Incoming court justice predicts water will be an issue

Who would have guessed that, throughout the history of our state, a Kitsap County resident has never served as a State Supreme Court justice?

Charlie Wiggins of Bainbridge Island, Washington's next Supreme Court justice
Kitsap Sun photo by Larry Steagall

That’s been true until now, that is, since Bainbridge Island attorney Charlie Wiggins is about to replace Justice Richard Sanders on the state’s high court.

That’s just one tidbit in a fascinating story written about Wiggins by reporter Tristan Baurick in Monday’s Kitsap Sun. In his blog, Bainbridge Conversation, Tristan also revealed how a Kitsap resident years ago became a Supreme Court justice — but only after moving to Tacoma, so he didn’t count.

It’s too early to know how Wiggins’ presence will change the Supreme Court, but most observers expect him to take positions to the left of Sanders, who is generally viewed as either a Libertarian or a staunch conservative.

Tristan quoted Court of Appeals judges who have worked with Wiggins. They said he is well respected in legal circles but remains largely unknown to the public.

Retired judge Elaine Houghton: “He writes eloquent and clearly — something we judges aspire to. His work is well-regarded because he finds the essence of the law and espouses it very easily.”

University of Washington law professor Bill Anderson: “You can’t peg him as an activist or nonactivist judge, or as a liberal or conservative. I don’t think he’ll blaze any trails in any direction. I think he’ll just be a professional judge. Consistent, honorable, objective.”

One thing I found interesting was Wiggins’ predictions about issues that could come before the court in the future. His lists water because of its limited supplies.

“With climate change,” Wiggins told our reporter, “water is just going to be an incredibly precious resource.”

In trying to judge how Wiggins might shift the court, I read several of his articles written for legal publications. For a lawyer, his writing can be engaging, especially when dealing with historical issues. Check out “The Battle for the Tidelands in the Constitutional Convention,” which he wrote for the Washington State Bar Association.

23 thoughts on “Incoming court justice predicts water will be an issue

  1. “…“With climate change,” Wiggins told our reporter, “water is just going to be an incredibly precious resource.”…”

    We need to begin in the home…the beginning…important stuff.
    Why are we now wasting precious water rinsing empty soda bottles and cans with water before they are allowed to be recycled?

    Sharon O’Hara

  2. I wouldn’t want to walk into a court and have the judge say, “With the defendant’s guilt, it is important we proceed carefully in this case”.

  3. Luckily I’m not guilty of committing such a silly waste of water.

    A long time ago a Kitsap judge listened to the defendant argue how worthless the horses were to the complaint that he was not feeding the horses he had arbitrarily kept after a divorce. He claimed they were not of value.

    The litigant claimed they were show horses and that the defendant was not feeding them. She proved the blood lines were performance show lines and that he was not feeding the young horses properly.

    The judge decided since the horses were so worthless to the defendant, he gave them all to the litigant who wanted them fed and an even division of the horse investment.

    It was the smoothest most surprising piece of justice I’ve seen in a courtroom.

    For years the defendant swore to anyone who would listen that the judge had been paid off.
    He never realized common sense entered that courtroom..not crony ism or a payoff.
    Sharon O’Hara

  4. Not sure what climate change has to do with pending court cases with water use ?

    But in Kitsap with our drinking water coming from underground streams I can see what a person doing on their property can possibly effect another’s source of drinking water.

  5. I don’t have a quarrel with legislation protecting our resources, including water.

    Sometimes though we have extenuating circumstances that necessitate deliberately standing an injured horse in a moving mountain stream to let the moving cold water help heal a badly injured and swollen pastern…to help keep the swelling down. It worked…totally against the rules. She lived, got better and after a week or so brought us out of the Cascades.

    Water therapy works.
    Sharon O’Hara

  6. Justice Wiggins is fully informed. I heard all about it on one of my favorite shows, “Conspiracy Theories” on TruTV. And if you do not believe me, just ask Jesse Ventura.

