Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: State Board Sides with WSU on Water Rights Consolidation Case

Is this a surprise to anyone? Remember, during the hearing in January, Scotty Cornelius stated, "I can't say it's because of anything WSU did ... There's not enough data for me to draw any conclusion."

Construction on the Palouse Ridge Golf Club is nearly complete. Cornelius, the Sierra Club and King Solomon's Palouse Water Conservation Network were just tilting at windmills and grandstanding for the media. Promised next stop for the aquinuts: the Washington State Supreme Court, which I'm sure will promptly decline to hear their case.


From Dnews.com:
A state hearings board has sided with Washington State University regarding the appeal of a water-right decision.

The Washington Pollution Control Hearings Board has determined the appellants did not provide enough evidence to effectively prove that the university’s water rights impairs other existing rights in the area.

The decision was rendered late last week and follows a three day January hearing regarding the university’s application to consolidate its water rights — a practice that would allow WSU to pump water through any combination of its seven wells.

The appellants — the Palouse Water Conservation Network, the Palouse Group Sierra Club and Pullman-area resident Scotty Cornelius — claim WSU’s water right consolidation will allow the university to pump more than three times as much water per year as it currently does. They argue that the university has contributed to the dropping levels in the Grand Ronde aquifer, and point to an 18-hole golf course under construction as a project that will create more drawdown of the area’s primary water source.

Cornelius, who lives outside Pullman, has said his well is decreasing at a rate of 10 inches per year.

WSU currently has the rights to operate seven wells, though two large wells pump a majority of the water needed on campus at 2,500 gallons per minute. Additional wells can be used in case of emergency.

“We conclude a preponderance of the evidence demonstrates that consolidation of WSU’s existing water rights will not impair Mr. Cornelius’ well or other existing water right holders,” the decision reads. “In the absence of impairment, we also therefore conclude that the public welfare will not be harmed by Ecology’s approval of these water changes. Finally, we conclude Ecology’s approval ... did not unlawfully ‘enlarge’ the water right represented by that permit.”

The appellants originally argued 40 issues and all but three were resolved in 2004. The remaining issues for the hearings board included whether the state’s decision would impair neighboring water rights, harm the public welfare or enlarge the university’s pumping ability beyond permit’s guidelines.

According to the decision, the three-member board does recognize that the Grand Ronde aquifer is “experiencing a long-term and troubling trend of declining water levels.” But the board members made clear in the hearings that the decision before them would have no bearing on the declining aquifer or how the state should manage groundwater in the area.

“...this case was focused on the much narrower question of whether WSU is legally entitled to consolidate it’s existing water rights in order to be able to pump its currently authorized quantities from a different configuration of wells within it’s integrated cam us water system.


April E. Coggins said...

Two appeals behind us, only one more (Wal-Mart) to go. Any day we should should get news from the Court of Appeals on that decision. I will be shocked if it goes against Wal-Mart and Pullman.

I also hope this decision finally puts to rest the fantasy that Moscow ever had a chance of overturning the Washington Department Ecology's approval of Hawkin's water rights. Moscow's city council made a wise decision to negotiate rather than continue costly litigation against their neighbors.

A1 said...

If Scotty and his buddy's would spend as much time and money helping Pullman & WSU get the water re-use project passed we would ALL be better off. I forgot, it has nothing to do with water use, they just don't like golf!