Hirst Decision Fixed
On January 19, 2018 Governor Inslee signed the Hirst fix legislation passed by the state legislature as SB 6091. This fixes the very troubling 2016 Washington State Supreme Court ruling known as the Hirst decision.
The Hirst decision caused chaos by adding uncertainty whether rural property owners would be able to prove water availability and get building permits for new construction. There was a lot of confusion and misinformation being spread around and many people including our local newspaper thought that property owners could no longer drill a well in Chelan County.
Chelan County was on the record as taking a wait and see attitude and continuing to issue building permits.
I often told people “If I was a betting man, I would bet that the state legislature comes up with a solution, long before Chelan County stops permitting new construction.” Looks like that was a safe bet.
The new law will have different effects in different parts of the state because it relies on water resource inventory areas (WRIAs) to categorize how decisions about water wells will be made. There are 62 WRIAs statewide.
For Chelan County in the Wenatchee River watershed, (including Leavenworth, Plain, Cashmere, Peshastin) this means no changes to the rules in place prior to the Hirst decision. Some other watersheds have new fees and some additional restrictions on withdrawals, but Chelan County does not.
Property owners in the Leavenworth area can continue to apply for building permits and can continue to drill exempt wells for domestic use. Folks interested in purchasing raw land also can be assured that they will be able to drill a well and apply for a building permit, just as they did before the court ruling.