    He did a special on how water is the next oil, and found out that T. Boone Pickens has bought up more water rights than any other person in this nation, by building a ranch over the Ogalla (High Plains) Aquifer. He then had his ranch declared a water district, was given the power of eminent domain, and is now ready to build a pipeline and suck that water out of the aquifer – selling it to the highest bidder. No one owns the aquifer, but in Texas, whoever has the water beneath his land can pump as much as he wants

    Read more at the Washington Examiner:

    As Jesse says –
    “Follow the Money” – right BlueLight?

    micksheldon and Sharon – Did you know we sell our water to other countries? Do you think that is okay – you may have enough water now, but what about your grandkids, or their grandkids? Just a question.

  7. I hadn’t heard the water side of the T. Boone Pickens story, Groovy. Thanks for sharing. In Washington, as you probably know, our water law is based on “first in time, first in right”. So here, Mr. Pickens would not be able to “pump as much as he wants” as his withdrawal would, likely, impair senior rights (including streamflows). But, they say everything is bigger in Texas… (and I don’t know how Texas water law works)

    As for “follow the money”. Always good advice. The trail leads left and right.

  8. groovy…No, I didn’t know we sold our water to other countries. How does that work?
    I don’t know enough to decide if that is ‘okay’ or not though I can’t imagine keeping water from people and animals dying of thirst. We live in a world of children and people to be concerned about and look out for their interests. The right to lifegiving water should be the right to each of us.

    I’ve never heard of TruTV..but if it says “Tru” it must be so.

    “Are you really going to side with some greedy holdout ranchers over the future of green power? Sure enough, the Sierra Club is now rallying behind this whole scheme.”

    Horrifying…but it kind of fits in with the recent judge ruling against a ‘free’ Internet. Unless it gets overturned, someday this wonderful world information super highway will be controlled – not good for following generations.

    And … !

    Thanks groovy… Sharon

  9. Nestles Company, out of Switzerland, has purchased San Pellegrino and Perrier. Nestles has since then built an enormous pumping station next to the Great Lakes, USA. This water, after bottled, is sold all over the world – from Your Great Lakes.

    “Located in the heart of Waushara County in Wisconsin, the serenely beautiful Mecan River and Springs are home to bass, trout and other wildlife. Local residents, farmers and business owners are concerned that Nestlé / Perrier’s plans for high-capacity wells in the Mecan Watershed and other Wisconsin waterways would damage their communities’ economies, natural resources, tourist income and way of life.”

    But it does not end there. Newsweek recently addressed this issue. A small community in Alaska is planning (or already has) siphoned 80 million gallons of Blue Lake water into the kind of tankers normally reserved for oil—and shipped to a bulk bottling facility near Mumbai – for a profit, of course. Look at this lake – what a beauty!

    This is an interesting article because it discusses the marketing of water. Should water be marketed – the World Bank says “Yes” stating that higher prices will force us to conserve. Economists argue this won’t work, because you can only conserve to a point – water is a life necessity. Higher prices on a life necessity do not encourage positive behavior. In fact, it can encourage just the opposite (hoarding, stealing).

    Now I will be honest folks, this month’s National Geographic addresses our current world’s population (approaching 7 billion). Until we buckle down and face that issue, stories like private companies or entire communities siphoning up freshwater sources for a profit will become more and more common. As our population grows resources like water DO become the next oil.

  10. I really think the problem here is geography, not supply of water. But still this has nothing to do with climate change . The population of the world has gone up drastically since oil has become associated with farming . Mass food production promoted a giant population explosion. In geographical areas where food production has been limited due to the region as in water, the ability to mass produce food or harness water has allowed population growth where perhaps it would never had occured before. Massive food exports to many regions are needed now to stop starvation.

    So I am not sure what your saying groovy, your against selling water and or food ?

