February 9, 2001 No. 17

GOV. LOCKE UNVEILED A THREE-YEAR PROPOSAL THURSDAY DESIGNED TO BEGIN addressing long-standing water issues. (Seattle Times, Feb. 9) "Our principle is we're going to try to do this over several (legislative) sessions," Locke said. The governor's initial efforts would focus on clearing a backlog 7,100 water-right requests by processing change applications separately from new applications and restoring the authority of water conservancy boards to approve changes in water use. (Tri-City Herald, Feb. 9) He also wants the Legislature to revise the Family Farm Act to allow farmers in urban areas to transfer or sell their water rights for nonagricultural uses. To appease environmentalists who had sued to strip local water boards of their authority, Locke is proposing to expand the three-member boards to five members, with at least one person with no personal stake in water matters representing the public at large.

IN AN EDITORIAL TODAY, THE OLYMPIAN SAID THURSTON COUNTY WAS WRONG to add its support to a lawsuit challenging new shoreline management rules adopted last year by the state Department of Ecology. More than two-dozen counties, several cities and other organizations have joined the suit, which was initiated by a coalition that includes the Washington Farm Bureau. The Olympian said it agreed with County Commissioner Cathy Wolfe, who voted against joining the suit, that DOE was right in adopting new rules because, "State lawmakers have shown no ability the past two years to revamp shoreline regulations" and "the chances of action by state lawmakers on this one are slim to none, even in the face of declining salmon populations."

REPUBLICANS ARE HOPING TO RESCIND NEW ERGONOMICS RULES APPROVED IN the last days of the Clinton administration by using a 5-year-old, untested statute that allows Congress to nullify agency rules by a majority vote in both houses. (Hearst Newspapers/Spokesman Review, Feb. 9) The Congressional Review Act gives Congress 120 days from the time a rule goes into effect to act. The federal ergonomics rules went into effect Jan. 16, meaning Congress must act by May 18. Sen. Kit S. Bond, R-Mo., is preparing legislation to cancel the rules.

THE NEVADA SUPREME COURT TODAY BEGAN HEARING ARGUMENTS IN A CASE that "could reverse a century of water law in Nevada and the West." (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, Feb. 8) Mineral County wants Nevada to reallocate water rights on the Walker River to allow more water to reach Walker Lake, which has shrunk by 74 percent since 1882, primarily because of upriver irrigation for agriculture. Walker Lake is a popular recreational fishery and home to a threatened species of cutthroat trout. The state has joined with several irrigation districts to oppose the suit, which
challenges the perception that water rights are forever. Many of the water rights in question date from the 1930s.

IN AN EDITORIAL TODAY, THE TACOMA NEWS TRIBUNE SAID THE ANTI-TRAPPING initiative approved in November should be amended by the Legislature to exempt "ordinary folks who are trying to rid their lawns of pesky moles and gophers." State Sen. Dan Swecker, R-Rochester, has introduced a bill, SB 5831, to allow the use of traps to kill moles and gophers. The Washington Farm Bureau responded to the editorial by sending a letter to The News Tribune asking why "ordinary folks" who are worried about their lawns should be exempt while ranchers trying to protect their sheep and calves from marauding coyotes are forced to live with an initiative that was passed primarily by urban residents.


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