On April 19, 2018, Futurewise filed an appeal of the Benton County Comprehensive Plan on the grounds that sprawling development is unsustainable in rural areas without adequate planning for drinking water. The county’s comprehensive plan assumes the high end of state population growth projections, or 6,794 more people in the rural area in the next 20 years. Water resource planning efforts in the lower Yakima River have made clear that water in Benton County is already allocated and flows in the river are too low for salmon and steelhead outmigration and rearing.
This appeal will be the first to address the applicability of the State Legislature’s so-called Hirst fix bill (SB 6091) to planning for growth in the Yakima River basin. According to the bill, counties in the Yakima basin are mandated to plan for the use of land consistent with available water resources under the Growth Management Act (GMA).
Analysis by the State and other sources show that throughout Benton County, all of the water is already allocated, and more water withdrawals will harm fish and wildlife, and lead to unpredictability for rural home owners and developers. Additionally, in two of the three basins in Benton County, the impacts of climate change will reduce the amount of water available by 2035, which is within the 20-year planning horizon for the current comprehensive plan update.
Read the rest of the press release on this issue here.