Prospective homeowners in rural areas of the Skagit River Basin not served by public water systems would receive relief under legislation passed today by the Senate. Senate Bill 6312, sponsored by Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, would let new homes with on-site septic systems withdraw 350 gallons of well water a day.
“This is a good, common-sense solution for a number of property owners, several who have been ready to build homes for some time but have been stymied by state water restrictions,” Haugen said. “This has been a difficult issue for everyone involved, but we were able to bring diverse parties to the table and give everyone some say in a solution that works for all parties.”
Over a span of several months, Haugen brought the affected homeowners together with tribes, contractors, realtors and other key stakeholders along with officials representing the state Department of Ecology in a series of meetings during which they gradually negotiated a solution.
“Everyone involved in this dispute deserves credit for staying at the table throughout a very difficult negotiation,” Haugen said. “Not everyone was happy but we wound up with good public policy.”
SB 6312 further directs Ecology to use its water acquisition program to boost the flow of streams to higher levels than currently exist and improve overall conditions for fish. The agency currently maintains the flow of streams to levels adequate for fish to the extent that adequate natural stream flows exist. SB 6312 provides assurance that landowners in rural areas will have water legally available to them for home construction while providing a mechanism to offset and even improve existing flows for fish during the summer low flow periods that affect tributary streams in the basin. The bill applies only to homes in the Skagit River Basin.
SB 6312 passed on a 39-7 vote and now goes before the House.