Bailey water-storage and family-caregiver planning bills become law

After the conclusion of a 20-day special session, two bills sponsored by Sen. Barbara Bailey, R- Oak Harbor, were signed in a formal ceremony Friday morning.

Senate Bill 6589, which was approved near-unanimously, directs state agencies in charge of water management to study the feasibility of water storage to recharge the Skagit River basin so that users of permit-exempt wells would have year-round water.

Bailey, whose district comprises parts of Skagit County, commented, “This law is critical for communities in Skagit. I am hopeful that this feasibility study will identify a path forward for the region’s water issues.”

The new law seeks to remedy issues related to a 2013 state Supreme Court ruling. The court invalidated a 2006 administrative rule made by the state Department of Ecology that allowed the use of Skagit basin water reservations to provide uninterruptable, year-round water to property owners. As a result of the reversal, nearly existing 500 homes, numerous permitted wells on vacant lots and some businesses remain in jeopardy of losing water access. That has lowered property values by up to 90 percent, limiting the owners’ abilities to improve or sell their property.

The second bill signed into law, Senate Bill 6327, known as the CARE Act, requires hospitals and other facilities to provide family caregivers with a plan upon discharge that includes instructions on medication, wound care and injections.

“There are so many in our state who have stepped up to provide care for their loved ones,” said Bailey. “This law will ensure that family caregivers receive the instructions they need to keep loved ones healing at home.”

It is estimated that 1.25 million family caregivers provide unpaid care to loved ones valued at $10 billion annually. Bailey’s CARE Act is intended to support lay caregivers, nearly half of whom provide medical care without much training or connection to a patient’s more costly institutional care.