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2003 House Bill 1534
Introduced by Rep. Cary Condotta (East Wenatchee) (R) on January 28, 2003
To clarify the state's authority to regulate water pollution. The bill states that the exercise of any water right to withdraw or divert water does not constitute "pollution." The bill also stipulates that the department must rely solely on its specifically granted authority under chapters 90.03, 90.14, and 90.44 RCW to condition, limit, regulate, or control any claim, permit, or certificate to withdraw or divert water. See also Companion SB 5028.   Official Text and Analysis.
Referred to the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee on January 29, 2003
Testimony in support offered to the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee on February 28, 2003
By Representative Condotta; Mike Schwisow, WA State Water Resources Association; Kathleen Collins, WA Water Policy Alliance; Jim Miller, City of Everett; William Hahn, WA PUD Association; Scott Hazelgrove, WA Association of Sewer and Water Districts; John Kirner, Tacoma Water Utility; Hertha Lund and Mike Poulson, WA Farm Bureau; Ron Perrow; Marty Williams; and Michael Gage. They testified that the exercise of a water right cannot be defined as pollution. Methow Valley Irrigation District has received a notice of violation for discharge of pollution. The definition of pollution seems to include every property of water. The law needs to be written more precisely so that the definition of pollution includes only an actual discharge. The federal Clean Water Act and state water pollution control statutes provide sufficient authority for regulating water pollution. This bill clarifies that the water rights statutes control when an existing water right has been issued and that the water pollution control statutes govern pollutant discharges. This bill is not an attempt to overturn the United States Supreme Court decision or the DOE's ability to administer the federal Clean Water Act. Water as a property right has to be protected. The intent of the federal Clean Water Act is not to abrogate state water rights. Agency mistakes in interpreting the law can cost citizens thousands of dollars in legal fees. Human use of water is a very small percentage of the total water supply in the Methow basin. It is essential to continue surface water diversions in the Methow basin to maintain the agricultural land base and rural lifestyle.
Testimony in opposition offered to the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee on February 28, 2003
By Carl Samuelson, Department of Fish and Wildlife; David Mears, WA Attorney General's Office; Michael Moran, Center for Environmental Law and Policy; Craig Engelking, Sierra Club; and Josh Baldi, WA Environmental Council. They testified that this bill is not a balanced approach. This bill is a blunt instrument to address a fairly technical issue. The Methow Valley Irrigation District situation is the catalyst for this bill, but its provisions apply statewide. The DOE needs to retain its authority to condition federally licensed projects. This bill attempts to decouple water quality and water quantity. The connection between water quality and water quantity has been recognized scientifically, politically, and economically. The United States Supreme Court has recognized that reduction in water quantity can equal pollution under the federal Clean Water Act. The misuse of a water right can be a water quality violation. The Methow Valley Irrigation District case involved a waste of water, and that case includes both water code and water quality violations.
Referred to the House Rules Committee on March 4, 2003
But the bill did not pass the House by the cutoff date so it is considered a “dead bill” (although technically the bill could become active at any time during the 2003-2004 session).