Washington Court Rules Against Landowners In Skagit Water Rights Case

Richard Fox on his Skagit County property. On Tuesday a judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by Fox and his wife, Marnie, challenging a rule that prevents them from drilling a well. The rule is meant to provide water for spawning salmon during dry months. | credit: Ashley Ahearn / KUOW

Richard Fox on his Skagit County property. On Tuesday a judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by Fox and his wife, Marnie, challenging a rule that prevents them from drilling a well. The rule is meant to provide water for spawning salmon during dry months. | credit: Ashley Ahearn / KUOW

 

By Ashley Ahearn, KUOW

EVERETT, Wash. — A judge ruled against a couple Tuesday after they sued for the right to drill a well and build a new home on their property in Skagit County.

The case marks the latest battle in the ongoing fight over water rights in Washington’s Skagit River valley.

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge George Appel dismissed the case brought by property owners Richard and Marnie Fox. He told the couple that they can’t build a home on their property because they don’t have legal access to water.

That’s because of a 2001 rule that basically says there has to be enough water left in the Skagit River to protect spawning salmon

The courtroom was packed. There were a lot of people who had come in from rural parts of the county because this rule affects a lot of property owners. More than 450 property owners stand to have their property values decreased because of this rule — because they no longer have legal access to water.

Critics of the rule said they are calling on state legislators to reexamine this 2001 rule to see what can be done to reset the balance the interests of property owners with the interests of protecting fish.