In a very recent decision, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that the Department of Ecology does not have the authority to reallocate water for new beneficial uses when the requirements for appropriating water for these new uses cannot otherwise be met. The Court’s opinion in Swinomish Indian Tribal Community v. Washington State Department of Ecology can be found here.
The case stems from a 2001 Instream Flow Rule, which established minimum instream flow requirements for the Skagit River Basin. The 2001 rule prohibits water for new uses when stream flows fall below the minimums established by the rule. Skagit County and others opposing the rule maintain that the rule effectively precludes new development that requires a year round water supply (i.e. homes, businesses, agriculture, etc.)
Contact Heather Wolf for more information.