Washington’s water law includes a principle that a water right is perfected, defined, and maintained through beneficial use. The expression “use it or lose it” is sometimes applied to describe this western water law principle. Put simply, a water right may be wholly or partially lost through extended periods of non-use. The return of unused water to the state is called relinquishment. The purpose of relinquishment is to ensure that Washington’s limited water sources are put to maximum beneficial use for all of Washington’s citizens. To keep it simple, 5 or more successive years of non-use causes relinquishment unless you have good cause for said non-use. There are several categories described in RCW 90.14.140 that forgive the non-use.
On June 18, 2015 before Federal Judge Ricardo Martinez the argument to dismiss the case ofNorthwest Environmental Advocates was heard. Jack, Amber, and Toni went over to Seattle as WCA is an intervenor in the case. WCA has hired Western Resource Legal Clinic, a pro bono clinic based out of Lewis and Clark, to represent them in this case.
There was a great turnout tonight at the WCA Executive board meeting. A number of issues were discussed, including the brand program revenue, ADT, Sage Grouse and much much more. Go to Jack’s blog to see more. http://www.washingtoncattlemen.org/jacks-blog/
June 4, 2015 – 1:00 pm
With standing room only, every seat in the room filled, the regular meeting of the AG & WATER QUALITY ADVISORY COMMITTEE MEETING was called to order on June 4, 2015 – 1:00 pm in Sprague, WA. Vic began the meeting as Co-Chair, but let the body of the committee know that this was his last meeting as chair; Aaron Goliday ended the meeting as the new Co-Chair.
Subcommittee Guidance Document:
Exclusion is not the only way to reach goals, but it is the suggested method by DOE. The word “fence” was removed from the document. Tribal interests have not engaged on the document so it may be pushed back.
The document will be sent out to anyone interested, as well as the staff. It will also go out on the web as we want as much distribution as possible.
Note that this is a living document allowing for change.
Ecology’s Watershed Evaluations:
The Evaluations took place March 16 – 25, 2015. DOE identified 262 sites as “concerned”, with a varied range of severity. We will be sending out 20 letters as a result and 10 thank you letters will also be sent out. In checking with CD’s, it was determined that 16 letters are to be sent out directly to the producers. Templates of these letters will be on the website.
Approximately 24 dozen tillage sites were identified as concerning to DOE, included some construction, as well as some dredge site activity.
There is a 60-day window to get the findings out after the evaluation process. DOE missed the timing this year to be able to present the first group to the DOE. The letters will be more specific on the issues.
Also accomplished were 3 public workshops held, 8 meetings with CD’s, a blog, CD newsletters written, ecology website updated, A CD-hosted workshop was held in Asotin in February of this year. DOE is planning follow-up workshops for early July 2015.
DOE information on the website provides the public with data. Improved recordkeeping, increased efficiency and faster response time is necessary and possible due to the mobility of technology. Mobile GIS research is to include base map, photos, field data, bread-crumb-trail, example BMP site, evaluation area, etc. Not included are names, address, phone numbers, parcel data, email address and follow-up data from DOE. WCA did not support having all of this information on the website. Although this information is accessible to the public through freedom of information, WCA has taken the position that only some of this information should be on the website as pictures are a snapshot in time and may not reflect what sites currently look like. Anyone that wants that information should have to request it.
Updates: In the CAFO permitting development, DOE will consider the Consent Decree entered in the Yakima Dairy case litigation as the consent decree has what DOE considers to be some positive points. Comments on the non-point source update were due this month – June 5th. WCA submitted excellent comments that were drafted by our intern then firmed up prior to submission.
The Clean Samish Initiative has stalled; stakeholders decided to do a 90-day push to make some progress.
WOTUS: DOE does not think that EPA jurisdiction really changes and will maintain business as usual. The EPA has not been specific, but DOE feels that the 296 pages does not really change how Washington will govern the permitting process and overseeing of federal waters in Washington. WCA does not agree with this stance, but needs to take the wait and see approach. Clearly with the expanded definition of Waters of the US including connectivity, the jurisdiction of the Federal government is in fact expanded and this is not a positive for landowners.
NRCS – The natural water quality initiative. Funding watershed improvements is mostly lagoon issues, but could eventually impact ranchers.
