Washington Water Conservancy Board Transfer or Change of Water Right (19-WA-d)
In 1997, the Washington Legislature authorized the creation of water conservancy boards through the enactment of RCW 90.80 Water Conservancy Boards to expedite the administrative process for voluntary changes and transfers of water rights within individual counties. In counties where a water conservancy board has been created, the board has the power to review applications for water right changes and transfers where the water proposed for transfer is currently diverted or would be diverted within that county under RCW 90.80.070. The Washington State Department of Ecology (“Department of Ecology”) retains final approval of the change or transfer of water right, whereby the local water conservancy board must submit its record of decision to the Department of Ecology for final approval. RCW 90.80.080. This section highlights the general process for a water conservancy board to process a water right transfer or change application under RCW 90.80.070 and RCW 90.80.080.
Water Conservancy Board Transfer or Change of Water Right Process
19-WA-d.1 to 19-WA-d.4 - Has the Developer Already Filed an Application with the Department of Ecology that They Wish to put Before the Water Conservancy Board?
A developer proposing to change or transfer a water right may elect to file a water right change or transfer with a water conservancy board, if a board has been created for the geographic area where the water is or would be diverted, withdrawn, or used. If the developer has already filed an application with the Department of Ecology and wishes to put the application before the water conservancy board, the developer may request that the Department of Ecology convey the application to the water conservancy board with jurisdiction over the change or transfer of water right. Upon a developer’s request, the Department of Ecology must convey the application to the water conservancy board. RCW 90.80.070(1).
The water conservancy board is not required to process an application for a water right change or transfer over which it has jurisdiction. If the water conservancy board decides not to process the application, the board must return the application to the developer and inform the developer that the application may be filed (or re-filed) with the Department of Ecology. RCW 90.80.070(1).
19-WA-d.5 – Application for Change/Transfer of a Water Right
The Washington Department of Ecology - Application for Change/Transfer of a Water Right (“Application”) is the same application used by the Department of Ecology. The Application must include, at minimum, the following:
- The applicant’s contact information;
- Information describing the existing water right;
- A description of the existing and proposed point of diversion/withdrawal;
- A description of the existing and proposed purpose of use;
- A description of the existing and proposed place of use; and
- Other relevant information regarding the transfer or change in water right.
The water conservancy board may require an applicant to submit, within a reasonable time, additional information as may the board may require in order to review and act upon the application. At a minimum, the application must include information sufficient to establish to the board’s satisfaction that a right to the quantity of water being transferred exists, and a description of any applicable limitations on the right to use water (i.e., point of diversion or withdrawal, place of use, source of supply, purpose of use, quantity of use permitted, time of use, period of use, and place of storage).
19-WA-d.6 to 19-WA-d.7 – Review Application Materials for Completeness
The conservancy board will review the Application for technical and administrative completeness.
19-WA-d.8 to 19-WA-d.10 – Is the Water Currently Withdrawn or Diverted or Would be Withdrawn or Diverted Outside the County or Water Resource Inventory Area Where the Use is Proposed?
In case of a proposed water right transfer or change where the water is currently diverted or withdrawn or would be diverted or withdrawn outside the county or the water resource inventory area where the use is proposed to be made, the board must hold a public hearing in the county of the diversion or withdrawal or proposed diversion or withdrawal. RCW 90.80.070(2).
The board must publish notice of the hearing in a newspaper of general circulation published in the county where the hearing will be held to provide an opportunity for interested persons to comment on the application. RCW 90.80.070(2).
In addition, if the Application is for a transfer or change of water right outside of the water resource inventory area that is the source of the water, the water conservancy board must consult with the Department of Ecology. RCW 90.80.070(2).
19-WA-d.11 – Publish Notice of Application and Send Notice to State Agencies and Indian Tribes (As Required)
After the developer files an Application for a transfer or change of water right with the water conservancy board, the board must:
- Publish notice of the application and send notice to state agencies in accordance with the requirements of RCW 90.03.280;
- Send notice of the application to any Indian tribe with reservation lands that would be, but for RCW 90.80.055(2), within the area in which the board has jurisdiction; and
- Send notice to any Indian tribe that has requested that it be notified of a water right transfer application.
