The Washington Department of Ecology plans five public meetings on a proposed rule change to expedite the processing of water right applications for water storage projects in the Columbia River basin.
The Hillis Rule -- named for a 1997 Washington State Supreme Court decision establishing Ecology's authority to set priorities for processing of water rights applications -- hasn't been updated since its adoption in 1998.
Ecology's proposed amendment of Hillis will allow priority processing of water right applications for projects that include replacement of failing public water systems or development of new water supplies in water-short areas.
"Bringing water rights processing in line with current statutes and policies means much-needed high priority water needs won't be stalled in the current backlog of water right applications," said Ken Slattery, manager of the Water Resources Program at Ecology.
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Five public hearings on the proposed amendment are scheduled in August. All meetings start at 6:30 p.m.
The Mid-Columbia meeting is in Richland on Aug. 18 at the Ecology office, conference room 3A, River Room, 3100 Port of Benton Blvd. Other sessions are in Lacey, Everett, Wenatchee and Spokane.
Public comments may be submitted to Ecology through Sept. 1. Comments can be provided at meetings; e-mailed to Janet Rajala at jaca461@ecy .wa.gov or faxed to her at 509-329-3529; or mailed to Rajala at the Department of Ecology, Eastern Regional Office, 4601 N. Monroe St., Spokane, 99205.