OLYMPIA, Wash. - It's conservation, fishing and tribal groups against
real estate developers today, as the Washington Supreme Court hears
arguments about a water rights law passed by the legislature seven
years ago. Environmental groups say the 2003 Municipal Water Law is
unconstitutional, giving some cities and developers access to more
water than they need or use.
The groups' attorney, Janette Brimmer with Earthjustice, says it allows for more sprawl and speculation.
"That's contrary to Washington law, which basically says you've got to
put it to beneficial use, you have to do so with due diligence. You
can't just sit on water rights and save them for your own benefit, and
maybe try to sell them at a higher price later. That's the kind of
thing that can happen."
Brimmer says the legislature interfered with some existing water rights
when it passed the law, which has affected streamflow, endangered
salmon and other water users.
"It's pretty clear there's not enough water resources to go around and
that makes it even more important that we manage what we have carefully
The developers and the State Department of Ecology contend that cities
and builders have the right to plan for excess capacity and growth.
Both sides agree that the case is critical to future decisions about
water use in the state, and that the state Supreme Court is the right
place to make the call.
Case will be heard at 9:30 a.m. today at the State Supreme Court Bldg., 415 12th Ave. S.W. in Olympia.