County braces for surge of building permits in wake of controversial water-rights ruling

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The Spokane County Building and Planning Department may keep its doors open as late as necessary Wednesday to accomodate a surge of building permit applicants in the wake of a controversial water-rights decision by the state Supreme Court.

The court’s Oct. 6 Hirst decision dramatically alters permitting requirements for rural property owners who rely on so-called “exempt” wells. Property owners have been rushing to submit applications before the ruling takes effect Thursday.

“The amount of folks who are trying to get in before the deadline is significant,” Commissioner Al French said. “People were lining up outside yesterday.”

The Spokane County Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to authorize overtime pay for county staff to review the applications. Officials from Spokane, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties also discussed how to respond to the court’s decision in a conference call; some proposed legislative action.

The ruling will require permit applicants to show that a proposed development won’t infringe on someone else’s water right or violate environmental rules designed to protect fish – a daunting task, according to county officials.

More information can be found on the county’s website.