Washington Lands Commissioner Loses PUD Right-Of-Way Battle

Jan 29, 2015

Public utility districts in Washington have the right to place power lines through state trust lands. That was the decision from the Washington Supreme Court.

This ends a years-long legal fight between Washington’s elected lands commissioner and the Okanogan PUD.

Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark has fought for years to keep Okanogan PUD from stringing transmission lines through state trust grazing and forest lands. He lost in superior court. When he wanted to appeal then-Attorney General Rob McKenna refused saying the case didn’t have legs.

The Supreme Court then ordered McKenna to represent Goldmark on appeal. Now three-and-a-half years later the Supreme Court has handed the PUD a decisive victory saying that state law ‘expressly authorizes’ public utility districts to install electrical transmissions lines through state trust lands.

Commissioner Goldmark was unavailable for comment. A spokeswoman for the Washington Department of Natural Resources called the ruling disappointing.

Previously, Goldmark warned this case could open the floodgates to other local PUDs to condemn DNR grazing land.