WA STATE GRAPE GROWERS COUNT BIG WINE IN WATER RIGHT BATTLE WITH Dept of Ecology
Water Right Relinquishment
Tri-Cities, Wash - The Benton/Franklin County Superior Court (WA) has reversed a decision by the Washington State Dept. of Ecology (Water Resources Program) to deny a water right transfer proposed by Loyal Pig, LLC. The Court’s reversal order not only reinstates the water right transfer previously approved by the Franklin County Water Conservancy Board, but in doing so prevents Ecology from usurping water law provisions protecting the water right from relinquishment.
Joining Loyal Pig in defending the water right, the Columbia-Snake River Irrigators Association (CSRIA) stressed that perhaps the most important piece of the state water code, the five-year period for relinquishment protection, was being corrupted by Ecology. CSRIA argued that water rights subjected to either a judicial adjudication or administrative determination receive a five-year “period of grace” for non-use. During this period, the full consumptive amount of the right is available for transfer. Ecology attempted to stop the water right transfer and invoke relinquishment, but the Superior Court ordered otherwise.
CSRIA Board Representative Darryll Olsen called Ecology’s actions “a profound display of poor judgement, at all technical, legal, and managerial levels. This legal fight should never have happened, and Ecology spurned attempts by CSRIA to engage in reasoned discussion with the Water Resources Program leadership.” Olsen further conveyed “that the Water Resources Program should never be attempting to use the water right change/transfer statutes as a vehicle to relinquish (take away) water rights. It totally defeats the purpose of water right transfers, water conservation actions, and water marketing.” CSRIA views the Water Resources Program’s “defensive posture” toward the County Water Conservancy Boards (RCW 90.80) as a growing problem, coupled with internal managerial/supervision issues affecting the Program.
CSRIA is pressing forward with a second phase of the Loyal Pig litigation that would block any further attempts by Ecology to pursue relinquishment actions under similar types of water right transfers—effectively invoking “illegal administrative rule making.” Loyal Pig rides on.
] Loyal Pig, LLC, is part of a water right change/transfer affecting high-value irrigated wine grape production along the Columbia River, Horse Heaven Hills area.