19-WA-d.12 – Hold Public Meetings to Discuss Application (As Required)
The water conservancy board may hold public meetings to discuss or decide on the Water Rights Transfer or Change Application. RCW 90.80.070(3).
19-WA-d.13 – Submit Verbal or Written Comments at Meeting(s)
Any person may submit comments and other information to the water conservancy board regarding the Application. The board must consider any comments it receives in making the record of decision for the Water Rights Transfer or Change Application. RCW 90.80.070(3).
19-WA-d.14 to 19-WA-d.16 – Does the Conservancy Board Approve the Application?
If a majority of the water conservancy board determines that the Application is complete and the transfer is in accordance with RCW 90.03.380, RCW 90.03.390, or RCW 90.44.100 (groundwater specific provisions), the board issues a Record of Decision approving the transfer or change, subject to review by the Department of Ecology Director. In making the Record of Decision, the board must consider among other things whether the proposed transfer can be made without detriment or injury to existing water rights, including rights established for instream flow. The board must include any conditions that are deemed necessary for the transfer to qualify for approval under applicable state laws. The board must include the basis for the decision in the Report of Examination. RCW 90.80.070(4).
The water conservancy board’s approval must also state that the developer is not permitted to proceed with the proposed transfer until the Department of Ecology Director has approved a final decision on the transfer or change of water right. RCW 90.80.070(4).
If a majority of the water conservancy board determines that the application cannot be approved under state laws, the board must make a Record of Decision denying the Application and a Report of Examination documenting the Record of Decision. The board’s Record of Decision is subject to review by the Department of Ecology Director under RCW 90.80.080. RCW 90.80.070(5).
19-WA-d.17 – Provide Copy of Decision to Developer, the Department of Ecology, and Other Interested Parties
The water conservancy board must provide a copy of its Record of Decision to the developer and the Department of Ecology. The Board must also submit its Report of Examination to the Department of Ecology summarizing the factual findings on which the board relied on to reach its Record of Decision and a copy of the files and records upon which the board’s record of decision is based. The Board must also transmit notice by mail to any person who objected to the transfer/change or who requested notice of the board’s record of decision. RCW 90.80.080(1).
19-WA-d.18 – Post Text of the Record of Decision Transmittal Form on Department of Ecology Website
Upon receipt of the water conservancy board’s Record of Decision, the Department of Ecology must promptly post the text of the Record of Decision Transmittal Form on the Department of Ecology’s website. RCW 90.80.080(2).
19-WA-d.19 – Submit Letter of Concern or Support of Department of Ecology
Any party to a transfer, third party who alleges his or her water right will be impaired by the proposed transfer, or any other person may file a letter of concern or support with the Department of Ecology within thirty (30) days of the Department of Ecology’s receipt of the Record of Decision. The Department of Ecology may consider the concern or support expressed in the letter when making its final determination of the Water Right Traansfer/Change Application. RCW 90.80.080(3).
19-WA-d.19 to 19-WA-d.22 – Review Record of Decision
The Department of Ecology Director must review the water conservancy board’s Record of Decision and affirm, reverse, or modify the action of the board within forty-five (45) days of receipt. The Department of Ecology Director may extend the forty-five (45) day time period for an additional thirty (30) days. The time period may also be extended at the request of the developer or the water conservancy board. RCW 90.80.080(4).
If the Department of Ecology Director fails to act on the Application within the time prescribed above, the water conservancy board’s decision becomes the decision of the Department of Ecology and is appealable as provided in RCW 90.80.090. If the Department of Ecology Director acts within the timeframe, the decision becomes appealable under RCW 90.80.090. In addition, if the Department of Ecology Director remands the application to the water conservancy board, the decision is appealable under RCW 90.80.120(2). RCW 90.80.080(4).
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