014
and in a Letter to the NVN Editor published June 13, 2014.

Additionally, a through examination of Foster’s case was covered here on December 28, 2012.

– Interesting so much of the NVN story this week was about Yelm rather than the significance of Foster’s case.
Foster’s attorney Patrick Williams previously stated in the NVN, “his client’s problem isn’t with the city of Yelm as much as with the Department of Ecology for granting the water right. The department used an exemption in the existing code, which the Supreme Court said doesn’t really exist in the way Ecology was trying to use it.”
That’s the reason the WA Supreme Court accepted Foster’s request for direct review of her case, which should have been the main topic to go with the story title, instead of being shoved to a few short paragraphs at the end of Wyble’s story.

After the City of Yelm won in the Court of Appeals in another case, Yelm citizen JZ Knight also sought the WA Supreme Court for their review, which accepted her case and overturned the appeal, ruling in favor of Knight 7-2. Precedent has already been established by the Supreme Court about water issues that impact the City of Yelm, adding to the merits of Foster’s case, as well.

With the WA Supreme Court ruling so strongly [7-2] in favor of Knight after losing on appeal, many in Yelm are concerned that Foster will win, which would severely impact Yelm’s DOE-granted water rights.

– Jenna Loughlin penned this in the Nisqually Valley News

“At the last meeting of the boundary committee for Yelm Community Schools, the recommendation was made to put off proposed school boundary shifts until the 2016-17 school year.”

“The reasons it listed, according to YCS Superintendent Andy Wolf, are:…the results of a water rights case regarding the city of Yelm that may come from the Washington state Supreme Court in the next few months, which would impact housing and growth in the city;…”

– Bottom Line:
The City of Yelm seized a citizen’s water rights in 2009 to continue issuing housing permits and water hook-ups. If the doubling of Yelm’s DOE water rights is denied by the Supreme Court, will the city revert to such tactics again to continue their grow, grow, grow policies? hmmm
Stay tuned!

Posted by Steve on April 14, 2015 at 6:33 am | Permalink

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