Thursday, August 15, 2019

A Yakima adjudication update

We're moving forward with water right certificates

We have been busy since May 9, when Yakima Superior Court Judge F. James Gavin entered the final decree for the state’s longest adjudication of surface water rights in the Yakima River Basin.

Folks who are a part of the Ecology v Acquavella case will or have gotten letters explaining how to file and receive certification of their adjudicated water rights.

”We are working through the approximately 2,500 water rights by tributary watersheds, known as subbasins, beginning with Subbasin No. 1, in Upper Kittitas County,” explained Trevor Hutton, water resources section manager for our Central Region.

This blog provides some important background for claimants, so please read on.

What about appeals?

As identified in the Aug. 1, 2019, Yakima River Basin water rights adjudication 'monthly notice," a number of appeals of the case have been filed with Division III Court of Appeals, related to Subbasins 16 (Upper Naches) and 23 (Ahtanum).

“This handful of discreet appeals should not interfere with the certification of water rights,” said Hutton. “We will continue to follow the original direction of the court to issue certificates, unless the agency receives a ‘stay’ from the court, suspending the process.”

Yakima River Subbasin map shows water certificate letters sent for Kittitas County. 

Making progress on certificates in Kittitas County 

So far, we have contacted more than 1,000 water-right holders, comprising most of Kittitas County in Subbasins 1-12, outlining how to record their rights with Ecology and the county where the water use resides. 

We are aware that the claimant named on the water right certificate may not be the current owner of the property. This will not affect the validity of your water right, as it is associated with your property.

While this is a bureaucratic step – it is important to record your water right to ensure the paperwork, and ownerships and properties align. Many out there have had questions about the process, and we hope this blog helps to clarify the steps.

For instance, there are recording fees associated with the certificates. Ecology’s filing fee is $50, the same as required for any water right certification. Each county has its own fee schedule. We outline the fees due in the letter water right holders receive.

Mail the checks related to the fees associated with your water rights to Ecology and we will coordinate with your individual county for final certification. When the process is complete (which after a 40-plus year case is an added workload at the courthouses so we expect it will take some time), you will receive a copy of your certified water right!

If your rights are in Subbasins 1-12 and you did not get a certified letter from Ecology or you have not responded yet, please contact our Help Desk at 509- 575-2597. We've had some letters returned as undeliverable. Your call will help us find you.

If your rights are in Subbasins 13-31, be not dismayed, those mailings will occur soon.

The final schedule of rights is available for review on our website. Beginning in 1977, the water rights case examined and prioritized thousands of individual water claims in 31 tributary basins comprising Kittitas, Yakima, and Benton counties and a bit of Klickitat County.

Celebrated case deserved a celebration!

Earlier this summer, former Gov. Christine Gregoire helped our staff; case attorneys, cities, major claimants, irrigation districts, the US Bureau of Reclamation, residents, judges and court staff celebrate the final decree -- 42 years in the making -- at Sarg Hubbard Park on the Yakima River Greenway.

The celebration marked an important milestone and showcased how an incredible partnership of government, tribes, the agricultural community and others moved the needle away from countless water disputes toward solutions for enhanced water supply for all.

Much of it the case overlapped with Gregoire’s career -- which began as Ecology director, then as Washington State Attorney General and as two-term governor of the state.

Gregoire noted facetiously she was first told the case would take “maybe 10 years,” while acknowledging the hard work put into achieving compromise and success in a basin plagued by drought and at the mercy of climate change.

View her inspiring comments, and learn about her important connection to our current director, Maia Bellon, who hosted the event, in this YouTube video.

Other speakers included Sid Ottem, former adjudication Court Commissioner, Lorri Gray, regional director US Bureau of Reclamation; and Senior Assistant Attorney General Alan Reichman.

By Joye Redfield-Wilder, Central Region communications manager

No comments: