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July 6, 2009

Letter to the Editor: Water rights issues deserve more research and attention

Please pass this to the author of the article (“Farmers join fight to stop big feedlot,” by The Associated Press, DJC July 1) for future discussions of this issue.

First, the article indicates that the groundwater exemption codified in 90.44.050 limits all authorized uses to a 5,000 gallon per day maximum withdrawal. This is not the case and a simple reading of that portion of the law would have made that clear to the writer.

The construct of the “exemption” clearly limits some types of use by quantity, others by area and in the case of stock watering, does not provide a statutory limit of any kind.

Second, though Ecology did request an AG's opinion on the matter, it was addressed in a Supreme Court case much earlier (Kim v. Ecology). The issue is not nearly as straight forward an abuse of law as was implied in the article. The 1945 legislature wanted to be careful not to complicate the cattle industry's access to water that they traditionally viewed as part of their land and their livelihood. Though the law as written may no longer be appropriate, it was intentionally constructed as it currently is for reasons.

I am a consulting hydrogeologist and work with water law in the state of Washington a great deal in my career. I have no dog in this fight and no preferred agenda regarding the outcome of the court case. I merely want the writer to understand that the issue is not one of emotion but one of law... A minor amount of easily accomplished research would have resulted in a much more appropriate story.

I did enjoy the article and am pleased that the water issues are not being ignored by the DJC. All too often, the press fails to understand the far-reaching implications of water policy and does not follow the issues until it is time to lament the unintended consequences of poor water resource management policies.

Mike Krautkramer L.HG., RG, CPG

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