WA Supreme Court: WSU's Revised Water Use A-OK
Its not often that I see the department of ecology sued. But that usually means that someone thinks a particular measure is too strong or too lenient.
So essentially Cornelius et al are claiming that the 2003 amendments to the state’s water law were unconstitutional as applied. Basically, he has a beef as to how he is getting water as compared to WSU. Something can be unconstitutional in several ways, the one we here most often about is unconstitutionally vague. You also here about things like unconstitutional for violations of the XIV Amendment (think racial discrimination, strict scrutiny, and its misapplication in Grutter, Gratz, and P.I.C.S. v. Seattle Public School Dist. No. 1.
Here, its about the application. Cornelius and WSU both draw from the same aquifer. WSU has lots of water rights in the Aquifer, dating back to 1934. Some of the documents for WSU state they are municipal, some state they are domestic. Municipalities have greater protection under the law than they used to under RCW 90.14.140(2)(d). Now, WSU had a lot of wells, consolidated them into two wells, where they now do most of their pumping. After the law changed in 2003, they decided they should probably check in with Department of Ecology to make sure their water rights certificates conformed to their actual use now. The Board of Ecology applied a bunch of different legal doctrines, including water code, abandonment law, State EPA law, and ultimately approved the request from WSU. Cornelius has a problem with that.
I picture Cornelius as Mr. Scrooge. My guess is he just has a really big farm and hates government spending on anything, so he tries to make them spend more in lawsuits. This is of course, just a guess. I also guess that he looks old and cranky the majority of his day. Again, just a guess. I bet he also shakes sticks at puppies to get off his lawn while complaining about change.
Anyhow, the short answer is everything was fine with the way WSU’s case was handled. There are a slew of issues addressed, but none really worth mentioning here for their legal precedent outside of water law nerds. If you’re a water law guy, you should definitely read this.
In the meantime, I’m going to pray that I do not get any large clients who need to work with water rights, as it would bore the crap out of me. But, at least I might get to help a crotchety old farmer ;)
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