Prosecutors Desk 6-12-16 – Use it or Lose it

Use it or lose it

That is the message from the state of Washington to land owners who have water rights associated with their land. They face what is called an Involuntary Relinquishment if the water right associated with their property is not used for a period of five years. This is the education and lesson being learned by several county property owners when they were served with court proceedings started by the Department of Ecology regarding the water rights associated with their land.

Some of people who received this set of documents brought their concerns to our County Commissioners for input and help. The County Commissioners asked me to look at this situation and advise them as to whether or not county interests or county matters were involved.

My civil deputy, Nicholas Force, researched the law on this issue and we came to the conclusion that the interests of the county itself were not involved and that it appeared that the Department of Ecology was following the law and established procedure. We had to advise the Commissioners that there did not appear to be a just reason for the county to involve itself in this litigation between the State of Washington and these citizens. This is essentially a civil matter in which the county does not have a direct interest.

While it could be argued that this “involuntary relinquishment” as to one or more private citizens represents a diminution in value that affects the entire county, this view is not reflected in the law. Neither is this considered a “taking” without the compensation required by law. The matter is between the State and the individual who have the water rights.

The bottom line is this: If anyone has a water right associated with their land allowing them to use the water from a stream or river, they must put that water right to use. If it is unused for a period of five years, the State may act to strip the water right from the owner. That is the law and all property owners should be aware of it and act accordingly to protect what they have. They must use it or lose it. I recommend they use it, and document the use of it.

It is no secret that Washington State would like to tax everything. I believe that if the State could figure out a way to put a meter on our nose, they would charge us for the air we breathe.

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