Deal reached on water dispute that stalled new construction

SEATTLE (AP) — Top state lawmakers have reached a deal on a complex rural water dispute that has held up approval of more than $4 billion in new school and other construction projects for months.

Rep. Larry Springer, a Kirkland Democrat, said Thursday that top Republican and Democratic leaders reached a negotiated agreement earlier this week on both the water dispute and the two-year capital budget.

Republicans have insisted on getting legislation to fix the so-called Hirst court decision before passing the capital budget. That 2016 state Supreme Court ruling effectively restricted new household wells in rural areas if they affect water kept in streams for fish or other senior water rights.

Springer said in an interview that the proposed deal would allow landowners in rural areas to tap so-called permit-exempt wells while local committees in watersheds come up with longer-term mitigation plan.

The proposal also includes $300 million over the next 15 years for projects that improve stream flows.