(1) The legislature finds that early settlement of contested claims is needed for a fair and efficient adjudication of water rights. Therefore, the department and other parties should identify opportunities for settlement following the date set by the court for filing evidence for all parties. To the extent consistent with court rules, the court as it deems beneficial is encouraged to urge as many parties to the adjudication as possible to reach timely agreement on claimed water rights in a manner that limits costs to the public, claimants, counties, courts, and the department. Further, at appropriate times throughout the process the court as it deems beneficial is encouraged to direct parties to utilize alternative methods of dispute resolution, including informal meetings, negotiation, mediation, or other methods to reach agreement on disputed claims.
(2) Any time after the filing of all claims under RCW 90.03.140
, the department or another party may move the superior court to allow parties to meet for settlement discussions for a set length of time, either before an appointed mediator or without a mediator. For good cause shown, the court may extend the length of time for settlement discussions. The costs of mediation must be equitably borne by the parties to the mediation.
(3) If the department and a claimant reach agreement on settlement, the department shall file a motion to approve the settlement pursuant to RCW 90.03.640
(3)(a) and shall disclose the terms of the settlement to other parties to the adjudication. The court shall conduct a hearing prior to approving a settlement and any party to the adjudication may object or offer modifications to the settlement.
[2009 c 332 § 11.]
Application—2009 c 332:
See note following RCW 90.03.110