In-Stream Flow

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From Pelletier & Bilhimer 2004

  • Water Code, Chapter 90.03 RCW (1917), in section 247, describes Ecology’s exclusive authority for setting flows and describes specific conditions on permits stating where flows must be met. It requires consultation with the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Department of Community, Trade, and Economic Development, the Department of Agriculture as well as affected Indian Tribes on the establishment of “minimum flows”.
  • Construction Projects in State Waters, Chapter 77.55 RCW (formerly 75.20)(1949), section 050, requires Ecology to consult with the Department of Fish and Wildlife prior to making a decision on any water right application that may affect flows for food and game fish. Fish and Wildlife may recommend denial or conditioning of a water right permit.
  • Minimum Water Flows and Levels Act, Chapter 90.22 RCW (1967), sets forth a process for protecting instream flows through adoption of rules. Among other provisions, it says Ecology must consult with the Department of Fish and Wildlife and conduct public hearings.
  • Water Resources Act of 1971, Chapter 90.54 RCW, particularly section 020, includes language that says “base flows” are to be retained in streams except where there are “overriding considerations of the public interest”. Further, waters of the state are to be protected and utilized for the greatest benefit to the people, and water allocation is to be generally based on the securing of “maximum net benefits” to the people of the state. This Act also authorizes Ecology to reserve waters for future beneficial uses.
  • In 1998, the legislature passed Engrossed Substitute House Bill 2514, which was codified as “Watershed Planning,” Chapter 90.82 RCW. This chapter provides an avenue for local citizens and various levels of governments to be involved in collaborative water management, including the option of establishing or amending instream flow rules. The Watershed Planning process specifies that local watershed planning groups can recommend instream flows to Ecology for rule making, and directs Ecology to undertake rule making to adopt flows upon receiving such a recommendation.