by Jim Palmer Jr. 

In a previous article, I promoted a meeting at Spokane County Water Resources which many of you attended. The sheer numbers of attendees obviously took the facilitators by surprise, since it was standing room only, leaving 50 to 60 folks packed in the hallway. The meeting was intended as a public relations outreach, allowing time for a question and answer period, which had some tense moments. I can’t blame the landowners for their frustration and anger! This topic is controversial and the current state of affairs has been particularly devastating to some land owners, but the facilitators did finally offer a glimmer of hope to affected landowners by explaining a pending solution.


As stated in an interim Spokane County Resolution, there are currently three possibilities that offer a viable detour around the Hirst Decision that has caused the halt in building permits and land sales. If you can satisfy one of the following requirements you should be able to secure a building permit in Spokane County. 1) If you can connect to any public water source. 2) If there has been an existing legal structure on the property where water has been used. 3) If the property owner can secure water rights that are valid and upstream from the property.


Spokane County officials are working on that third option and claim to be ready to become the “bank” for, and purveyor of water rights by the end of this year. That means that they are in the process of purchasing valid agricultural water rights that can be converted to domestic use and resold to landowners. These water rights will be placed in a “water bank” that will be available to the general public in different certificate “packages” that will suit a variety of scenarios. Questions still to be answered are, “How many different packages will the County offer? Indoor only, indoor and outdoor, multiple indoor and outdoor? How much will the mitigation and certificates cost (estimates are $2,500 – $4,000)? What steps will the County take to monitor, enforce and report bank performance? Will well construction requirements be required?”


While County Commissioners toil with this task, there is a possibility that legislators will create a tax that will negate the need for such measures, but it is more likely that the legislative x will include a similar strategy. Nonetheless, there is now hope on the horizon for those who have been stalled on their real estate projects by judges and politicians. It’s just that you will have to pay to play!


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