Your Water Rights are in Danger!

By Jeff Wright,  Citizens’ Alliance for Property Rights  info@proprights.org

To CAPR and property rights supporters,

By far,  the most significant threats currently to our property rights are coming via “water issues”.   These take many forms but the goal of those forces that want to control our property is to use water issues to that end.  Currently, Shoreline Management Plan updates in Washington State have the potential of placing extreme restrictions on all waterfront properties.  Similarly,  changes to “in-stream flow rules” in Water Resource Inventory Areas (WRIA) may adversely affect the water rights of many properties.  Also,  the Washington Legislature gave the Puget Sound Partnership tacit control of “all waters that flow into Puget Sound”,  potentially affecting a vast amount of lands.

One water issue that is flying under the radar for most people is the moratorium on new water wells.  The Washington Dep’t. of Ecology is trying to further control of property by imposing these moratoriums through technical means.  This is a golden example of how government agencies can adversely affect property through administrative actions with no direct control or recourse by the voters.  Given this situation, we felt it important to forward this open letter to interested parties.  It was written by CAPR member Merle Ash, a long time land use consultant.  Merle does a good job of bringing this issue to light.  Please use it and forward it broadly.  You may also contact Merle for further discussion and action.

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Merle Ash, Land Technologies Inc. Arlington WA 98223

360-652-9727  landtech@cedarcomm.com

Rural Landowners, You are getting this “E-letter” as someone who owns rural land or works with people that own rural land. My name is Merle Ash and I am sending this “E-letter” to help you stay informed about regulations that affect the value of your land. 

 I am a rural landowner and have worked in Land Use for several decades.  In nearly 40 years of working in land use,  I have not seen such a flurry of rulemaking that so affects our rural land values.  These regulations are restricting the use of your land while diminishing its value.  Actions are being taken that diminish our land value while at the same time our property taxes are increasing.  

This is intended to be a non-political letter providing you with information on pending or existing rules and regulations that adversely affect the use and value of your land.  We are not affiliated with any political group or do we have any specific agendas, our commonality is that we have interest in rural land.  This is solely about rural landowners staying informed on new rules and regulations that will affect the use and value of their land.

The First “ALERT”: Metered Wells, Restricted Use of Wells, and Moratoriums on new wells.

The Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) is trying to shut down and limit the use of Private Wells.  They have put a total moratorium on drilling new wells and even the use of existing wells installed since 2007 in Kittitas County.    Some new land buyers were building homes in Kittitas with approved building permits and wells already drilled; they were stopped from using these wells and occupying their homes.  That would be a devastating experience; they say Snohomish County is next.

The DOE has recently notified Snohomish and Skagit County that there will likely be a closure of “Carpenter-Fisher Creek Basins to new Water Uses”.  A moratorium is expected soon and will affect land in Snohomish County north of 310th St NE between Lake Ketchum and 12th Ave NW. Without water, land values will plummet.  Maps and rules can be seen at www.skagitcounty.net.  If you own land in the north county you need to check this map.  From conversations with the Ground Water Association and staff at the DOE, those that live in the Stillaguamish River Watershed can expect to be the next target for water withdrawal restrictions.

Please take note when viewing the DOE website or talking to someone from the DOE that they are passing out information that tends to minimize the impacts to landowners so as not to create opposition.  The strategy is that the uninformed or unaffected create no opposition.  I spent a day in Olympia last week with the Groundwater Association talking personally to our local Senators and Representatives; most have painted a very bleak picture for the future of Private Wells.  DOE fully intends to do you harm if you rely on Private Wells to service your land or home.        

While Kittitas and North Snohomish County lands are affected now,  others areas will soon be targeted for moratoriums.  An underlying agenda,  as expressed by several of our state representatives, is that DOE would like to put meters on your well(s) (including existing) with 300 to 500 gallons per day limits on withdrawal (to follow metering will likely be taxes on use).  Without access to water land values will be marginalized.  Not only will homes be excluded but so will livestock or any farming that requires irrigation.  The Stockman’s Association was in Olympia the same day I was, as the DOE was threatening to shut off water to their livestock. 

The DOE excuse for stopping Private Wells is protecting “In-Stream Flows”.  To protect Salmon there needs to be certain flows in waterways.  Per the Groundwater Association, there has been no supporting science that Wells and Septic Systems remove significant amounts of water from the Drainage Basins.  Water pumped out of the ground by a private well is typically put back in the ground through the Septic System.  More water is lost to In-Stream Flows with large urban systems intercepting water in the mountains (like Spada Lake) and “mainlining” it past the streams and rivers through the cities sewer systems and directly into the sound.  Public Water Systems removes millions of gallons of water from its drainage basin but the DOE promotes this use.   DOE has not produced credible science supporting their claim that water withdrawals from Private Wells seriously impact streams and rivers.

This Private Well issue could be the single biggest impact to rural land value to date.  You need to let your legislators know about your concerns.  Specific contact information to legislators will be coming in later E-Letters, meanwhile call me if you want that information.  http://apps.leg.wa.gov/DistrictFinder/Default.aspx will take you to a map identifying your Senator and Representative.  House Bill (HB) 2548 and Senate Bill (SB) 6536 are bills if passed would simply require DOE to provide credible science before shutting down watersheds to the use of Private Wells.  Please tell your legislators to support these bills.

Coming Topics:

  1. Critical Area Impacts and extra-ordinary buffers that seriously impact your land use and value—you do not own what you think you own.
  2. How to manage your land to minimize critical area formation and resultant losses
  3. Excessive Property Tax Assessments due to over appraisal.  How I got my Property Taxes reduced nearly 50%
  4. Forest Practice Rules that impact the small Forester.   
  5. Shoreline Management updates and how they affect agricultural landowners.
  6. Farm Ditches being designated as “Bull Trout” streams with Endangered Species buffers.  Your land is not “Your Land”.  
  7. Clearing Ordinances (to be called “Land Disturbing Activities”) will require permits for any clearing in excess of 7000 sf.
  8. Growth Management Act (GMA) and land use zoning versus Comprehensive Plan designations and how it affects the use or rural land.
  9. Rainwater Harvesting.
  10. Hidden Values in your Rural Land. 

PLEASE SHARE THIS INFORMATION WITH FRIENDS, NEIGHBORS, OR FAMILY MEMBERS THAT HAVE AN INTEREST IN RURAL LAND.  IT IS IMPORTANT WE STAY INFORMED ABOUT ACTIONS THAT AFFECT THE USE OF VALUE OF OUR LAND.  LEGISTLATORS OFTEN COUNT ON YOUR COMPLACENCY WHEN PASSING RESTRICTIVE LAND USE REGULATIONS

As a group, we can have an effective voice in protecting our rights to the use of our land and the value in that land.  Separately, we are ignored.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions, concerns, or are interested in more details.

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