Loosing a Water Right- yes it can happen.

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.

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UPDATE ON NORTHWEST ENVIRONMENTAL ADVOCATES V. EPA

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.

     This case was brought by Northwest Environmental Advocates to force the EPA to look to the ESA to protect listed fish species under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The CWA is just that, to protect clean water, not fish habitat. The CWA, at this time, does not have a component to protect listed fish species.  Both Timber and WCA have intervened on behalf of EPA, so both intervenors had the chance for argument on June 18, 2015.
    From a legal standpoint a motion to dismiss is hard to win as it does not take into consideration the merits of the case, only procedural issues. If there are any issues that cannot be dismissed outright, then the case continues. EPA argued that the case could not continue because Northwest Environmental Advocates has not brought their case in a timely manner and the statute of limitations has run on their claims. Timber and WCA argued that Northwest Environmental Advocates did not bring claims which could be heard before the Court as the Court had previously ruled, in similar type cases, that the CWA does not require the EPA to protect fish species. Both intervenors argued case law, and WRLC, on behalf of WCA, also argued the logistics of trying to combine ESA into the CWA. The time frames alone for both to be considered do not mesh. Northwest Environmental Advocates argued that nonpoint source pollution is not being controlled by EPA  and poses a huge risk to fish species if these fish are not considered under the CWA. The main argument for Northwest Environmental Advocates was if EPA does not consider ESA listed fish species when enforcing the CWA, EPA could potentially approve water quality standards that could kill fish. WRLC argued that the CWA is to protect clean water, the ESA is to protect listed fish species, they are not related documents and cannot be combined at the whim of Northwest Environmental Advocates.
   WRLC did a fantastic job on behalf of WCA. The Judge took all arguments under advisement and will rule at a later date. Federal Court has strict case schedules so the ruling should come quickly to allow the parties to stay on schedule with the next round of briefing.

WCA Board Meeting

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/

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NW Environmental Advocates vs EPA case

I am headed to federal court in Seattle with jack and amber as wca are intervenor in the nw environmental advocates vs EPA case on behalf of EPA regarding their ability to enforce the clean water act to protect fish listed under ESA.

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AG & WATER QUALITY ADVISORY COMMITTEE MEETING

 

Meeting Minutes

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.

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Wildlife Agencies Propose Overhaul of ESA’s Petition Process for Species Listings

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:

http://www.natlawreview.com/article/wildlife-agencies-propose-overhaul-esa-s-petition-process-species-listings