Shea opposes bill that imposes new fees on water rights applicants
Measure originally intended to expedite water applications now requires more fees with no guaranteed progress
Water rights applicants who've waited for years for permit approval will have to pony up even more money without any assurance of progress in their applications under a bill that was approved Thursday in the House of Representatives. The vote was 51-47.
Vigorously opposing the amendment and then the final bill was 4th District Rep. Matt Shea, who said Senate Bill 6267 would create great hardships, especially in Eastern Washington where farmers rely on water as their economic lifeblood.
The amended bill reads: “Each person who holds a water right permit application. . . that is pending at any time between the effective date of this section and June 30, 2011, must remit a one-time fee of $200 to the department (Department of Ecology) to retain an application in good standing.”
“So what happens if you cannot pay? Your application moves to the back of the line even if you have been waiting for 25 years. This is going to disproportionately hurt Eastern Washington,” said Shea, R-Spokane Valley. “It doesn't matter if people have worked in good faith to meet all the requirements, they would still have to pay. That's punishing people for doing the right thing.
“This represents a dramatic change in Washington's water law. It also appears to set the stage for metering all wells in the state,” he added.
“There's an old saying that 'whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting.' These applicants have been fighting for years for expedited approval and now we have a bill that says they're going to have to pay even more while they wait,” said Shea. “The Department of Ecology has not been responsive to the citizens it is supposed to serve. Instead, it's been finding every excuse in the book to drag its feet. And now this Legislature is raising fees to give them more money? That's outrageous!”
The measure goes back to the Senate for approval of the House amendment.
CONTACT: John Sattgast, Senior Information Officer: (360) 786-7257
###Washington State House Republican Communications