We would like to provide corrections to the April 21 story Council rejects blanket prohibition on removing water from farmland.
The two motions referred to did not propose an outright prohibition on water transfers from agricultural resource lands (as reported). The motion resulting in a 3-3 vote (which was not approved) included the provision “except where the water is put to beneficial use on other agricultural resource lands or further excepting where the water has been put to beneficial use prior to June 1, 2010, and excepting where the water transfer is authorized by (Ecology).”
The motion regarding the use of public right-of-ways (which also was not approved) did not state that such a transfer of water would be automatically denied (as reported). That motion included the provision “except when such water is put to beneficial use on other agricultural resource lands or lands within an urban growth area or activity center.”
The Water Element, as part of the Comp Plan, sets goals and policies related to water resources. The GMA requires that counties first identify resource lands and critical areas. A further step is to identify urban growth areas and activity centers (which includes villages, hamlets, residential activity centers, and master planned resorts). Agricultural resource land is identified by its capacity for long-term commercial production, and further, it is the county’s goal to ensure the conservation of such lands for existing and future generations.
Ecology regulates the waters of the state, and water laws recognize ‘first in time is first in right’. While much of the county’s Ag. resource lands are not actively irrigated today, we cannot predict the irrigation requirements for future commercial agricultural production. If all the water available in the limited aquifers within agricultural resource lands are issued in water rights for residential and commercial purposes, then the water transferred from those lands would not be available for future crop irrigation.
It is a challenge to prioritize and balance the often competing interests, needs, and requirements in our community. Where the council did reach agreement regarding the protection of water in agricultural lands – by consensus – was “Discourage the transfer of water from agricultural resource lands.” While we do not think this policy does enough to ensure conservation of water resources within agricultural resource lands for existing and future generations, it is a policy we none-the-less support.
Thank you for this opportunity to provide this information.