Okanogan County is considering authorizing the county commissioners to create special areas where certain land uses that would rely on new wells for drinking water would be curtailed, so the county can study overall water availability.
The change to the county’s zoning code is being proposed to address the 2016 state Supreme Court “Hirst” decision that requires counties to ensure that water is both legally and physically available before they allow any new water uses. The county has to determine that drawing water from a well for domestic use won’t impair any existing users, which includes water in rivers and streams for fish.
In some basins, the county believes there isn’t enough information to determine if water is physically and legally available, so the Okanogan County Planning Department is proposing these study areas.
No specific areas have been identified or proposed, but the zoning change would essentially impose a moratorium on new development in the areas, which would allow them to analyze water resources more thoroughly.
The county is currently analyzing the potential environmental impacts of the proposed amendment. Okanogan County Planning Director Perry Huston has determined that the changes warrant an extended comment period.
The proposed ordinance and the environmental review are available on the planning department website at www.okanogancounty.org/planning (scroll down to OCC 17A.400 Overlays – Water Availability Study Areas).
For more information, contact Huston at (509) 422-7218 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
People can comment on the proposal until Oct. 13 by writing to Roxanna King at email@example.com.