Tag: State Rep. Vincent Buys
By John Stark
In an opinion column published here today in print and online, State Rep. Vincent Buys, R-42nd, blames partisan politics for the likely death of a water rights bill he sponsored, H.B. 1438. But information available online indicates that the bill received very mixed reviews in committee, encountering misgivings and/or opposition from the Department of Ecology, Indian tribes, environmental groups and the Washington Cattlemen’s Association.
Water rights law is not for the faint of heart. The bill seems to be an attempt to help some local farmers get their current water use practices in compliance with the law. It is complicated.
Here’s the bill summary: “Creates a new, temporary process for certain water users located in the Nooksack watershed who have transitioned to a more efficient irrigation technology to change their place of water use with the Department of Ecology.”
The summary also notes that the original version the bill was applicable statewide, but a substitute version was limited to the Nooksack watershed.
Here is a news report on the bill from the Capital Press, an agriculture news service. According to this account, the farmers who would benefit have installed water conservation measures without doing all the required water rights paperwork with the Department of Ecology, and the bill would help them fix that retroactively.
The State Legislature’s online information contains this bill report prepared by House staff, summarizing the public testimony before the Natural Resources Committee.
To summarize the summary, the following people expressed concerns, but not outright opposition:
Maia Bellon, Department of Ecology; Jack Field, Washington Cattlemen’s Association; Bruce Wishart, Center for Environmental Law & Policy and Sierra Club; andMiguel Perez-Gibson, Colville Tribes.
Here’s how the report summarizes those concerns: “The bill would be easier to support as a pilot project since there is a need to ensure that other water users are not being negatively impacted. The Department (of Ecology) currently has a de facto changes policy that is designed to address just this issue. It is a bad precedent to provide amnesty for a water user who makes a change without following the proper legal steps.”
Opponents: Darcy Nonemacher, Washington Environmental Council; Dawn Vyvyan, Yakama
Nation and Puyallup Tribe; and Steve Robinson, Tulalip and Umatilla Tribes.
Their reasons for opposing the bill: “It is very complicated to account for senior water right holders and instream flow effects when one goes back in time and changes a decision point. This increase in confusion is a negative outcome. The bill is too vague to be predictable and the Department needs more of a role in reviewing the changes. People should not be able to implement a change in water uses without asking permission first.”
My footnote: The tribes–with good reason–consider themselves “senior water rights holders,” and have been in a long and largely fruitless negotiation with agriculture users over maintaining sufficient flow in local streams to maintain salmon populations. Although Whatcom County’s two tribes (Lummi and Nooksack) do not appear to have participated in the public hearing on Buys’s bill, it looks like other tribes are leery of any tinkering with state water rights laws while these issues are unresolved.
State Rep. Vincent Buys has issued a press release explaining his “no” vote on the budget bill that is on its way to Gov. Chris Gregoire for signature.
Buys says the budget cut too much from education while protecting other programs, and still results in an overall increase in spending. Buys says the “cuts” are reductions in previously-planned spending, not an overall reduction in the amount the state will spend.
Here’s his press release with links:
The Legislature has passed the 2011-13 state operating budget. The bill passed on a 54–42 vote in the House of Representatives. Rep. Vincent Buys, R-Lynden, voted “no” and issued the following statement:
“It’s important people understand what is being considered a cut down here in Olympia. Our state will still have nearly $4 billion more to spend in the upcoming biennium compared to the last budget cycle. Yet, because we are not spending as much as we promised or planned in the last budget, some view this as a budget cut. It cannot be a cut, if we are spending more.
“Not only is this spending plan unsustainable, but its priorities are out of line. In this budget, 41 percent of the reductions come from education while other areas of the budget were reduced by much less. The salary cuts to school employees will be difficult to administer since each school district negotiates its own contract with teachers and administrators. They also use a budget gimmick to administer the school apportionment payments, by pushing the payment into the next budget. The hits to public safety are also reason for great concern, not only for communities and families with more criminals on the street, but there will now be fewer correctional officers in our criminal justice system.
“I just don’t see the real reforms in this measure we need to bring long-term stability to our budget.”
The Senate passed the budget by a vote of 34-13. The measure is now headed to the governor’s desk for her signature.