Jade Greens closes over water rights

Jade Greens Golf Course – the nine-hole course that lies between Auburn and Black Diamond – closed last weekend.

James Hawk, the owner of Jade Greens, announced in early September that the course will close after 27 years on Nov. 27.

Hawk said in an interview with the Auburn Reporter that it was getting financially tough to keep the course running.

The reason it has become financially difficult for the course is because the Department of Ecology determined in 2015 that Hawk needed to obtain a water right in order to keep watering the course.

“In Washington, you need to have a permit called a water right in order to irrigate a large property like a farm or a golf course,” said Larry Altose, the director of media relations for the Department of Ecology’s northwest region.

It states in RCW 90.44.050 commercial irrigation that exceeds 5,000 gallons of groundwater a day requires a state water rights permit.

According to a warning letter sent to Hawk by DOE Section Manager Tom Buroker in July 2015, the department was requested to investigate Hawk’s water rights at the course.

“In a search of our water rights database, we were unable to find irrigation water rights for the property,” Buroker wrote, adding that the golf course applied for a water rights permit in 1989 and in 1992, but both applications were denied in 1996 and all appeals were spent by 2000.

The reason why the water rights permits were denied was because the Jade Greens Golf Course is located in the Green River watershed, specifically in an area where groundwater withdrawals can affect water flowing into the Covington Creek, which in turn could affect water going into the Big Soos Creek and eventually into the Green River.

“All tributaries of the Green River, including Covington and Big Soos Creeks, are closed to new water right permits,” Altose said.

A spokesperson for Hawk said he largely didn’t want to comment on the situation, but said he felt his business was caught in a “Catch 22” – that he was required to get a water right permit, but was operating in an area that made it impossible for him to get one.

As of the course’s closing date, there were no plans to sell the land.

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