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KEY INTERESTS RECOMMEND NEW STATE WATER POLICIES, WASHINGTON STATE DEPARTMENT OF ECOLOGY SAYS

 OLYMPIA, Wash., April 26 /PRNewswire/ -- The Water Resources Forum, a group of diverse water interests, has recommended two major new water policies for Washington state, according to the Washington State Department of Ecology. The group has given its recommendations to the Department of Ecology which plans to propose them as new state rules. When adopted, the rules will guide decisions on issuing new water rights from surface and ground water.
 Calling the recommendations a "tremendous achievement," Ecology Director Mary Riveland said the Forum's work could end years of conflict over water management in the state.
 "These policies encourage cooperative regional decision-making where all water values and needs can be considered," said Riveland. "They give Ecology guidelines to make sound decisions and speed up processing water right applications. And they offer many options to retain water in streams for a variety of benefits and to meet out-of-stream needs."
 The 24-member Forum represents agriculture, environmentalists, Tribes, local and state governments, business, recreation and fishery interests. The group was created by the landmark 1990 Chelan Agreement in which the same interests decided to cooperate in resolving long- standing conflicts over water.
 The Forum's recommendations for a new instream flow policy provide guidelines for establishing instream flows in three situations:
 -- Through regional planning -- All water interests in a region would work for consensus on appropriate flow levels and provide these to Ecology for rule-making. There are now two regional planning areas in the state.
 -- Where regional planning is likely -- Ecology would establish interim instream flows that are high enough to preserve options for regional planning.
 -- Where planning is unlikely -- Ecology would establish instream flows through rule-making or by placing conditions on new water rights.
 The Forum's recommendations for a new ground-water management policy focus on areas where ground water and surface water are connected. Applications for new ground-water withdrawals would be classified based on the risk they pose to existing water rights, instream flows, instream values and the public interest. The policy includes many possible actions Ecology could take based on the risk posed by an application, ranging from denying or limiting new high-risk withdrawals to approving applications that pose a low risk.
 Each of the interest-based caucuses that make up the Forum said the recommendations address the most important concerns their group brought to the table.
 "The policies satisfy one of agriculture's biggest concerns by preserving existing water rights," according to Ben George, a Thorp rancher and member of the agriculture caucus. "We're all going to have to be very innovative about future water use, though," George noted.
 Several caucuses expressed hope that the recommendations will protect fish and wildlife and other instream values.
 Bill Robinson, a member of the fisheries caucus and Trout Unlimited, said, "Developing these recommendations for establishing instream flows is a positive step toward protecting, preserving and enhancing our fish and wildlife and their habitats."
 Mike Williams of the environmental caucus agreed. "The policies are important first steps for breaking the logjam over instream flows. Now we're looking forward to integrating them," he said.
 "Recreationists want instream values to be recognized and the policies are a step in that direction, noted Bob Gordon, a member of the recreation caucus and the Washington Recreational River Runners.
 "The policies provide some certainty that whatever process is used will protect and enhance fish and wildlife. Implementation will be the real test," said John Hollowed, who represents the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission on the Tribal caucus.
 "The policies have a good chance to work because the process for setting instream flows can be tailored to local needs," Hollowed added.
 Local and state government caucuses hope the policies encourage more local decision-making.
 "The recommendations are an incentive for people to set their own destiny," said Department of Agriculture official Stu Trefry, representing the state government caucus. "The more places that do regional planning the better."
 Paul Parker, environmental staff for the Washington Association of Counties and a member of the local government caucus, agreed. "The recommendations offer a flexible approach that will allow water decision-making to be consistent with growth management and other local planning. We would like to see as many flows set through regional planning as possible," said Parker.
 "The business caucus is pleased that the Forum has achieved consensus on the policies. The next step is implementation -- a job for the Department of Ecology," said Kathy Gill, of the Northwest Pulp & Paper Association. "Implementation is essential to resolve the water rights application backlog and ensure certainty for all users."
 After 18 months of negotiating, many Forum members said that bringing together all interests to iron out their differences is constructive, but painfully slow. As Gill described it, "The fact that all parties are represented and involved means the recommendations stand a good chance of being implemented."
 The Forum, facilitated by Emmett Fiske from Washington State University, is now working on ground-water and recharge policies. When completed, these policies will be integrated with policies on hydraulic continuity and instream flows.
 -0- 4/26/93
 /CONTACT: Renee Guillierie of the Washington State Department of Ecology, 206-438-7761/


CO: Washington State Department of Ecology ST: Washington IN: SU:

LM -- SE016 -- 1004 04/26/93 17:24 EDT
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Date:Apr 26, 1993
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