Skagit County Water Rights Battle


The ongoing battle of water rights continues in Skagit County – with Senate Bills 5129, 5136, & 5407 introduced by Republican Senators Bailey & Pearson. The bills, if passed, would repeal some in stream flow rules from the original 2001 ruling. 

On January 15, 2015, Department of Ecology Director Maia Bellon denied the petition to reallocate water from the Skagit river and its tributaries.  According to an article in The Skagit Valley Herald “In her response to the petition, Bellon said that finding durable, legal water solutions for homes and businesses was a priority for Ecology, and that they are “working very hard to help resolve water supply concerns for Skagit Basin residents.” 

Also mentioned in the article, Zach Barborinas representing Just Water Alliance, commented that “Ecology should set aside water first and for most for human domestic use.”

Swinomish Tribe Chairman Brian Cladoosby stated “the tribe has a high threshold for lawsuits, but if parties break an agreement with the tribe or break the law, the tribe is willing to go to court.”

The three senate bills introduced by the Senate Committee challenges the 2001 ruling of exempt wells in the Skagit river basin and its tributaries which according to Ecology and the Swinomish tribe “would adversely effect salmon habitat.”

Since rainwater collection for potable use was approved by Skagit County in 2014 for single family residence, a solution to this lengthy expensive battle could be readily at hand. Promotion, incentives, or grants for the age-old practice of rainwater harvesting should be in place to supply residences affected by this ruling. Rainwater Collection is a safe, viable source of water, and is most often a cleaner source than well water. The Department of Ecology states that rainwater collection is beneficial to in stream flow rates and salmon habitat.

Ken Blair
A rainwater collection systems designer and consultant, Ken has designed and installed residential and commercial systems, primarily in the northwest United States for more than 10 years and, in 2014, began consulting and managing builds in other states. Ken is an accredited ARCSA Professional Designer / Installer and Life Member, the Northwest Regional ARCSA representative and advisor to its education committee and is available to speak about Rainwater Collection Systems design and builds.

Ken is a United States Navy veteran, having served on active duty during the Vietnam War era.

A career entrepreneur, Ken created a new business focus with a commercial dive company in Hawaii in the mid 1980′s to respond to and clean up oil spills, oil spill equipment training, service and maintenance for the oil co-op service industry. Ken is passionate about having a positive impact on the environment and is also a founding director of BANK-ON-RAIN (2011-2014), whose mission is to create grassroots solutions for rainwater collection for consumption and agriculture in developing areas of the planet.

3 thoughts on “Skagit County Water Rights Battle”

  1. i read your article regarding the problems in Skagit county right after having read the PDF of the 2013 court ruling in question and have to comment that ecology and the tribe are now working together but initially the tribe sued ecology for overstepping bounds and trying to reserve water for various (certainly not just domestic use) future uses….future uses that would then be under the jurisdiction of ecology to allocate and administer and would bring the flow below the standard set by the Washington state legislature in rcw 90.54.020…it was determined by the court that ecology did not have the right to supersede the ” General declaration of fundamentals for utilization and management of waters of the state” or correctly define “overriding consideration of the public good”…it seems to me the tribe has been vilified for pointing out that water is precious and that, even just for our own sake, the general health of our environment may be more critical than some of the things we waste water on and that we can’t continue to take and take from a finite supply …if there are more people we simply have to figure out how to use less..

    i live in the upper Skagit and i use catchment as well as a spring so i applaud your efforts to make use of the rain to supplement our ground and surface water extraction but i feel you minimize the problem to your own disadvantage when you perpetuate the idea that this is about salmon

  2. i almost forgot to mention that the plot is even a little more convoluted by the fact that the initial rule set by ecology allowed for ” interruptible rights” for future use (this would have respected and therefore been in line with the ” General declaration of fundamentals for utilization and management of waters of the state”) but after significant pressure from Skagit county ecology had amended it to read “uninterruptible rights” …it was this amendment that was eventually challenged as being in-congruent with state policy since with the proposed volume being reserved there could not be a guarantee that the river could be ” retained with base flows necessary to provide for preservation of wildlife, fish, scenic, aesthetic and other environmental values, and navigational values.” per rcw 90.54.020…

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