Paul's Bellingham Blog

My thoughts on Bellingham, the Real Estate market, and more

Whatcom County Land Owners May Have Water Rights Again

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If you owned a parcel of land in Whatcom County (outside of city limits), and had no access to a water association share, you were unable to drill a private well in recent years.

The Washington State Supreme Court’s Hirst Growth Management Act called on local governments to not allow new well permits without first understanding the “impairments” the wells were having on the nearby rivers (or instream flows). In Whatcom County’s case, that is the Nooksack. Whatcom County essentially had their hands tied not having any reasonable way to cooperate with this law, and thus no permits for new wells were being given. Even if you had an existing well already installed and paid for, if it was not connected to a home yet, you were out of luck!

This has made a lot of land essentially un-buildable..with the exception of the option for a rain catch system for your water source. Many land owners have had to put their dream of building on their land–on hold..and left many other landowners holding properties that had dimished in value substantially.

That has all changed now with the Hirst Legislation having passed. This restriction has gone away in Whatcom County (and parts of Skagit County).

A new $500 mitigation or metering fee will now apply to new well permits, and other overlays and criteria will likely need to be met…but the restriction that had taken water rights away from so many has been lifted. Signed by the governor. It’s done!

This is fantastic news for land owners, and those looking for land in the county. It’s now a great time to get sell or buy, and work on getting your building permits.


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