The Tri-City Herald urges lawmakers to get to work on water rights. The Lens reports negotiations are continuing on Hirst fix.

On the last day of July and after the end of a record-long legislative session, lawmakers continue to be urged to make one last push to finish their work.

The Tri-City Herald editorial board writes,

Our state Legislature still has a lot of critical work to do.

Yet, after three extra sessions, lawmakers adjourned July 20 without settling two vital pieces of legislation: A $4 billion, two-year capital budget and a countermeasure to new, disastrous restrictions on rural water rights.

It took a select, bipartisan squad of lawmakers to negotiate a compromise on massive school funding reforms before they could approve an operating budget this year.

That same strategy ought to be used to settle this latest standoff between House Democrats and Senate Republicans. Then, once an agreement is reached, Gov. Jay Inslee should call lawmakers back to vote on both proposals. It would be a record-setting, fourth legislative session — but it would be worth it.


The editorial points out that lawmakers must deal with water rights. The capital budget is not the sticking point

Two hundred years of Western water rights history was tossed away last October when the state Supreme Court ruled — in what is now commonly known as the Hirst decision — that counties, in compliance to the state Growth Management Act, must bear the burden of ensuring there is enough water available before new wells can be drilled, otherwise building permits cannot be issued.

We understand that too many wells could lead to a shortage of water, and we must protect the instream flow of creeks and streams. It makes sense to monitor and regulate our limited water supply.

But previously, the state Department of Ecology had that responsibility — and the system worked well enough…This water rights conundrum caused by the Hirst decision needs to be sorted.

The good news, The Lens reports, is that negotiations to fix Hirst are continuing.
Even though the legislature adjourned … without a solution to the 2016 Supreme Court Hirst decision or passage of a capital budget, lawmakers are continuing stakeholder discussions in an attempt to reach agreement…

“I believe there are people operating in good faith and trying to get this fixed as soon as we can,” said [State Rep. Jim] Walsh. “I think most of the four corners want this done. I think it’s a vocal few who are trying to throw barriers up, and I don’t want to let that few hijack the process.”

Walsh added that he expects lawmakers to wrap up negotiations with stakeholders within the next 30 to 45 days before being called back to vote on the session’s loose ends.

As we wrote in today’s newsletter, a resolution to this impasse should be within reach. We wish the negotiators well.