Tag Archives: Property Rights

Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink

Quick! What’s the first thing you think of when someone mentions Washington State?

Licorice Ferns and Spaghnum Moss grow on a Big Leaf Maple treeDid you answer rain? Of course you did. You’ve all read Twilight, right? I mean, seriously, ferns grow on trees here. And you’d better pray that you don’t get lost in the woods, because the moss grows on all sides of the tree trunks.

Even in the arid part of the state east of the Cascade Range, you don’t have to go far to find water. The Columbia River not only provides clean hydro power, it’s also the backbone of the Columbia Basin Project, capable of irrigating over a million acres of otherwise useless land.

Because Washington has been so abundantly blessed with water, it makes an October ruling by the State Supreme Court even more baffling than it might otherwise be. The Hirst ruling deprives rural property owners of the rightful use of their land by restricting their ability to drill water wells.

Here’s an overview of the Hirst ruling.

The Washington State Supreme Court ruled on Oct. 6, 2016 that counties planning under the Growth Management Act (GMA) must make their own determination of available water before issuing a building permit.

The case, Whatcom County v. Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board (also known as Hirst), overturns a 2015 Court of Appeals decision that held that Whatcom County could rely on the Department of Ecology’s determinations of available water to allow the use of wells (considered permit-exempt under the law) in basins not closed by Ecology.

Essentially, a county planning under GMA cannot issue a building permit that would depend on an exempt well—even if Ecology’s rule allows exempt wells—without showing that the well will not impair certain rivers and streams or a senior water right.

Not unsurprisingly, the Hirst ruling has virtually halted building in rural areas dependent for water on drilled wells.

Yesterday I asked you to consider whether the government could tax people out of homes outside the reach of economically feasible public transportation as a means to achieve the stated goal of  having the majority of people in the state living and working in “places that both support bicycling and walking for shorter trips and provide reliable and convenient public transportation that meets mobility needs for longer trips.”

chelan sage steppeNow I ask you to consider the Hirst ruling in that light. Property without access to water is unfit for human habitation.

I’ve said for many years that real property owners are only renting from the government. If you don’t believe that’s true, try not paying your property taxes for a couple of years. Now that they’ve made themselves the de facto owners of your property, they’re telling you exactly how you can use it. That’s their right as your landlord, isn’t it?

But beyond that, they’re asserting their right to control your access to a basic necessity of life – water. That scares me!

No one should be able to do that and I’m therefore very grateful that there are legislators in Olympia who agree and sponsored SB 5239. The bill has passed the State Senate and passage is now in the hands of the Democrat controlled House. If you don’t think the government should be able to withhold water from property owners, it can’t hurt to contact your State Representative and let them know.

 

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Only because government is too big

Why do people care so passionately about politics these days? When I was a child in the ’60s, my parents didn’t seem to care much about politics and neither did any of their friends. To this day I have no idea what my parents’ political views were, because they never talked politics, but I guarantee you that all my daughters are aware of my views. Well aware. Why are people now willing break off friendships and disown family members over political candidates?

A poll released by the APA in February found that over half of the respondents indicated that the political climate was a source of stress.

David Wasserman, writing at FiveThirtyEight, opines about the the death of purple America, those areas where political contests are decided by single-digit margins, but doesn’t speculate as to why. He concludes:

In an increasing number of communities like Baldwin County, Alabama, which gave Trump 80 percent of its major-party votes, and San Mateo, California, which gave Clinton 80 percent, an entire generation of youth will grow up without much exposure to alternative political points of view. If you think our political climate is toxic now, think for a moment about how nasty politics could be 20 or 30 years from now.

There’s a simple answer: Government is too big.

government is too big political cartoons

Take the case of Melissa and Aaron Klein. If those names don’t sound familiar, would it help if I had just called them the Oregon bakers? I’m guessing it would. Or how about the Kennewick, Washington, florist, Baronelle Stutzman? In both cases, Christian small business owners exercising their right to freedom of religion found themselves at odds with the government. The government may pay lip service to freedom of religion, but in practice, it’s treated as freedom of worship, so please keep your icky religion inside the four walls of your church where it belongs, thank you very much.

Property owners aren’t faring any better. Back in 2015, we heard about Andy and Katie Johnson, a Wyoming couple who built a pond on their 8-acre farm. Even though the pond became a haven for wildlife, the EPA found them to be in violation of a water rule that claims authority over every drop of water in the country. Have a puddle on your property? Yep, theirs. At the time this story broke, the Johnsons had been fined over $16 million. To sum that up, EPA  bureaucrats wrote a rule giving themselves the authority to ruin a farmer for improving his property.

Mike and Chantell Sackett found themselves in a similar situation with the EPA, except in their case they meddled with a wetland rather than creating one. Does is seem as though property owners just can’t win?

Gun and ConstitutionThe assault on 2nd Amendment rights is never-ending. I’m sure that gun control advocates keep hammering away in the hope that everyone else will cede their rights just to shut them up. Here in Washington State, every legislative session sees the introduction of new and varied gun control bills. And when the proposed legislation is so far out there that it can’t even pass out of committee, someone writes it up as an initiative and puts it on the ballot, confident that King County will bring home the win. It’s now possible in Washington to be stripped of your right to own firearms before you’re even aware any action has been taken against you.

The number of federal regulations is growing at truly astonishing rate and along with it, as Glenn Reynolds tells us, is the number of regulatory crimes. There’s no way for individuals to avoid running afoul of them because, as Reynolds points out, they’re often counter-intuitive.

Government at every level has intruded into our daily lives to such an extent that it’s no longer possible to adopt the casual apathy of my parents. Bureaucrats are like party crashers at a wedding reception. No one knows who they are or where they came from, but there they are, eating up your life savings and telling you that you should have done things differently or believed differently or understood your rights differently.

Politics has morphed into a high stakes game. When the government is big enough to ruin your business, devalue your property, bankrupt you or deprive you of your clearly stated constitutional rights, it’s no wonder people are passionate.


Thanks to Jon Gabriel for getting my thought process moving on this post.

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