The Washington State Supreme Court may have just thrown a wrench in the City of Yelm's plan to handle population growth.
Today, in a 6-3 decision, the court reversed the State Department of Ecology's decision to issue a water right permit to the City of Yelm to meet community water needs for anticipated growth.
“The court determined Ecology erred in approving the permit because it will impair minimum stream flows in the Deschutes and Nisqually basins. Ecology had conditioned approval on an extensive mitigation package to offset the water use from the permit. Mitigation included retiring existing water rights, habitat protection and stream restoration,” a press release from the Department of Ecology stated.
The effects of the ruling could be felt statewide, not just in Yelm, however. That's because the court determined Ecology unlawfully applied “overriding considerations of public interest” (or OCPI) to make its decision, where the public benefits of approval outweigh any impacts on stream flows.
“We are taking today's ruling under advisement and we will assess what other water management tools we may use in the future to make decisions on complex water needs in water constrained basins,” said Ecology Director Maia Bellon.