Fawn Sharp, in her July 29, opinion piece, complains that the state Senate Republican Caucus is holding the Capital Budget hostage in its attempt to “fix” the state Supreme Court’s October 2016 Hirst decision dealing with water rights and use issues. Actually, the Senate Republican Caucus should be applauded for taking a stand against a court decision that is basically “legislating from the bench,” bad legislation at that. It’s another demonstration of this court’s “cracks” in its discipline to refrain from “legislating from the bench.”
As pointed out by Sharp, the Hirst decision shifts the “onus” of water right and use issues from the Washington Department of Ecology, where it has resided for several decades, to the counties statewide. Now, I expect that property owners, developers and other “customers” that have worked with Ecology on various water issues have not enjoyed a particularly pleasant experience, but at least the department’s guidelines and protocols are, or should be, applied and interpreted fairly consistently across the state. Shifting this responsibility to the counties, most of which likely do not have the qualified personnel or funding to deal with these issues, seems to me is going to create some real problems for landowners, developers, counties, municipalities, water districts and anyone else standing in line to get these issues resolved. The counties now have to deal with another unfunded mandate.
You would think the Senate Democrat Caucus would foresee the potential problems and chaos the Hirst decision will create and get aboard to “fix” it, even if it was stand alone legislation. So who is at fault for holding up the Capital Budget?
Futurewise, one of the environmental industry litigation firms, led, and most likely promoted, the litigation that led up to Hirst. It makes a practice of suing legal jurisdictions if it does not like the decisions emanating from them or just to explore an opportunity to make some money for environmental causes. Under Hirst, instead of only having one jurisdiction to target for litigation, it will generate a potential of 39 targets. Like switching from a single shot to a shotgun for duck hunting.
Futurewise, along with most other environmental organizations, have fallen in line with the environmental industry decision decades ago to pick the Democrat Party as their political party of choice. In an article by a University of Texas professor I read several years ago, he pointed out that a ”disgruntled environmentalist is a disobedient politicians worst enemy.” Maybe that is the “monkey” on the back of the Democrat Caucus, and not the welfare of its constituents.
Water conservation, although used as the excuse for the Hirst litigation, is not the real objective. Attacking rural development (building a home on your 10 acres 10 miles off the state highway) and achieving more control in decisions relating to those developments is the goal.
As the leader of a tribal government it is easy for Fawn Sharp to cheer for laws and onerous and intrusive rules and regulations promulgated by state, county and municipal governments as most tribal lands are exempt from their application.
Harold B. Brunstad