After last year’s legislative deadlock that failed to adopt either a fix to rural water availability or a capital budget, the Washington State Legislature made quick work of a compromise bill, ESSB 6091, which was the first bill signed into law in the 2018 session. The bill has many features, including:
- It requires updates to several watershed plans and new watershed restoration and enhancement (WRE) plans in multiple watersheds;
- It allows counties and cities to comply with GMA relating to surface and groundwater protection by relying upon applicable minimum instream flow rules, effectively overruling the Hirst decision in most watersheds;
- It grandfathers wells that were drilled prior to the January 19, 2018 effective date in all but a few watersheds but with lower daily volumes;
- Pending development of required WRE plans and rules, it establishes a $500 fee for building permits based on exempt wells with a maximum 950 gallons per day per connection;
- It establishes a watershed restoration and enhancement account, with new bond authority and the intention to appropriate $300 million over 15 years for streamflow enhancement projects; and
- It establishes a Joint Legislative Task Force to develop and recommend a mitigation sequencing process that may resolve mitigation availability issues from the Foster v. Yelm case, and directs Ecology to process water right applications for five pilot projects using a new mitigation sequencing standard.
I am preparing a more detailed article on ESSB 6091, which will be published here in the coming weeks.
 ESSB 6091, Ch. 1, Laws of 2018.