Improvements to the Benton County Comprehensive Plan Protect Rural Residents

April 16, 2019

Benton County is the second fastest growing county in all of Washington state. As the County welcomes thousands of new residents each year, we as a community have a responsibility to plan wisely for growth. County residents want to protect existing wells and accommodate future development. That’s why Futurewise and Benton County are excited to announce a settlement agreement that will safeguard water resources, plan for improved state highway and transit service, and plan for adequate wildfire fighting capabilities within the County.

For over a year, Futurewise and Benton County have worked together to strengthen Benton County’s comprehensive plan update, which was appealed by Futurewise in early 2018. The resulting settlement agreement includes three key updates to safeguard water resources in the county, including consideration of:  

  • Adopting a water mitigation program for new rural development in the Yakima Basin. Water used by new rural residences will be offset with senior water rights purchased by the county, allowing the water to stay in the mainstem of the Yakima River;
  • Limiting new rural residential impervious surfaces that are not infiltrated on-site to no more than ten percent; and
  • Requiring 45% vegetative cover – including native or non-native species – with the goal of improving the quality of stormwater runoff within rural residential zones.

“We’re very pleased to have been able to come to an agreement with Benton County that protects both rural residents water supply and our rivers and streams,” said Christopher Wierzbicki, Executive Director of Futurewise.  “We hope that other jurisdictions in Eastern Washington facing limited water resources and rapid growth will look to Benton County’s leadership on this issue.  

Under the agreement, the County will also analyze the impact of planned growth on the state highway system and transit services, and identify the facilities and services needed to serve an increasing population, with the goal of improving capital facility planning efforts with state and regional transit partners.

Lastly, the County will conduct an analysis of the adequacy of county-wide firefighting capabilities and consider amendments to their capital facilities plan that may be needed to maintain those capabilities with the rural areas of the county – particularly those areas on the border of the Urban Growth Area that can be a long distance from services.

“The County is glad that an agreement with Futurewise could come to fruition and continues to work diligently to advance efforts to protect the County’s water resources, improve transportation services, and plan for growing wildfire fighting needs,” said Jerrod MacPherson, Benton County Planning Manager.

Read the Settlement Agreement