Possible Hirst fix passes first legislative hurdle

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Emry Dinman/Columbia Basin Herald Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, and Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, at a hearing for Senate Bill 6091 Tuesday.

OLYMPIA — Washington lawmakers moved one step closer Thursday to a final legislative fix for the state Supreme Court’s Hirst decision, which has slowed or stopped new well water and building permits from being issued in counties across the state.

SB 6091, sponsored by Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, was first heard in committee Tuesday. Several amendments allowed the bill to pass through the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources and Parks Committee with unanimous bipartisan support.

Amendments centered largely around the development of water resource inventory areas (WRIAs), which would localize oversight as opposed to universal oversight from the Washington State Department of Ecology. The department’s statewide regulations had been a key sticking point during the Hirst decision.

Well permit fees were reduced by amendment from $1,500 to $500 for new building permits or subdivisions.

The amended proposal was stripped of bond authorization authority provided for in the original bill. The amended bill states that the legislature intends to appropriate $300 million for projects related to the bill until June 30, 2033.

The legislature is still far from a final solution for Hirst. The state Senate voted on several Hirst fixes during the 2017 legislative session, but none passed the House.

SB 6091 next needs to be taken up by the Senate Ways and Means Committee before it can be put before the Senate floor.

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