– From the Yakima Herald-Republic Editorial Board:
“Advocates for enhancing the Yakima Valley’s water supply received some good legislative news in the other Washington about the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan. Potentially offsetting that positive development is a court ruling in this Washington that, while it won’t affect the integrated plan directly, has raised alarms and questions about its impact on water use. The mixed news is that neither development is a done deal yet.”
“Meanwhile, the state Supreme Court in October issued a ruling that may call into question how much flexibility the state has to approve new water uses. Some observers fear the ruling, which overturned a water permit for the Western Washington city of Yelm, could hamper the ability of the state Department of Ecology to balance the benefits with the impacts of water use. Ecology has asked the court to reconsider the ruling.
Ecology, employing a long-established process of “overriding consideration of public interest,” also known as OCPI, concluded the benefit of Yelm’s mitigation plan for aiding habitat and retiring other water rights outweighed the negative impact of the water use. But the court ruled OCPI is intended only for extraordinary circumstances and not routine issues of urban growth and increased water demand.
One Ecology official says the ruling applies to basins that have adopted in-stream flow rules, which is not the case in the Yakima River Basin, so a narrow interpretation shouldn’t alter the enhancement plan.”