Court rules water ballot initiatives invalid

Pierce County Superior Court Judge Jack Nevin sided with the Port of Tacoma Friday, ruling invalid two proposed initiatives that sought public votes on potential developments.

The two ballot initiatives are spearheaded by a group calling itself Save Tacoma Water. The measures, which attempt to amend Tacoma’s city charter and municipal code, sought a public vote on potential developments that would use 1 million gallons of water or more per day from Tacoma Water.

The Economic Development Board of Tacoma-Pierce County and the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber also joined the suit to keep the legally flawed initiatives off the ballot.

These initiatives, similar to ones declared invalid in other parts of the state and country, are aimed at requiring public votes on manufacturing, industrial and technology water users that create economic opportunities and family-wage jobs for our community.

The Washington Supreme Court unanimously struck down an almost-identical Spokane initiative in February, declaring it invalid. The Pierce County Superior Court described that the Spokane case guided its ruling that the proposed Tacoma measures were flawed.

The City of Tacoma has a legal obligation under state law to serve water demands in its service territories, and to acquire supplies and develop facilities, if necessary, to do so. In addition, Tacoma Water’s service area extends beyond city limits, affecting hundreds if not thousands of customers outside the city.

State law also considers zoning and development matters outside local initiative power.

The environmental impacts, including water use, of specific developments are appropriately analyzed during the environmental review process under the State Environmental Policy Act.

These initiatives were a misguided attempt to thwart the missions of the Port, Economic Development Board and Chamber to create jobs and economic opportunities for Pierce County.

More than 29,000 jobs are generated by port activity, which also provides $195 million per year in state and local taxes to support education, roads and police and fire protection for our community.

The Tacoma-Puyallup industrial subarea’s 21,300 jobs make up 4 percent of the region’s industrial employment. These jobs pay an average $80,000 a year, while retail jobs average $36,300 a year.

About the Port of Tacoma

The Port of Tacoma is an economic engine for South Puget Sound. More than 29,000 jobs are generated by port activity, which also provides $195 million per year in state and local taxes to support education, roads and police and fire protection for our community. As a partner in The Northwest Seaport Alliance, the Port of Tacoma is also a major cargo gateway to Asia and Alaska.