Validity of Dungeness Watershed Management Rule Challenged in new Lawsuit

A Petition for Declaratory Judgment has been filed in Thurston County Superior Court by Olympic Resource Protection Council (ORPC) to determine the validity of the Dungeness Watershed Management Rule. ORPC has been critical of the Dungeness Rule because of its impacts on Clallam County residents, including widespread uncertainty about water availability, inconsistency with local land use authority, and unnecessary costs on development and use of rural lands that are out of proportion to the benefits of the rule.

The decision to file a lawsuit comes after ORPC’s effort in 2014 to address these concerns through an administrative process. In January 2014, ORPC filed a petition to amend the Dungeness Rule with the Department of Ecology (Ecology).  ORPC had hoped Ecology would address their concerns by amending the Dungeness Rule, a public process that would have included other stakeholders interested in an effective and lawful water management rule for the Dungeness Basin.  Ecology Director Maia Bellon denied ORPC’s petition in March 2014. After Ecology’s denial, ORPC commenced fundraising efforts to challenge the Dungeness Rule in court.

ORPC’s declaratory judgment action states four causes of action. First, it contends that Ecology failed to comply with the Administrative Procedure Act in regard to rule’s cost-benefit analysis, failure to utilize less burdensome alternatives, and inconsistency with Clallam County regulations and the 2005 Elwha-Dungeness Watershed Plan. Second, it contends that Ecology exceeded its statutory authority by allocating water for optimum fish flows but not for human needs, for failing to evaluate the maximum net benefits of these allocations, for adopting reservations using “overriding considerations of public interest authority”, and for adopting surface water closures without specific statutory authority. Third, it contends that Ecology failed to comply with the four-part test of RCW 90.03.290 by adopting minimum flows and reservations without finding that water was available or that the allocations were not detrimental to the public interest. Finally, it contends that adoption of the Dungeness Rule was arbitrary and capricious.

ORPC advocates for clear, fair and responsible regulations and seeks to balance environmental protection with property rights, recognizing the importance of both. See www.OlympicResourcePC.org for more information. ORPC is represented in this matter by the Law Office of Thomas M. Pors.

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