State high court rules for Swinomish in water case

The State Supreme Court ruled today in favor of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community in their case against the state Department of Ecology. The case centered around a amended rule issued by the state to allow more water withdrawals from the Skagit River.

The court ruled today that the state didn’t have the power to add those exceptions:

RCW 90.54.020(3)(a) provides that perennial streams and rivers must be retained with base flows sufficient to preserve fish and wildlife, scenic, aesthetic and other environmental values, and navigation.  A narrow exception is found in the statute that permits impairment of minimum flows  set by rule in situations where it is clear that overriding considerations of the public will be served.  This exception does not permit the Department of Ecology to reassess the relative merits of uses and reallocate water that is needed to maintain the instream flows through reservations of water for future beneficial uses.  Accordingly, Ecology’s Amended Rule, which made 27 reservations of water for out-of-stream year-round noninterruptible beneficial uses in the Skagit River basin and which would impair minimum flows  set by administrative rule, exceeded Ecology’s authority because it is  inconsistent with the plain language of the statute and is inconsistent with the entire statutory scheme.

You can find more about the case at the Swinomish Tribe’s website: Skagit River Water Allocation.

You can also watch the oral arguments in front of the state supreme court here.