Bipartisan Hirst fix passes Legislature with support from local lawmakers

After over a year of hard-fought negotiations, the state Legislature passed a bipartisan fix to the so-called Hirst decision. The late-night vote on Senate Bill 6091 brings clarity, certainty and most importantly, water to those waiting to build on private property.

Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda and deputy Republican leader, was part of the negotiating team working to arrive at a viable solution that protects rural landowners.

“At the beginning of this process, we had an urban state Supreme Court backed by an urban Legislature deciding water law for the entire state,” said Kretz. “While I'm not thrilled with every aspect of this legislation, the fact is, if you own a well and have been living in limbo waiting to build on your land, you can. You can go down and get a permit tomorrow and start building.”

Kretz said after the last round of negotiations ended, he heard something from a colleague he has never heard in 14 years in the state Legislature.

“The Seventh is golden! That's something I've never heard before in any negotiations,” said Kretz. “Northeast Washington, for the most part, was really protected from the new restrictions and bureaucracy being pushed into place. And really, we owe that to former Senators Bob Morton and Scott Barr who had the foresight to work on watershed planning. We're literally reaping significant benefit now for the work they were doing decades ago.”

Rep. Jacquelin Maycumber, R-Republic and assistant ranking member on the House Environment Committee, said the Hirst solution will help keep housing affordable in rural Washington.

“We have a rural housing issue in our state,” said Maycumber. “Without a Hirst fix access to affordable housing in our region will decline.

“The right to water is the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The Hirst decision was the continuation of a multigenerational decimation of rural life in our state. We're slowly being litigated out of our liberties,” she continued. “However, I'm extremely impressed by the gains House Republican negotiators were able to make. They were enough for me to cast a supporting vote and protect the Seventh District.”

Maycumber said she would have preferred to see the Hirst decision overturned altogether. However, with Democrats controlling the House, Senate and governor's mansion, the political will in Olympia to fight the state Supreme Court is absent.

Under provisions of the bill, most existing wells receive grandfather status, meaning any current landowner with a permit-exempt well will not be affected by the new law.

Senate Bill 6091 contains an emergency clause and takes effect immediately upon being signed by the governor.

The 60-day 2018 legislative session began Monday, Jan. 8.


Washington State House Republican Communications