    Because the reason food is produced and water is harnessed to the larger capacity it is has been due to economic pressures caused by polulation increases. . In the Soviet union people were starving in areas because food distribution had no incentive economically, you could deliver bread down the street or to the next city and make exactly the same amount of money . Hence the next city went without food .

    Perhaps water is an issue, but the way I am reading here I believe the debate is framed in a way that is promoted by an idealogical view point . I am not convinced of any concern that selling our water to other countries is causing our water supply to be hindered.

    I am concerned with how we handle streams, our natural resources . Water supply here is abundant , we have a natural replenishing supply . Concern about how we make sure those supplies remain free of polution and such is what I believe the future debates will be about .

    You just perhaps are ahead of your time there grovy with me and the rest of the world. Oil is still the next oil . Its diminishing supply, the polution it causes, and the way we have become so dependent on it remains the concern of the next couple of generations at least .

    But interesting view regardless. Know of any documentaries that may share your view point. I am a netflix junkie and ould gladly rent a documentary on this if you know of any.

  11. It seems to me, Mick, we can live without oil if need be and great brains will figure out how to live around it. Oil is not the basic necessity we think it is.

    Not the case with water…life, as we know it, cannot exist without water. It grows crops and sustains us and all living creatures.

    No whale has muttered a need for more boats annoying them and would have great difficulty surviving in a sea of oil… in my opoinion.
    Sharon O’Hara

  12. Sharon the sevennh billion baby will be born in 2011. Without oil we would not have the means to mass produce the food needed. The great neccesity is the massive lack of food that will occur unless an energy resource is found to replace the ablity to produce food in the massive amounts we have learned to do because of oil .
    Of course we can not exist without water , but the question I asked was show some kind of educational reasoning and scientific understanding to show this lack of water is real . . Thats why I asked for a documentary that perhaps could explain it better then groovy did .

    Look at a world population growth by a graph , then look at the time period farms starting using oil as a means to grow more crops . Oil has allowed the mass production of food, what followed was the massive population explosion . Despite world wars and oppressive dictatorships of the last century. Look at the population of the world after the use of oil became used to expand the production f food.

    Water is a natural nenewable resource, oil is not . We need to find renewable resources that replace our dependence on oil otherwise billions will not learn to live around it, they will starve .

    Many third world countries have a water problem but it is also based on access and geography , lack of techonolgy. The water is there . We have more then enough water in the world . It where it is and making sure we do not pollute those resources. Many of the charities that I give to donate equipment and labor to help third world countries get clean water from their own region. The problem with our water supply is based on plumbing , not resources.

  13. Actually Mick, I thought groovy did an outstanding job of explaining with examples of the here and now realities of people and organizations primed to pump for profit. Water, that is.

    We’ve lived here about 11 years. In that time, I have never seen the chain link posts turned white from humidity – until now. It is not a ‘good thing’….change is here.

    “…Water is indispensable for all forms of life. It is needed in almost all human activities. Access to safe freshwater is now regarded as a universal human right (United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 2003), and the Millennium Development Goals include the extended access to safe drinking water and sanitation (UNDP, 2006). Sustainable management of freshwater resources has gained importance at regional (e.g., European Union, 2000) and global scales (United Nations, 2002, 2006; World Water Council, 2006), and ‘Integrated Water Resources Management’ has become the corresponding scientific paradigm.

    … Climate and freshwater systems are interconnected in complex ways. Any change in one of these systems induces a change in the other. For example, the draining of large wetlands may cause changes in moisture recycling and a decrease of precipitation in particular months, when local boundary conditions dominate over the large-scale circulation (Kanae et al., 2001). Conversely, climate change affects freshwater quantity and quality with respect to both mean states and variability (e.g., water availability as well as floods and droughts). Water use is impacted by climate change, and also, more importantly, by changes in population, lifestyle, economy, and technology; in particular by food demand, which drives irrigated agriculture, globally the largest water-use sector. Significant changes in water use or the hydrological cycle (affecting water supply and floods) require adaptation in the management of water resources.

