The Watershed Planning Act

The 1998 legislature passed ESHB 2514, codified into Chapter 90.82 RCW, to set a framework for developing local solutions to watershed issues on a watershed basis.  Chapter 90.82 RCW states: The legislature finds that the local development of watershed plans for managing water resources and for protecting existing water rights is vital to both state and local interests. The local development of these plans serves vital local interests by placing it in the hands of people: Who have the greatest knowledge of both the resources and the aspirations of those who live and work in the watershed; and who have the greatest stake in the proper, long-term management resources. The development of such plans serves the state’s vital interests by ensuring that the state’s water resources are used wisely, by protecting existing water rights, by protecting instream flows for fish and by providing for the economic well-being of the state’s citizenry and communities. Therefore the legislature believes it necessary for units of local government throughout the state to engage in orderly development of these watershed plans.

The law provides a process to allow citizens in a watershed to join together to assess the status of the water resources in their watershed and determine how best to manage them.  The plans must balance competing resource demands.  They are required to address water quantity by undertaking an assessment of water supply and use within the watershed.  This includes recommending long term strategies to provide water in sufficient quantities to satisfy minimum instream flows and to provide water for future out-of-stream needs.  Optional elements that may be addressed in the plan include instream flow, water quality, and habitat.

Watershed planning and associated state funding is conducted in 4 phases:

Supplemental funding is also available for up to $100,000 for each of three optional assessment elements: instream flow, water quality, and multipurpose water storage.  Watershed plans are due 4 years from when a planning unit draws upon Phase 2 funding.

Twelve State agencies signed a Memorandum of Understanding identifying roles and responsibilities for coordination under the Watershed Planning Act.  This memorandum commits these agencies to work through issues in order to speak with one governmental voice when sitting at local planning unit tables.  The following agencies signed this document:

View the Watershed Planning Assistance Sheet which explains how to contact the Governor's Office to get state agency representation on your planning unit.  This sheet also explains how state agencies will coordinate as required by the MOU to "speak with one voice".