Ecology Suspends Application For Water Bank

Newport Miner
Mar 31, 2021
OLYMPIA – Washington’s Department of Ecology has suspended processing an application by a for profit firm to form a water bank. Crown Columbia Water Resources LLC, a Spokane Valley based firm with origins on Wall Street, had sought to buy water rights in the Columbia River basin, including in Pend Oreille County, for an area wide water bank.

“The wide interest this application has generated underscores the need for further consideration,” G. Thomas Tebb of Ecology’s Office of the Columbia wrote in a March 26 letter to stakeholders. “We believe it is in everyone’s best interest to allow time to work with tribes, counties, cities, legislators and stakeholders to engage in these policy discussions together, before making a decision on this permit application.”

Some, including Pend Oreille County commissioners, were concerned about for-profit groups like Crown Columbia buying water rights. All three county commissioners, Mike Manus, Brian Smiley and John Gentle, signed a letter March 16 opposing the application.

“This application, if approved, would reduce the people’s water to a commodity available to the highest bidder in order to satisfy the balance sheet,” the letter read. They pointed out that if Crown Columbia failed to perform on any conditions for approval, a costly legal battle would take place, funded by tax dollars. “As the stewards of this critical and essential public resource, it does not seem in the interest of the public to approve this application.”

Crown Columbia placed a legal notice in The Miner in late December seeking comment on its proposal “to appropriate public waters, subject to existing rights, from all surface water and ground water in hydraulic continuity with surface water, within the Columbia River Basin within Washington State at the instantaneous rate of 49.9 cubic feet per second, for the purposes of irrigation, domestic, and municipal.”

In February Ecology asked officials around the state, including in Pend Oreille County, for their opinion on the proposal. That comment period closed March 19.

Crown Columbia Water Resources LLC was formed by Petrus Partners, a New York firm. According to its website, the partners objective is to invest capital of “high net worth individuals who had also previously been executives with Goldman, Sachs & Co.”