    At the global scale, health problems due to arsenic and fluoride in groundwater are more important than those due to other chemicals (United Nations, 2006). Affected regions include India, Bangladesh, China, North Africa, Mexico, and Argentina, with more than 100 million people suffering from arsenic poisoning and fluorosis … ”

    Thank you, Cameron…
    Sharon O’Hara

  14. Sharon I guess when groovy stated he heard about this on a show called co0nspiracy theories on tru TV. Then said if
    you don’t believe him as Jesse Ventura I put this in another shooter in grassy noll category. , Just a couple of sources I never used before or would consider in having an exchange with someone where I was trying to promote facts or the fear of our water supply to . The UN report also is taking scientists who have laready concluded to whaat is debatable in effects of Global warming and what will continue to happen . But I did find Cameron’s report enlightening .
    But as far as iour grand kids worrying about our water suplly I find a bit extreme . According to Gores documenatary we are already too late to ever stop the ill effects of golbal warming. The bad science hgets defended is what bothers me about discussing these things . It turns into a drastic climate change VS no climate change , when their is so much in the middle .

    Like I said its the plumbing , not the supply. If you believe Climate Change is actually causing the water supply to be diminished , then indeed Constitutional changes are needed in our Constitution, Property rights will be effected as Judge Wiggins states . Hopefully groovy and the UN will not dictate justice and Constitutional Law before that occurs. The last thing we need are Judicial minds playing science class with the Constitution.

  15. Thanks for the link Cameron . That helped me understand the conversation.

    Also appreciated your last letter to the editor. Interested to know if you received any flak for it from among those who may normally support your views ? . I thought it was right on and an an excellent example of why are young people today live in much social pollution so to speak .

  16. Something I think about, Mick, when someone says something is impossible or can’t be true or … is the runner who broke the 1 minute mile record time. The record stood for years, as you know, until a runner came by who didn’t know he couldn’t beat it. He wasn’t preprogrammed to fail.

    Our grandkids will live and deal with whatever we leave them – they needn’t worry about it.
    Sharon O’Hara

  17. Just got back and catching up with this interesting discussion –

    Mick, just to set the record straight – you asked:

    “So I am not sure what your saying groovy, your against selling water and or food ?”

    Mick, why are you portraying me as having any opinion? In every post you make some type of statement about me – such as “Hopefully groovy and the UN will not dictate justice and Constitutional Law before that occurs. The last thing we need are Judicial minds playing science class with the Constitution.” Hmmm…

    I was simply providing information supporting/relating the Justice’s position on how case law relating to water resources will become increasingly more important – as “water becomes the new oil.” Whether it is to irrigate crops, provide water necessary for manufacturing and cooling facilities, or to provide people with fresh drinking water directly, the demand increases as more people populate the earth. Fact. Not opinion.

    I admit I am not personally comfortable with a company pumping fresh water from the Great Lakes and then selling it back the American people, and the rest of the world. Read more about contamination.

    “Carved by ancient glaciers, these lakes contain approximately 20 percent of the world’s surface fresh-water supply and 95 percent of the surface fresh water in the United States…..Concerted management efforts were undertaken in the 1970s to restore Lake Erie and the other lakes back to health. Yet after more than two decades of mostly good news about the lake’s improving health, Lake Erie again is showing signs of an environmental crisis. Scientists attribute diverse and complex causes to the latest ecosystem disruption: large-scale fish and bird die-offs; a large “dead zone” off the Ohio shoreline; and the threat of invasion by more nonnative species, particularly the Asian carp and quagga mussel.

    Read more: Great Lakes – river, sea, freshwater, effects, temperature, important, largest, system, wave, source, marine, oxygen, human

    So, that’s about it – Mick. I was only providing information relating to the Justice’s belief, which I support. There is increasing demand, which supports a market, which supports private interests. And your question was?

