Watershed partners, Ecology reach agreement on steps forward for water management in the Dungeness

from Washington State Dept. of Ecology

Feb. 15, 2011


OLYMPIA, WA– The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology), local irrigators and Clallam County have reached an innovative agreement on steps forward for water supply and stream flow restoration in the Dungeness River Watershed. See the Dungeness Watershed Guiding Principles for Managing Water Cooperators' Agreement.

In conjunction with the agreement, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe has sent a letter of support to Ecology, pledging participation in efforts to improve water supply and restore stream flows in the watershed. Here’s the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe letter

Competing demands for a water supply that varies greatly through the year require a collaborative effort to manage water to benefit present and future users in the Dungeness watershed.

While snowmelt on the north Olympic Peninsula is the main source of water in the Dungeness River in spring and early summer, flows drop rapidly, and by late summer streams and rivers are almost entirely fed by groundwater. Farm irrigation and lawn watering are at their peaks in the summer and early fall, the same time spawning fish need water in the streams. Four fish species in the Dungeness River are threatened, and insufficient stream flow is a critical factor. Demands on the water supply are only expected to increase due to one of the highest population growth rates in Washington state.

With commitment from local partners to broadly address water management issues in the next 12 months, Ecology is suspending rulemaking in the watershed through 2011. This new agreement emerged during the drafting of a Dungeness water management rule and is built on five goals:

  • Preventing permanent reductions in Dungeness River flows or small streams due to new uses.
  • Supplying adequate and reliable water for new uses.
  • Ensuring sustainable agriculture in the Dungeness Valley.
  • Restoring stream flows in the main-stem Dungeness and where feasible, in small streams.
  • Putting in place an instream flow rule that protects instream resources and existing water rights within 18 months after the agreement is signed.

“Local collaboration is the key to developing smart water management in the Dungeness,” said Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant. “This agreement is critically important to the future of the watershed, not only because it protects stream flows but also because of its emphasis on restoring stream flows in the Dungeness River and some streams. We recognize the benefits of hitting the pause button on rulemaking and creating time and space for local leaders to seek out and negotiate new water supply projects that could benefit all partners.”

Clallam County Commissioners and state Rep. Steve Tharinger said, “I think we all know the challenges we face in restoring flows in late summer, but we have the right people at the table who are committed to finding a solution.”

Gary Smith, director of the Dungeness Water Users Association, said: “My hopes for this extended time period are to find new sources of water and more efficient use of the water that we have during the critical low-flow periods. At the same time, we will address the cost of implementation and ongoing administration. The additional time will allow us to move from a process of allocating water supplies toward a process that will, more dependably, assure future water supplies for domestic and agricultural use while we address improvements for fish habitat.”

Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal Chairman Ron Allen said, “Our Tribe is honored to support this partnership to responsibly manage our precious water resource that not only addresses our community needs, but is essential for the protection and restoration of our fishery resource.”

Media Contact: Dan Partridge, 360-407-7139, dan.partridge@ecy.wa.gov 

For more information:

Dungeness Water Management (http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wr/instream-flows/dungeness.html)

Dungeness River Management Team (http://www.olympus.net/community/dungenesswc)