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Valley's lawmakers keeping close eye on Dept. of Ecology moratorium on new wells

OLYMPIA - Though it's happening nearly 100 miles away in another county, the issue of a moratorium on new groundwater wells in Kittitas County is being watched closely by the Lower Valley's legislative delegation.

During a phone interview from Olympia last week, representatives Bruce Chandler and David Taylor said they feel the state's Department of Ecology is looking to expand the moratorium to other counties, including Yakima.

The moratorium got its start in 2008, when Taylor said three members of an advocacy group claimed new wells were impacting senior water rights.

"There was no scientific information to back it up, but it was all Ecology needed under the law to issue a moratorium," Taylor said.

The impact has been to prevent many land owners from building on their property unless they can first purchase senior water rights.

Chandler says there are a couple of bills in the house that will attempt to address the stand-off in upper Kittitas County, but he thinks this is just the beginning of a wider move by Ecology.

"I think there's no question their intention is to expand the moratorium that is in Kittitas County and extend it to the basin," Chandler said.

Taylor, a former Kittitas County employee, said the rest of Washington state could feel the pinch from this precedent in Kittitas County.

"Tomorrow in the Yakima Valley it is possible that someone could walk up and say their water right is being impacted by surface water use and it could happen here," he said.

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