    And take what I said about Jesse Ventura as tongue in cheek. I am not writing a thesis here with scientific references. I am discussing something online with some folks I have knows for quite some time. But if you want to get picky about writing…you may want to turn your spell-check on. ( :

    BTW – here are your Netflix Videos, one of which was done by PBS and documents both Puget Sound and the Chesapeake Bay (Poisoned Waters). All are about how important water is becoming.

    Water Voices
    This seven-episode set (don’t worry: each is only about 22 minutes) highlights the way the water crisis affects everyday life in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Fiji, India, Kiribati, Philippines, Thailand, and Tonga.

    Blue Gold
    For centuries, wars have been fought over precious commodities from all over the world—though, so far, water hasn’t been one of them. But according to Blue Gold: World Water Wars, that’s all about to change as political, economic, and social movements make water a limited resource in more and more international regions

    If you’re not even sure that fighting to own water is possible, then Flow is a good film to start with; the award-winning documentary asks that exact question, and then sets about answering it through interviews with scientists and activists, and in-depth discussions of, as the film refers to it, “the growing privatization of the world’s dwindling freshwater supply.”

    Running Dry
    The 2005 film Running Dry took its cues from Senator Paul Simon’s book Tapped Out: The Coming World Crisis in Water and What We Can Do About It—and was so well-received that it inspired the Senator Paul Simon Water Act for the Poor, which allocates government funding to provide clean, safe water in areas that otherwise wouldn’t have it

    Poisoned Waters
    For a look at how the water crisis affects the US closer to home, try the PBS documentary Poisoned Waters: the film showcases the cleanliness and health of Puget Sound and the Chesapeake Bay and uses them as barometers for the overall quality of the nation’s fishing areas—then explains why clean water is such a critical part of our lives and those of our marine life.

    How about letting us know which one you liked best?

  18. Thanks for ther netflix documentaries. I will ck them out .

    In any case , does anyone have any knowledge to what the new justice was speaking to about Global Warming and the water issue . The article led me to believe the justice thought Global warming was going to have some kind of association with a court case .

    I understand issues such as the tideland issue that has a poll on the right of this blog by the way . Also say with the recent decision not to allow Pt Gamble to go ahead with building a Marina because of the treaty rights that Tribes have . Also the right for tribes to use land on anothers private property to harvest .

    But what was the property rights issue Justice Wiggins was talking to . Out of the loop , just did not know there was any issue with Global Warming and a coming Washington State issue .

  19. Mick,

    Before I wrote this blog entry, I asked the author of the original story, Tristan Baurick, if Charlie Wiggins said anything else about water. The future justice declined to elaborate, Tristan said.

    So I called Wiggins today to ask why he believes water will become a major legal issue. His answer was pretty general, as I expected.

    “This seems to me to be an area where we’re seeing a lot of action,” he told me. “We’re just seeing more cases in this area, and I expect it will become a bigger and bigger issue…. If the snowpack changes, there are going to be some real concerns.”

    He pointed out that the court is unlikely to be called on to decide whether global warming is real. Rather, the questions are likely to be fairly narrow, probably involving real people and the roles of government in the management of water supplies.

  20. Christopher Thanks for your feedback , and especially thankful for calling Justice Wiggins up to ask him about this.
    I was aware of possible problems dealing with property rights and our water supply, especially water sources that come from underground streams. Actually was motivated to rent a couple of the documentaries that groovy recommended from the discussion, but the comment from the Justice stuck out in my mind because of the global warming debate.
    The snow pack melting and the possible harsh consequences of that are actually in the report by the UN Cameron shared also.

    I was concerned if he was speaking to actually making decisions based on an assumed belief the snow pack melting or something to that effect.

  21. Mick,

    Thanks for the comment about my op-ed. So far, I’ve only gotten positive feedback for it, from people all over the political spectrum. I’d like to think that the well-being of our kids is a non-partisan issue.

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