Well Drilling & the Burden of Proof

The county council is holding a public hearing.

The county council is holding a public hearing.

• Topics: Whatcom County,

The Whatcom County Council is holding a public hearing on Tuesday, December 6th on draft ordinance 2016-309A. I’d be happy to provide a link to the document and its appendices on the county website. But I can’t find a copy posted anywhere on the county web site. (editor note: we have a pdf of 2016-309A )

The proposed ordinance includes language that requires rural building permit applicants to provide a professional determination of water availability prepared by a qualified hydrologist before a permit can be approved. The language also states that if the planning director isn’t satisfied with the submitted determination of water availability, they can request another determination, which the permit applicant is also required to pay for. Readers who would like more detailed information about the pitfalls of this policy can find it posted on Latte Republic.

Yet, Neil Caulkins, chief civil deputy for Kittatas County, cautioned counties from attempting to shift the burden of determining groundwater availability to the permit applicant. In the Municipal Research Services Center blog, Insight, he says, a “…county should not place the burden of showing water availability on an individual applicant. An approach of ‘we don’t know, so we’ll let each applicant convince us’ would likely be successfully challenged as either a failure of the county itself to make the GMA-required determination or as foisting the GMA responsibility upon the applicant who is not regulated by the GMA and upon whom the GMA does not place that burden.”

So, who benefits if the county adopts an ordinance that places the responsibility for determining water availability on the individual permit applicant? Individuals and groups who oppose the issuance of a building permit on the grounds that the applicant has not provided evidence of an adequate water supply. No wonder rural property owners are hopping mad.

About Elisabeth Britt

Posting Citizen Journalist • Member since Mar 23, 2009

Before becoming a citizen journalist, Elisabeth Britt worked in Olympia as a legislative aide. Locally, she served on the WRIA 1 Planning Unit, the Coordinated Water System Plan and as a [...]

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