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Past Issues

Whatcom Watch Online
Water Rights and Candidates

January 2015

Twenty Years Ago

Water Rights and Candidates

To celebrate over 20 years of publishing Whatcom Watch, we will be publishing excerpts from 20 years ago. David M. Laws has been generous enough to volunteer to review the Whatcom Watch from 20 years ago to find suitable material to reprint. The below excerpts are from the January, 1995 issue of Whatcom Watch.

Water Rights: What’s All the Fuss?

by Doug McChesney

One of the most daunting issues confronting local government as they plan for growth is water supply. With water seemingly everywhere, particularly in Western Washington, why should local governments be concerned about water supplies and water rights for the future?

The answer is simply that what has been the case for many years in the rest of the west has finally caught up with Washington. There isn’t enough water to satisfy the needs of all who want to use it. And local government is just one of the many players in the game.

State law requires that anyone using water, except small amounts of ground water, have a water right. However, unless local government is itself a water provider, it generally has little or no knowledge of the water rights held by whoever does provide water service.

The Growth Management Act (GMA) changed all that. By mandating the communities plan for projected levels of growth, the GMA prompts the question of where the water will come from to provide for that growth. Agencies planning for growth find themselves faced with the need for certainty about the availability of water to sustain it.

That’s were the state Department of Ecology fits in. The department’s Water Resources Program administers the state’s Water Code, which includes making decisions on water right applications and issuing and tracking water right permits and certificates.

The program also works closely with other state agencies in reviewing water system plans developed by purveyors to provide future growth-plans that local governments need to consider as part of their growth management planning. A cornerstone of any water system plan is the legal right to the water necessary for growth.

Increased attention resulting from several water-short years and changes in funding have led the Water Resources Program to reexamine past practices and explore innovative ways to accomplish its mission. As Water Resources Program Manager Carol Flaskes put it, “The times are changing and we need to change along with them. We are looking for approaches that work, not ones that simply keep us limping along.”

As part of its adjustment the program has begun a major initiative to assess the potential watersheds to provide additional water for future growth rather than assess individual applications. Included in these assessments will be compilations of existing water rights. Assessments need to be conducted before Ecology can make decisions on new water right applications for an area. Ecology is seeking the cooperation of other parties to conduct such assessments and invites willing local governments to participate in producing assessments for their areas.

In the meantime, local governments need to work with water providers as they plan to accommodate growth in their areas. Water utilities, even those that feel they have room to grow, should contact Ecology for assistance in verifying the extent of their water rights.

Likewise, local governments and others with questions or concerns about water rights or watershed assessments should contact the Ecology regional office ….

Wanted: Candidates to Run for the Whatcom Conservation District

Registered voters — please be aware of the upcoming full county election for a supervisor position for the Whatcom County Conservation District. The elected supervisor would assist in the planning of the district’s programs that help farmers and educate citizens, young and old, about land and water issues.

Unfortunately, the position has not, as yet, had any candidates register. Please, anyone who knows about running a farm or who owns a farm, consider running. As Whatcom Whatch readers know, land and water issues are paramount in these global warming times. If you know of someone interested in running for the election, pass the information on. Big and small farmers and farm managers may apply. The candidate filing deadline is January 30, 2015 at 4 p.m.1

Details about the election are on the WCD website and below:

Notice of Election

Poll-site election will be held on March 10, 2015 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Whatcom Conservation District office, 6975 Hannegan Road, Lynden, WA.  Registered voters who reside in Whatcom County are eligible to vote.

Election Ballots

Absentee ballots are available upon request by registered voters, but must be requested by 4 p.m. on February 9, 2015.  Absentee ballots must be returned to district office or post marked no later than March 10, 2015 by 6 p.m.

Candidates Desired 

All conservation district supervisors are public officials who serve without compensation and who set policy and direction for the WCD. Candidates must be registered voters residing within Whatcom County and may be required to own land or operate a farm. The candidate filing deadline is January 30, 2015 at 4 p.m. 

To request a candidate form, absentee ballot or for election procedures call (360) 354-2035 x 5, visit the office or check the website at

 Request an absentee ballot using the online form.



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