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Citizens voice extreme concerns at water management meeting

by Lois Krafsky Perry
Citizen Review Online

Posted June 29, 2012

Sequim, WA – The Dungeness Water Management open house presentation and public hearing was staged by the Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE), June 28th, 2012,  at the Sequim Community Church sanctuary, on North 5th Avenue in Sequim, WA.

Apparently there was not enough room for  facilitator, Judy Beisel, to put her paperwork, so she plopped it onto the altar, which also held a large Bible and Chalice.

Clallam County taxpayers, as well as Jefferson County citizens, numbered approximately 300 people, with attendees  from as far as Lake Ozette, who also came to testify.  There were approximately 10 representatives from the DOE and/or auxiliary agencies.

During the meeting, a request was made by Melvina Worman, who asked that it be put in the record, after a show of hands, as to how many people attending are against the “Rule proposals”. It was noted that 99 percent of the attendees were against it.

Public comment time yielded approximately 40 people and only one person spoke in favor of the proposal.  Hal Beecher, Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, referred to this plan as, “a collaborative process, as an example of community thinking”.

“I am here to listen and take back what you are saying.  While we have rule in place, we are not done yet,” said one staff member, who explained he works with Ted Sturdevant, a Department of Ecology (DOE) regional director.

The deadline time for public comment was explained by another member, which is July 9th.  She said there is not a set date for the deadline. That would take place after we determine and we assess, but we have to be done by December 3rd, she said.  “Ted Sturdevant decides,” she declared.   The Rule would then go into effect 31 days, ‘after adoption’.

Another facilitator stated that there has been lots of outrage the past couple of years in feedback, as he referred to scenic instream flows. He said they will look, case by case, when instream flows are not met.  While referring to the water exchange project, he said there is a cost concern–intense cost.  He said they are working with the legislature to seek funds to pay for litigation. He said  Ann Wessel has worked for the past couple of years as DOE rule writer with instream flows.

As the meeting commenced, introductions were made, then facilitator Ann Wessel projected maps and literature on a dark screen, which was very hard to see, in the darkened church building.  The same literature was available in the foyer. Explanations of what was written and drawn on the maps, was then followed by questions from the audience.  Many concerns were shared.

Most of the questions asked were generated by the handouts with information supplied in the foyer, before the meeting. Sequim resident David Landau asked what is the annual revenue from mitigation fees to be expected.?  “If one thousand per household and there are 100 homes, then fees could be $100,000 a year,” said another facilitator.

When  landowner, Doreen,  asked for clarification about how much water runoff is hers, the answer was vague.  “All water in Washington is owned by the public.” answered another staff member.

[Several  of the meeting organizers sat down, making it hard to note at times who was supplying the answers and comments to the questioners].

When the question was asked,”how many water shares does the tribe have?” Tom, the staff member, answered, “They have not talked to us, I do not know if any are for sale—[it’s] an unexplained area of law…tribal rights, interesting.”

Ann, another member of the team then offered  the statement, “the county does not enforce state water use.”

Yvonne McDonald asked about her Carlsborg property.   “Sir…like so many here that have testified, our property values have gone down to almost zero. Like the person who had divided their property into 5 acres and put in wells, we did the same, thinking that we would be able  to sell our land…Because it had a well….Because of your studies, the water cannot be used because of the land… is contaminating the water.  I know, the ban has been lifted briefly right now.  So, if I could sell my land, do I now have to go through mitigation?”

“Yes, but that is a different problem—-that is not a question—-. Next,“ hollered the facilitator.

Wessel explained mitigation and the Dungeness water exchange.  She stated the Washington water trust would be under control to run the exchange. She said there is also a plan for a voluntary board advisory council, which could include Jamestown, Fish and Wildlife, DOE, the tribe, etc.  “Legally transferred rights could go to a trust program,” she said.

Wilbur Hammond asked about his well.  “If I don’t use it in a year or two, they will take my water rights.  It is a catch 22–lose-lose.” He asked if compensation to the owner is planned. He referred to willing sellers and the Dungeness water bank.

