Don Jenkins of Capital Press, “The West’s Ag weekly since 1928,” filed this outstanding report titled:
“Washington Supreme Court: Ecology wrong on water right”
“The court ruled 6-3 Thursday that DOE erred when it permitted the Western Washington city of Yelm to draw more groundwater to accommodate growth.
The withdrawal would have put the basin’s rivers and creeks at risk of occasionally falling below state-mandated minimum flows, a water right senior to Yelm’s new right.
DOE argued that the move was in the public’s interest and that a mitigation plan would actually enhance the environment. Yelm resident Sara Foster, who feared the city’s withdrawal would harm her domestic well, sued and received support from the Center for Environmental Law and Policy and the Carnegie Group, a Thurston County landowners’ organization.
Writing for the majority, Justice Charles Johnson dismissed the mitigation plan as irrelevant and said a growing city was hardly unusual.
He stated that overriding public interest could only justify temporary water withdrawals. Using it to support a permanent transfer of water rights was ‘an end-run around the normal appropriation process,’ he wrote.”
“DOE officials said the agency will evaluate how the Yelm ruling will affect the agency’s ability to create and transfer water rights.”
“The Yelm case has been followed by agriculture groups, but the ruling — striking down the permanent transfer of water rights to a city — may have limited direct impact on producers, said Mike Schwisow, government relations consultant for the Washington State Water Resources Association.”