Moscow appeals water-right transfers in Whitman County
Development along Pullman-Moscow Highway in balance; Chaney: It's always been about water
Plans for a large-scale shopping development in the Pullman-Moscow Highway corridor hit one more snag after the city of Moscow filed an appeal Friday with Washington's Pollution Control Hearings Board.
The appeal stems from a Department of Ecology decision in October that affirmed the Whitman County Water Conservancy Board's recommendation to approve three water-right transfers to be used for the development just across the state line from Idaho.
Moscow Mayor Nancy Chaney said the appeal was not about development.
"It's always been about water," Chaney said. "If the objective is to have a sustainable water supply for Moscow and the Palouse Basin, then I think we have an obligation to say it's inappropriate to transfer water rights from distant locales to draw from the same source as our municipal supply.
"It has nothing to do with economic development and it has everything to do with water. This would set a precedent that we cannot sustain."
The Boise-based Hawkins Companies first approached Whitman County in 2005 about building a 700,000-square-foot shopping center just west of the Washington-Idaho border.
In March, the company applied to transfer 120 acre-feet, or 40 million gallons, of water to its proposed development in addition to applying to transfer 100 acre-feet of a 391-acre-feet water right to Colton in exchange for 23 acre-feet of water. The water conservancy board approved the transfers in July. The state Department of Ecology affirmed the board's approval of the water-right transfers proposed from two wells north of Pullman, along with the transfer of water from a well three miles north of LaCrosse to the city of Colton, but reversed the board's decision to approve a surface-water diversion from the South Fork of the Palouse River because the plan to "mitigate," or make up for, impacts to Paradise Creek was inadequate.
In its appeal, Moscow cited that each water right was located in two different bodies of public groundwater and the transfer would impair existing water rights, not be in the public's interest and would improperly modify the manner of the rights' intended use. The appeal also cited Ecology's failure to conduct an analysis of the average amount of water use from the rights over the past five years.
Chaney said Ecology's decision would, in theory, establish a precedent to transfer water rights from any source of water within the Wanapum formation to anywhere in the state of Washington - a prospect she described as "very scary."
Chaney said she did not hold any hard feelings toward Whitman County, but both Latah and Whitman counties had to live within their means.
"I certainly don't begrudge anyone in Whitman County their ability to strive for prosperity, but I think we must do so within the constraints of our natural resource for the sake of economic development in the future, as well as just for living," Chaney said.
The decision to appeal Ecology's decision was discussed with the City Council, Chaney said, but it was not voted on and was "not a unilateral decision."
Moscow City Councilman Bill Lambert said meetings were held regarding the Hawkins proposal and he was aware of the appeal. He added that, "We run into different points of view any time it comes up."
Lambert said Washington state is very environmentally conscious and the issue has been looked at by that state's experts. If the water-right transfers are approved, Moscow is going to have to deal with it.
"You aren't going to stop capitalism and free enterprise," Lambert said. "If they build, maybe we should see what services we can sell them."
Representatives from Hawkins Companies were unable to be reached.
No date has been scheduled for Moscow's appeal to be heard by the Pollution Control Hearings Board. If the board denies the appeal, Moscow can still appeal to the Washington Superior Court within 30 days of the board decision.
Hawkins Companies officials previously said the company hoped to begin construction as early as this fall but have not indicated how Ecology's decision and Moscow's appeal affects its plans. The deadline for appeal on Ecology's water-right decisions is Thursday.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
The Meddling Moonbat Mayor of Moscow
"It's always been about the water." Riiiiiighhhttt. Can you believe this woman? And she does all this without city council approval? How much longer until she gets out of office? If she can stop our development and affect our economic future for decades to come, then we should be able to vote in the Moscow mayoral election. And does anyone believe there will be ANY kind of cross-border cooperation on water while Moscow does this? From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News: