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Legislators work for compromise on well moratorium

State Capitol. (File photo)

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- There was a reprieve Wednesday for a bill to fix the statewide water well moratorium.

It faced a 5 p.m. deadline Wednesday, but legislative leaders from both houses say it's too important. They're giving it until the end of the session to find a compromise solution.

Colby Richards is one of hundreds of property owners across the state who had plans on building homes on their property. "I've got a son who's 10, who's autistic and who does far better in nature," Richards said.

So Richards sold a suburban home and bought 7 acres of rural property in Lacey to build a dream home. Richards, "We wanted to have a place where he could grow and be at peace and flourish," Richards said.

But the State Supreme Court recently ruled in the Hirst Decision that new water preservation safeguards have to be in place before any new wells can be drilled.

There's no city water system available at Richards' property, which means no home can be built "The other problem we're faced with is to try and sell it would be near impossible," Richards said.


"And now their property for all intents and purposes worth almost nothing." said state Rep. Larry Springer, D-Kirkland.

State lawmakers say hundreds if not thousands of property owners are being hurt, and they're working to fix that.

"That compromise is currently being worked on," said Springer. "We've got people in both chambers on both sides of the aisle working somewhat feverishly to find a solution to a very serious problem."


Springer says it may include having property owners return the water they use to the underground through septic systems and rainwater catching. They may possibly have to pay a fee.

"The court overstepped its bounds, I believe," said state Sen. Shelly Short, R-Addy Senate Republicans say they should just return to the way water rights have been protected for decades where single family wells weren't considered harmful to the environment.

"We feel that ought to be honored," said Short. "We're going to work with our Democratic colleagues, but we want it to be real fix that brings resolution to the family that you interviewed."

As for Richards? "What I hope still could be. The peaceful environment for my son and my family."

The Republican Senate version (SB 5239) has passed, but it got hung up in the House. However, both parties vow some compromise will be reached by the end of the session or during special sessions if they're needed.

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