Author: Tom Pors

Whatcom County v. Hirst Decision Expands Instream Flow Protection to Counties under GMA

The Washington Supreme Court’s decision in Whatcom County v. Hirst,[1] will significantly impact rural water availability by requiring Washington counties to ignore exceptions for permit-exempt wells in many of the state’s instream flow protection rules, causing considerable and unwarranted hardship to rural property owners.  The decision expands the Court’s already extreme protection of regulatory instream flows by requiring counties to…

Superior Court Denies Bassett Petition

On December 2, 2016, Judge Gary R. Tabor of the Thurston County Superior Court signed the final order denying Plaintiffs’ challenge to the validity of the Dungeness River Instream Flow Rule, Chapter 173-518 WAC.  The Plaintiffs, including the Olympic Resource Protection Council, are property owners, realtors and builders living in the Dungeness basin who were significantly impacted by the Dungeness…

Opening Brief filed in Bassett v. Ecology: Validity of Dungeness Instream Flow Rule Challenged

On July 29, 2016, Tom filed the Plaintiffs’ Opening Brief in the first judicial appeal under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) of a Department of Ecology instream flow rule.  The case, Magdalena Bassett, et. al, v. Department of Ecology, alleges that Ecology’s Dungeness River instream flow rule (Chapter 173-518 WAC) violates the APA and exceeds Ecology’s statutory authority on numerous…

Is the Fox v. Skagit County case heading to Supreme Court?

One fallout from the Swinomish v. Ecology decision in 2013 was the Department of Ecology’s instruction to Skagit County that it could no longer accept permit-exempt wells in the Skagit basin as proof of an adequate water supply for building permits.  RIchard and Marnie Fox purchased and subdivided a property in Skagit County near the Town of Lyman before 2000,…

2016 Legislative Action Nips at Edges of Washington Water Problems

The Washington State Legislature adopted three water-related bills that were signed into law at the end of the 2016 Special Session ending on March 30th. In a short session devoted primarily to budgeting for education, it wasn’t expected that major reform legislation would tackle the water supply problems created by the Swinomish and Foster cases. Two of the bills dealt with specific…

Save the Date – KCBA CLE on March 31, 2016

Tom will be speaking at a King County Bar Association CLE on March 31, 2016 in Seattle.  The half-day seminar covers environmental issues involving drought and fire, and also features Mitch Friedman of Conservation Northwest, Dr. Crystal Raymond of Seattle City Light, Peter Dykstra of Plauche and Carr LLP, and Sharon Haensly of the Squaxin Island Tribe. Tom’s one-hour topic is “The Impact…

Upcoming Seminars and Speaking Engagements

Tom will be speaking at three upcoming seminars on water rights topics. On Thursday, April 14, 2016, at 10:30 to 11:30 a.m., Tom will address the Washington Association of Sewer & Water Districts at the Yakima Convention Center in Yakima, Washington on the topic, “Water Availability and Permitting Issues.” On Thursday, June 16, 2016, at 3:00 p.m., Tom will co-instruct on the subject…

Summary Judgment Denied in Bassett Case, But Four-Part Test Issue Survives to Hearing

On January 8, 2016, the Plaintiffs’ summary judgment motion in the matter of Magdalena Bassett, et al., vs. Dep’t of Ecology was argued before Judge Gary Tabor of the Thurston County Superior Court. Bassett is a declaratory judgment action challenging the validity of the Dungeness River Basin instream flow protection rule. The complaint alleges that Ecology exceeded its statutory authority in several respects,…

Potential Legislative and Regulatory Solutions to the Water Availability Train Wreck*

Preservation of the quality and quantity of water in natural rivers, streams and lakes is vital to the long-term health of our environment. The physical and legal availability of water is also essential to the economic health of our state and its diverse urban, suburban and rural communities. The lack of availability of water leads inevitably to building permit moratoriums,…

Supreme Court Bruises Department of Ecology in Foster Opinion

On October 8, 2015, the Washington Supreme Court reversed a water right permit issued by the Department of Ecology (Ecology) to the City of Yelm. Two months later, the consequences of this decision are still being sorted out by Ecology, the Attorney General’s Office, and stakeholders. In the meantime, the State’s water rights permitting program has gone off the rails…

Potential Solutions to Washington State’s Post-Swinomish Instream Flow/Rural Water Supply Dilemma

 Introduction Department of Ecology officials and stakeholders have been meeting publicly for the last year to discuss post-Swinomish water allocation solutions for rural areas, but their efforts have been stymied by the lack of consensus on legislative or other solutions.[2] New ideas need to be explored and vetted to move beyond common misconceptions and a dysfunctional status quo. The state’s…

Potential Solutions to Washington State’s Post-Swinomish Instream Flow Regulation/Rural Water Supply Dilemma

Department of Ecology officials and stakeholders have been meeting publicly for the last year to discuss post-Swinomish water allocation solutions for rural areas, but their efforts have been stymied by the lack of consensus on legislative or other solutions. New ideas need to be explored and vetted to move beyond common misconceptions and a dysfunctional status quo. The state’s minimum…

2015 Water Law Seminar Agenda is Set

I am very excited about co-hosting this year’s annual  Water Law in Washington seminar by Law Seminars International. We have a stellar line up of professional speakers and will cover numerous current issues of interest to water law practitioners, water users and resource managers. Beginning with an optional “Water Law 101” presentation on the fundamentals of water law, the conference will have a special focus…