Round Table Discussion:
All DOE Advisory Group members were asked to participate and come up with issues for the next meeting. WCA, through Toni and Jack, added to the discussion regarding the fact that investigations are complaint driven and anonymous in nature for DOE and that needs to be explored on how DOE deals with these complaints. Many landowners are being targeted using this complaint process. This process needs to be fair, equitable, and transparent in nature and not a tool to try and get neighbors in trouble with DOE.
Best management is by principle not practice and DOE needs to stick to guidance and allowing landowners to have tools available to rectify any problems, not mandate how to solve problems. Director Bellon did state that she will not mandate no-till farming which was a relief to many people in the audience.
The Northwest Environmental Advocates vs. EPA is June 18th.
Next Meeting: The next meeting be held in Yakima.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service (“the Services”), the two agencies that administer the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”), recently published a proposed rule designed to improve the content and effectiveness of the species listing petition process. The proposed rule seeks to streamline the petition process for the Services and increase the quality of petitions by eliminating multi-species petitions and requiring petitioners to coordinate with the state agencies in locations where each species lives.
For more info click on their link:
By; Matthew Weaver
CRESTON, Wash. — Four Eastern Washington ranchers say they’re concerned they will lose their private property rights if they sign a voluntary agreement designed to protect them from legal repercussions if something happens to a sage grouse on their property.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is finalizing a Washington state candidate conservation agreement with assurances — called a CCAA — for ranchers to take measures to protect sage grouse on their property. Consultation and conservation planning division manager Bridget Moran said the agency is negotiating with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and Washington Cattlemen’s Association to finalize the agreement for publication and public comment.
Creston, Wash., rancher Dawn Nelson says she would have to reduce her herd of more than 120 by roughly half if she were to sign up because of a rotational grazing requirement in the CCAA.
“They say it’s voluntary to sign up, but if you don’t sign up and you happen to have a bird die on your place or an accidental take, they can come back and sue you,” Nelson said.
Other sticking points in the draft agreement for Nelson and her neighbors include:
• Avoiding vehicular activity unless essential within 4 miles of occupied “leks,” an area where birds gather during the breeding season to attract mates, between February and July.
• Avoiding harvest within 4 miles of active leks between April and August.
• Limiting activity two hours before sunset and two hours after sunrise within 1.5 miles of an active lek.
• Allowing the department to access the farmer’s land with prior notification.
Nelson said the agreement may work for some ranchers, but she and several neighbors are not inclined to sign up.
“That’s a great idea, but I don’t know how they can enforce that on private landowners,” she said. “I would rather be the owner of my land and not a permittee. Within seven pages of this draft, you become a permittee on your own private ground.”
Moran said the plan uses an example found to be successful in Oregon. The agency has made adjustments to its drafts based on feedback from ranchers, she said.
“Many from the ranching community in other parts of the range have found them to be something they can incorporate into their business practices without tremendous difficulty,” she said. “We’re hoping we’re able to do that here as well.”
Washington Cattlemen’s Association executive vice president Jack Field said the latest draft is an improvement over original drafts and focus more on landowner concerns.
Field said the agreements have to provide enough protection and assurance to justify the expense for ranchers.
“We want to make sure we can create the best possible tool to provide the greatest level of protection not only to landowners but also to the bird,” he said.
Incidental take is a concern if the sage grouse are eventually protected under the Endangered Species Act, Field said.
“‘Take’ doesn’t have to mean a dead bird, take could simply mean adverse modification of habitat,” he said.
Nelson wonders who makes the determination over whether a farmer’s activity within range of a lek is needed.
“They call it ‘unnecessary,’ but who decides what’s unnecessary?” Nelson said.
“What farmer does anything unnecessary?” asked Dennis Jessup, one of Nelson’s neighbors in the Wilbur-Creston area. Jessup runs 200 cows, but said he’s not sure how much he’d have to cut until he knows for sure what the agreement seeks.
“Everybody wants the sage grouse to be around,” neighboring rancher Michele Rosman said. “I think what we know works and what they think works is two completely different things, and we’re not going to bend over for that. If we thought they could manage theirs, that’d be different. But they can’t manage theirs, so what makes them think they can manage ours?”
“I don’t think the cattle is the problem here,” Nelson said, noting there are coyotes, wolves, hawks, owls and eagles all around. “They’re going to have to be able to control the predators and keep these grouse alive. You can’t put this on the cow, because I have never seen a cow eat a sage grouse. Ever.”
State Nonpoint Source Plan: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wq/nonpoint/NPSplan.html…