(1) The department may expedite processing of applications within the same source of water on its own volition when there is interest from a sufficient number of applicants or upon receipt of written requests from at least ten percent of the applicants within the same source of water.
(2) If the conditions of subsection (1) of this section have been met and the department determines that the public interest is best served by expediting applications within a water source, the department must notify in writing all persons who have pending applications on file for a new appropriation, change, transfer, or amendment of a water right from that water source. A water source may include surface water only, groundwater only, or surface and groundwater together if the department determines that they are hydraulically connected. The notice must be posted on the department's website and published in a newspaper of general circulation in the area where affected properties are located. The notice must also be made individually by way of mail to:
(a) Inform those applicants that expedited processing of applications within the described water source is being initiated;
(b) Provide to individual applicants the criteria under which the applications will be examined and determined;
(c) Provide to individual applicants the estimated cost for having an application processed on an expedited basis;
(d) Provide an estimate of how long the expedited process will take before an application is approved or denied; and
(e) Provide at least sixty days for the applicants to respond in writing regarding the applicant's decision to participate in expedited processing of their applications.
(3) In addition to the application fees provided in RCW 90.03.470
, the department must recover the full cost of processing all the applications from applicants who elect to participate within the water source through expedited processing fees. The department must calculate an expedited processing fee based primarily on the proportionate quantity of water requested by each applicant and may adjust the fee if it appears that an application will require a disproportionately greater amount of time and effort to process due to its complexity. Any application fees that were paid by the applicant under RCW 90.03.470
must be credited against the applicant's share of the cost of processing applications under the provisions of this section.
(4) The expedited processing fee must be collected by the department prior to the expedited processing of an application. Revenue collected from these fees must be deposited into the water rights processing account created in RCW 90.03.650
. An applicant who has stated in writing that he or she wants his or her application processed using the expedited procedures in this section must transmit the processing fee within sixty days of the written request. Failure to do so will result in the applicant not being included in expedited processing for that water source.
(5) If an applicant elects not to participate in expedited processing, the application remains on file with the department, the applicant retains his or her priority date, and the application may be processed through regular processing, priority processing, expedited processing, coordinated cost-reimbursement processing, cost-reimbursement processing, or through conservancy board processing as authorized under chapter 90.80
RCW. Such an application may not be processed through expedited processing within twelve months after the department's issuance of decisions on participating applications at the conclusion of expedited processing unless the applicant agrees to pay the full proportionate share that would otherwise have been paid during such processing. Any proceeds collected from an applicant under this delayed entry into expedited processing shall be used to reimburse the other applicants who participated in the previous expedited processing of applications, provided sufficient proceeds remain to fully cover the department's cost of processing the delayed entry application and the department's estimated administrative costs to reimburse the previously expedited applicants.