The Skagit Valley is no stranger to long-term water-related issues, prompting Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor to introduce legislation aimed at finding a long-term solution to the region’s water challenges. 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 to provide year-round water to users of permit-exempt wells.
“The bill simply asks that the state Department of Ecology explore whether water storage in these affected areas is a solution,” Bailey explained. “This could be a way to protect instream flows during vulnerable times and ensure that people with permit-exempt wells have access to the water they need.”
The impetus for Bailey’s legislation dates to 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. A 2013 state Supreme Court ruling invalidated the rule. That put some businesses and nearly 500 homes 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 people of Skagit are still in need of access to water,” said Bailey. “This has been a perennial issue within our legislative district; the recent drought exacerbated the problem and brought the issue to light statewide.”
“This legislation is needed to provide relief to those families and employers who acted in good faith,” said Bailey. “We have a situation where people did everything right to obtain water via wells on their property but now are unable to use them.”
Bailey added, “For years the Legislature and stakeholders have been trying to find a solution to the region’s water problems. I think this legislation will point us in the right direction.”
Bailey’s bill was approved Thursday by the Senate Agriculture, Water and Rural Economic Development Committee and is now one step closer to consideration by the full Senate.