Washington Enacts Relinquishment Exception for Water Right Change Applications

Published Mar 27, 2012

On March 7, 2012, Governor Chris Gregoire signed legislation intended to protect water rights for which change applications are pending before the Department of Ecology.  House Bill 1381, which passed the Legislature with nearly unanimous support, amends Washington’s water right relinquishment statute to provide that “waiting for a final determination from the department of ecology on a change application” will constitute “sufficient cause” for nonuse of a water right.

Tupper Mack Wells attorney Sarah Mack has written an article for the April 2012 issue of the Western Water Law & Policy Reporter explaining why water right holders should view this amendment with some caution until it is definitively interpreted by the courts.  If this new exception is narrowly construed, it may well turn out to be a trap for the unwary – instead of a safe harbor from relinquishment.  For more information, contact Sarah Mack at mack@tmw-law.com.

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