Tacoma to file response to water initiative suit

The Tacoma City Manager advised the City Council Wednesday that the City of Tacoma will formally respond to an action filed by the Port of Tacoma, the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce and the Tacoma-Pierce County Economic Development Board. The City is named as a defendant in this action challenging two citizen initiatives pertaining to large-volume industrial water usage.

Both citizen initiatives require that applications for water service of one million gallons or more of water use per day be placed on the ballot at the next general election for voter approval, that the applicant for water service pay associated election costs, and that any regulation or law that may conflict be superseded.

“We support the citizen initiative process as a way to develop policy and maintain checks and balances in the legislative process,” said Mayor Marilyn Strickland.

“Under state law, however, the City does not have the legal authority to pick and choose who gets access to water in our service area,” said Strickland. “As a result, access to water cannot be determined by initiative. We must apply existing state and federal laws that ensure equality of access to municipal services. We will improve processes to address the community’s concerns and ensure that all voices are heard.”

In response to citizen feedback, city staff are also currently working to develop an expanded notification process for projects taking place around Tacoma, and will specifically be working more closely with the Port of Tacoma on improved communications surrounding large-scale Port-owned projects.

“Having listened carefully to community concerns, we definitely understand the need for improved communication regarding large-scale projects with high resource utilization,” said City Manager T.C. Broadnax. “As a part of the City’s response to the complaint, we will be asking the court to review whether or not these particular initiatives exceed their scope by including administrative matters, powers granted exclusively to the City Council, and matters beyond the legislative scope of local authority, including matters that conflict with other laws.”

— City of Tacoma