Whatcom County residents sound off on Hirst decision, county moratorium
The County Council has approved a six-month extension of new rules for rural developments that rely on domestic wells in Whatcom County.
The decision brings the county into compliance with what has been called the Hirst fix.
Council members did so by a vote of 6-1 Tuesday night, after a public hearing. Todd Donovan voted no.
On Jan. 30, the council approved an emergency ordinance that lifted a fourth temporary moratorium it put in place in response to a state Supreme Court ruling in October 2016. Known as the Hirst decision, the ruling required the county to make sure there was enough water – both legally and physically – in streams for fish and those holding senior water rights before allowing developments that depend on what are known as permit-exempt wells.
The Hirst case originated in Whatcom County but had statewide implications.
The state Legislature passed the Hirst fix in January.
That essentially reversed the Supreme Court’s decision, allowing counties to once again rely on Washington state Department of Ecology rules for water resources and Whatcom County to start issuing building permits for projects that depend on such wells.
A six-month extension allows the county to work on permanent land-use rules.