Serving Franklin County, WA

Water rights should remain private, local

Under the guise of water conservation, the state Department of Ecology is once again moving to take water rights from farmers, ranchers and other private holders.

Last month, the agency announced plans to fund creation of local “water banks,” in addition to the state “water bank” already in existence.

The agency says the program helps municipalities buy water rights from private owners. It has set $14 million aside for the program.

The goal, agency spokesman Jimmy Norris said, is to “preserve water supplies for local use.”

But nothing could be further from the truth.

If you read the fine print, accepting the funds and creating a local water bank would require one-third of all water purchased to be dedicated to in-stream use, which is managed by the state. To get to the point, the agency wants to control more water for its overtly environmental activist agenda.

The state already has a large “water bank.” And state agencies don’t need any more of our water – the lifeblood of Eastern Washington agriculture and recreation.

Once water rights move from private to public ownership, water designated for in-stream use will be off limits for local use.

Need water for your cattle? Or how about irrigation of your fields? You may be able to get some water back, but a third will have already been flushed down the river and dedicated for use as some Western Washington bureaucrat sees fit.

The state may claim its needed to sustain salmon for Puget Sound orca pods to eat. Or, at a later date, the state could even choose to sell that in-stream water to larger cities growing downstream – such as the Tri-Cities or Vancouver.

Instead of coming after private water, again, the state Department of Ecology should focus the funds it has on cleaning up Puget Sound.

Rep. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy, notes in her new ORCA plan, that west side communities are flushing thousands of gallons of sewage into the Puget Sound. I know, I know, $14 million isn’t likely enough to make a real difference. But halting any wastewater flow into the Sound will do more for salmon in our state than taking a third of the water away from farmers, ranchers and others in our neck of the woods.

Norris says water supplies statewide are “increasingly scarce.” But they wouldn’t be if the state’s current water bank worked and if metropolitan areas would manage growth more effectively.

Washington’s long battle over water rights, especially here in Eastern Washington, are a direct result of the state’s inability to manage the water it already controls. The problems are exacerbated by our state’s allowance of selling water for downstream use.

Rural Eastern Washington residents would do well to tell their local municipalities to ignore Ecology’s new program and forego the $14 million.

Water rights need to remain private, and local.

--Roger Harnack is the publisher of Free Press Publishing. Email him at [email protected].

Author Bio

Roger Harnack, Publisher

Author photo

Roger Harnack is the co-owner/publisher of Free Press Publishing. Having grown up Benton City, Roger is an award-winning journalist, photographer, editor and publisher. He's one of only two editorial/commentary writers from Washington state to ever receive the international Golden Quill. Roger is dedicated to the preservation of local media, and the voice it retains for Eastern Washington.


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