The state Senate today approved legislation introduced by Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, to address water issues in the Skagit Valley. Senate Bill 6589 would direct 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. The proposal was approved unanimously and now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
“Residents of the Skagit Valley need relief,” said Bailey. “Water storage may be a viable option for our area for those who have spent years with uncertainty about their ability to access water. This legislation directs the Department of Ecology to explore options for the people in our region.”
Bailey’s legislation 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.
“Approving this bill is about fairness for families of my district who followed the rules but are still being negatively affected,” said Bailey. “This will set up a process that engages stakeholders to find a long-overdue solution to Skagit’s water challenges.”