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Washington Department of Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant signed an administrative rule today creating a certified water right examiner program to improve the efficiency of water right permit processing in Washington state.
The program is being created under a 2010 legislative directive and complements Ecology's "Lean" campaign to streamline the process for water right permit holders seeking final water right certificates. The Water Resources Program at Ecology has been applying Lean efficiency principles to the water right process to make it smoother, less time consuming and more cost effective for permit holders.
The water right examiners will provide final inspections of water right permit holders' place and purpose of water use, a step currently required of Ecology staff. The program will be administered by Ecology at no additional cost to the public. Water right permit holders will hire and pay their own water right examiners.
"The certified water right examiner program is an important tool in the proof exam portion of the water right permitting process," Sturdevant said. "We continue to work on ways to make water right processing more efficient and provide quicker access to the water supplies needed for growth and development."
Increased legal complexities, reduced funding levels and growing competition for limited water resources have contributed to an accumulation of pending water right processing work statewide. Ecology's Water Resources program is currently operating with 128 total staff with 42.2 FTEs dedicated to writing and processing water right permits. As compared to the 2007-09 biennium, the program budget has been reduced by roughly $7 million and 35 staff.
Despite the reduction in staff and funding, Ecology met and exceeded the Legislature's goal of issuing 500 water right decisions during the 2012 fiscal year by issuing 689 water right decisions. During the 2013 fiscal year, the Water Resources Program expects to make decisions on at least 500 new water rights and water right changes.
Professional engineers and land surveyors, registered hydrogeologists and water conservancy board members are among those considered initially eligible to become certified water right examiners. Once the rule creating the program becomes effective Dec. 29, 2012, those interested should click on Certified Water Right Examiner Program for application materials. At that time, an individual interested in becoming a certified examiner will need to apply and meet minimum qualifications, pay a $300 examination fee and, upon passing the written examiner's test, pay a $200 certification fee. Ecology will then add the individual's name and contact information to the list of certified water right examiners on Ecology's website.
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