Local News and Events January 29, 2018

Good News on HIRST!

Good News on Hirst!


The Governor has signed SB6091, a REALTOR® supported bill, to fix the State Supreme Court’s Hirst Growth Management Act decision regarding water availability for new private wells.

The final Hirst legislation includes the following components:

  • For local building permit and subdivision decisions, local governments do not have to review new exempt wells for “impairment” of instream flows. This reverses the basic legal conclusion of the Supreme Court’s Hirst decision.
  • For projects in basins with Ecology-adopted exempt well limits or mitigation requirements,those rules still govern.  In other basins, specific allowances for new wells are created in statute.  The limit is 950 gallons per day average annual use per connection; other basins are up to 3,000 gallons per day; while other basins (non-GMA counties or areas with no instream flow rules) can again operate under the 5,000 gallon per day exempt well limit.
  • Certain areas of state are excluded from the bill and thus these exempt well allowances:  the Skagit Basin, and the Yakima Basin (Kittitas, Yakima, and parts of Benton County).
  • Existing wells are grandfathered, and deemed to have satisfied the requirement to have a legal water supply under the State Building Code.
  • The bill allows local governments to rely on existing Department of Ecology rules for purposes of meeting the requirements of the Growth Management Act.
  • There are no new mitigation or metering requirements tied to well construction or new building permits, and there is a one-time fee of $500.


  • Local committees are established to identify projects to offset impacts to instream flows.  The scope and composition of these committees varies by whether the county completed a Watershed Plan under the state’s Watershed Planning Act.  Local committees may recommend rulemaking changes to Ecology, but the committees themselves are not regulatory.  Ecology retains its current rulemaking authority.
  • $300 million ($20 million per year over 15 years) is allocated to fund projects and local planning efforts to restore instream flows and aquatic habitat.
  • Certain cities and water purveyors are allowed to proceed with water rights permitting, and a Legislative Task Force is established to make recommendations on how new water rights for municipal uses can be mitigated.

The attached table, prepared by the Washington Water Policy Alliance, has a basin-by-basin breakdown of the applicable exempt well allowances.

Questions on the Hirst Decision?
Email Bill Clarke, Director of Public Policy
Washington REALTORS®


WRIA disposition in Proposed SSB 6091

Source: Prepared by WWPA – January 18, 2018

# WRIA name ISF status Exempt Limit on GPD
1 Nooksack Pre 1990 Up to 3,000 gpd
2 San Juan None
3 Lower Skagit Samish Post 2001 (really pre – reverted to old rule) Yes – Ct. Dec.
4 Upper Skagit Post 2001 (really pre – reverted to old rule) Yes – Ct. Dec.
5 Stillaguamish NEW
6 Island None
7 Snohomish Pre 1990 950 gpd
8 Cedar Sammamish Pre 1990 950 gpd
9 Duwamish Green Pre 1990 950 gpd
10 Puyallup White Pre 1990 950 gpd
11 Nisqually Pre 1990 Up to 3,000 gpd
12 Chamber Clover Pre 1990 950 gpd
13 Deschutes Pre 1990 950 gpd
14 Kennedy Goldsborough Pre 1990 950 gpd
15 Kitsap Pre 1990 950 gpd
16 Skokomish Dosewallips None
17 Quilcene Snow NEW
18 Elwah Dungeness NEW
19 Lyre Hoko None
20 Soleduc None
21 Queets Quinault None
22 Lower Chehalis Pre 1990 Up to 3,000 gpd
23 Upper Chehalis Pre 1990 Up to 3,000 gpd
24 Willapa None
25 Grays Elokoman Proposed
26 Cowlitz Proposed
27 Lewis NEW
28 Salmon Washougal NEW
29 Wind White Salmon None
30 Klickitat None
31 Rock Glade None
32 Walla Walla NEW
33 Lower Snake None
34 Palouse None
35 Middle Snake None
36 Esquatzel Coulee None
37 Lower Yakima Adjudicated Adjudicated
38 Naches Adjudicated Adjudicated
39 Upper Yakima Adjudicated Adjudicated
40 Alkaki Squilchuck None
41 Lower Crab None
42 Grand Coulee None
43 Upper Crab Wilson None
44 Moses Coulee None
45 Wenatchee NEW
46 Entiat NEW
47 Chelan None
48 Methow NEW
49 Okanogan Pre 1990 Up to 3,000 gpd
50 Foster None
51 Nespelem None
52 Sanpoil None
53 Lower Lake Roosevelt None
54 Lower Spokane None
55 Little Spokane Pre 1990 Up to 3,000 gpd
56 Hangman None
57 Middle Spokane NEW
58 Middle Lake Roosevelt None
59 Colville Pre 1990 Up to 3,000 gpd
60 Kettle None
61 Upper Lake Roosevelt None
62 Pend Oreille None


BLUE NEW ISF rules (post 2001) – will follow restrictions in current Ecology rules
YELLOW OLD instream flow rules that have a watershed plan and will use watershed planning format for recommendations
GREEN OLD instream flow rules that do not have a watershed plan or have a partial plan and will use Watershed Restoration and Enhancement Committees for recommendations



WRIAs that are exempt from coverage in bill
NO COLOR No instream flow rule and no restrictions under bill – can use current law – up to 5,000 gpd