Rep. Kretz proposes Hirst equity bill: The One Washington Water Act

“My bill will do more…than the Puget Sound Partnership has done in its entire existence.”

Rep. Joel Kretz, Seventh District (R-Wauconda)

OLYMPIA…House Republican Deputy Leader Joel Kretz introduced The One Washington Water Act today. The proposal is designed to break the legislative logjam and provide a balanced application to the so-called Hirst decision.

Rep. Joel Kretz (7th District)
Rep. Joel Kretz (7th District)

Kretz, R-Wauconda, said the potential Hirst solutions and policies coming from Democrats and environmentalists should be applied to large municipalities as well.

“Water equality is the goal,” said the Seventh District Representative. “I don’t necessarily think all of these ideas are viable solutions; I’m just giving politicians the ability to prove that spouting ‘One Washington’ is more than just empty rhetoric and calculated placating.”

Kretz’s legislation, House Bill 2772, takes many of the policies found in various Hirst proposals from Democrats and combines them into an omnibus water bill that sets new standards for cities with more than 100,000 residents.

“The Hirst decision has certainly increased the debate around maintaining adequate instream flows for fish,” said Kretz. “I think it’s time we expand this debate beyond rural wells; let’s bring in the real culprits – the ones that have the most impact on our state’s water: large cities and heavily populated counties.

“I’ve never quite understood why environmentalists and tribes are going after the small rural land owner when they could be going after the really big fish, like King County and Seattle,” Kretz continued. “On one hand you have formerly permit-exempt wells that the head of the state Department of Ecology says if you shut them off it would be ‘imperceptible’ to instream flows. On the other hand, you have thousands of new water and sewer connections each year in King County alone. Not to mention the millions of gallons of raw sewage routinely dumped into Puget Sound. Seems like a no-brainer to include them in the Hirst debate.”

Provisions of the One Washington Water Act include:

  • Before a building permit can be issued, the city must conduct an environmental impact statement (EIS) in order to evaluate the past, present and future environmental impacts of the proposed water withdrawals. The study must include potential impacts on instream flows; impacts on Pacific salmon populations; impacts on water availability in any water resource inventory areas in which the source for the city’s domestic water supply may be located, and; any impacts ontribal treaty fishing rights. In addition, each federally recognized tribe that has either reservation land or a usual and accustomed harvest in the area where the water being drawn is located must also approve the EIS.
  • New single-family homes shall not be allotted more than 350 gallons per day and multi-family dwellings shall not receive more than 150 gallons per day, unless paying a fee of one dollar per gallon over these established daily limits. Collected fees will be used for habitat restoration and enhancement.
  • Each applicant for a building permit must provide evidence of an adequate supply for the intended use of the building. An application for a water right shall not be sufficient proof of an adequate water supply.
  • A municipal water supplier must implement a cost-effective water conservation plan in accordance with existing state law as part of its approved water system plan, including:
    • A description of the projects, technologies, and other cost-effective measures that comprise its water conservation program;
    • A list of the improvements in the efficiency of water system use resulting from implementation of its conservation program over the previous six years; and
    • An estimation of the projected effects of delaying the use of existing inchoate rights over the next six years through the addition of further cost-effective water conservation measures before it may divert or withdraw further amounts of its inchoate right for beneficial use.
    • A municipal water supplier may not supply water in a way that results in discharged water being released into a water resource inventory area that is different from the resource area in which the water originated.

“In most cases throughout rural Washington, water being used from permit-exempt wells is treated through infiltration from on-site septic systems and then returned to the same area,” said Kretz. “The aquifers are being recharged in most cases.

“But many large cities syphon their water from higher up in the watershed and then discharge that water into large-scale treatment plants that dump into Puget Sound. This is a wasteful practice that doesn’t recharge the aquifers and often results in millions of gallons of untreated grey water or raw sewage gushing into Puget Sound,” Kretz continued. “It’s time we change that. My bill will do more to clean up Puget Sound than the Puget Sound Partnership has done in its entire existence.”

Because it contains an emergency clause, Kretz’s bill will go into effect once the governor signs it.

“If we’re really going to talk about ‘One Washington,’ we need to do it with something as important as access to water,” said Kretz. “Some of the so-called Hirst solutions we’re seeing put forth would cripple rural economies and stifle any chance at future economic growth.

“I’m sure some will be tempted to decry the One Washington Water Act as just a messaging bill,” said Kretz. “It’s only a messaging bill if those attacking rural Washington get the message. Will they realize and admit their draconian proposals are killing those of us who live in, invest in, depend upon, and thrive in the very ‘nature’ they’re trying to preserve? We’ll see.”