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Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, R-Wenatchee, has introduced two bills at the request of her constituents in Okanogan County. One would require the Department of Ecology to give county commissioners notice of pending water-right transfers that will affect their constituents. The other would affect the way public utility district privilege taxes are distributed within counties.
It has become increasingly difficult in recent years for water users to acquire new water rights. As a result, inter-basin water-right transfers - the transfer of a water right that occurs when the point of diversion is in a different basin than the proposed place of use - have become a valuable and necessary water-management tool.
Water-right issues can have a major impact on the economic and social welfare of rural communities. Parlette's bill, Senate Bill 5555, would require the state Department of Ecology to notify commissioners in the affected county (or counties) of a proposed inter-basin water-right transfer before issuing the permit.
"It is imperative that our county commissioners be notified about this important issue," Parlette said. "Moving water rights out of a county could have a very serious effect on the communities in that county. It's important for those concerns and impacts to be shared before a transfer is finalized."
The bill has been referred to the Senate Environment, Water and Energy Committee. It is scheduled for a public hearing Feb. 9.
Parlette's second bill, Senate Bill 5595, would affect the distribution of privilege taxes to cities.
The PUD privilege tax is a tax paid in lieu of property tax. It is distributed to both state and local governments.
Distributions to local governments are first given to counties, which then distribute the funds to cities in an equitable manner. Under current law, distribution to cities is based on how much electricity is sold to the city containing the PUD property. In a case where a city contains PUD property, but the PUD does not sell any electricity to that city, there is no suggested method of distributing the funds.
SB 5595 would provide an alternate method of distribution in the case where a city contains PUD-owned property but does not receive any electricity from that PUD. This would affect the city of Pateros, which has PUD-owned property inside its city limits but does not purchase electricity from the PUD. Under the bill, Pateros would receive a portion of the privilege tax.
SB 5595 has been referred to the Senate Government
Operations, Tribal Relations and Elections Committee. It is scheduled for a public hearing Feb. 15.
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