More editorials call on Legislature to pass water rights fix and adopt a capital budget.

The Legislature’s unfinished business continues to draw editorial board interest.  (We wrote about earlier editorials here and here.)

The Spokesman-Review editorial board writes,

The Senate Majority Coalition has decided to draw a line in the sand, saying it won’t vote on the capital construction budget unless lawmakers agree to a Hirst fix.

…An overwhelming majority of lawmakers want to see these projects and others go forward, but Senate Republicans have a point: The Legislature needs to solve this problem now, because it will be too easy for urban-centric lawmakers to ignore it in the future.


The editorial points out the importance of a permanent fix.

House Democrats have offered a 24-month reprieve under which landowners could drill wells while lawmakers worked on a permanent solution. But the corrosive effects of uncertainty would still affect rural development. Plus, the Legislature has demonstrated many times that delay turns into distraction or indifference.

The governor has said he would call a special session if lawmakers reached a Hirst deal, which would free the capital budget. Lawmakers should keep working on a compromise while the issue has their undivided attention.

The Daily News asks, “What’s taking so long?

Rural residents are caught in a tug of war. We need a permanent fix that allows our economy to grow.

…So while the House left without having a vote on Hirst, they also left without a vote on a capitol budget. What’s going to happen to our state without this budget? Will we lose money for road improvements? What about the school districts who have bonds coming up for vote in the fall? Without a capitol budget, the state monies school districts rely on for improvements is not approved.

We have all lost in this failure by our Legislature.

The Columbia Basin Herald reports on how Hirst is affecting development in Grant County. And it’s not straightforward.

…while Grant County officials want the state legislature to undo the Hirst Decision, they are also clear the effect on Grant County is very limited.

“We decide how it applies to Grant County,” said Damien Hooper, Grant County planning director. “It affects water law in Washington, but the circumstances in Grant County are different. The facts in Hirst don’t apply to Grant County.”

That’s because,

… the Hirst ruling only appears to apply to counties with “instream flow rules” designed to ensure enough water for fish, wildlife, and surface water (rivers and streams) rights holders. Twelve of Washington’s 39 counties — including Grant and Adams — have no such rules.

And so no know seems to know if or how Hirst will apply to a very dry county like Grant, according to Brook Beeler, communications manager with the Department of Ecology in Spokane.

Yet the county wants certainty.

Still, while Grant County residents appear to be able to continue drilling permit-exempt wells, everyone involved wants a legislative fix that resets Washington water law statewide to the pre-Hirst standard.

“Sen. Warnick’s bill is spot-on,” Hooper said. “We’re waiting to see what the legislature does.”

Because there’s a grim sense that if it isn’t fixed, a court decision constraining water use in soggy Whatcom County will eventually limit water use in the desert that is the Columbia Basin.

“At some point, it will,” said County Commissioner Richard Stevens.

While we are trying to remain optimistic that negotiations will result in a fix that can be adopted in a short special session next month, the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin reports local legislators are skeptical. Time is drawing short.