“Give me your card, and we can talk in private, ” encouraged the DOE facilitator,” as he ended the conversation.

Marguerite Glover, a local realtor asked, “If, after the rule is in place and someone has a pool that is 15 ft by 30 ft, and  4 feet deep, and fills it …without mitigation…?”  Glover later entered comments during the public testimony.  She gave an overview of Sequim Dungeness  water history, showing the valley has never had water shortage problems.

“No, sounds like use of water,” answered another member of the team. The audience applauded Glover for setting up the question.

Dan Perry reminded the “team” that several years ago someone, in a meeting such as this said, “We will never put meters on wells, but we can.”

The speaker assured people that the water trust can go look at where your water is to go, if you cannot do it on your own,” she said.

Perry also questioned water mitigation and transfer of water.

Kathy Larson asked, “Can you detail what DOE has done to contact us?” She reminded them that many people were not notified of these happenings and people traveling still do not know, until they return home. “I have never been notified, ” she announced.

“In a perfect world, we would like to notify everybody,” was the answer.  “There are ways,” said Larson, and added, “we get our tax bills every year.”

Ann McGonigel asked, “Why not build reservoirs?”

“Good question,” said Wessel, the facilitator.  She said they had a list of 21 possible solutions with an interesting benefit analysis done.

As McGonigel pushed the question of reservoirs, the answer from another staff member was, “No decision, it is a concept – no funding.”

McGonigel answered, ‘But there is money to meter my well. Maybe we could look at that money!”

William Cutting,  a former management consultant for the state of California, challenged the “team” about a cost benefit analysis.  He asked, “Who vets yours?”

The answer was, “An internal team of economists, which is posted online.”

“In vetting, are they testing assumption or logic?” asked Cutting.

When he was apparently insulted by a comment, Cutting asked, “You don’t like the question?”
Cutting asked if they had killed any projects.  Benefit ledger and cost ledger.  He encouraged them to take another look at it.

Dave Jensen asked about the penalty cost for flagrant violations with water code.  $5,000 a day for the past ten years.  “Why not put on the ballot so people can vote on it?” asked Jensen.

Dan Shotthafer stated that the US Constitution calls for just compensation for loss of property.

The answer was, there is “no loss of property.”  They were reminded that water is also property.

The crowd was orderly and very adamant about their problems with the “Rules” that were threatening their private property and future livelihood.

A policeman stood and watched from the back door area, but someone pointed out that he is probably also concerned about his private property rights.

The public comment time was not announced until 8 pm, when about one third of the attendees had left the building.

Dennis Shultz of Jefferson County, who represented the Olympic Stewardship Foundation, warned the Clallam County property owners about what had happened three years ago in his county with this DOE process.

When invited to sit down, as they instructed those with comments, he said, “it is too demeaning to sit,” and he remained standing at the microphone.

[It was noted that as people were asked to sit and read their comments, it made it difficult to get photos and often hear their testimony.]

“DOE is not accountable to anybody, they do what they want,” admonished Shultz. He warned that there are no reviews by an economist, “They are all done in-house,” he noted.  He said, “Jefferson County has lost jobs and business opportunities,”  as he told of some travesties that have happened in their county. “If you don’t like what you hear, support organizations to take them to court,” challenged Shultz to those present.

Jeff Munro from Jefferson County, formerly of Quilcene, also testified and brought warning about the DOE plans.  “It’s all about control,” warned Munro.

Wayne King also testified from Jefferson County,  He has 20 acres for sale with a drilled well. “Congratulations, DOE, for destroying the Chimicum basin,” he said. He then warned the people, “Don’t let up–they make it up as they go.”

Diane Johnson of Quilcene attended as, “a voice of caution”. She noted some of what has happened to Jefferson County.

Taryn McCloud represented the Chimicum Grange and Government Affairs in Jefferson County.  “Look closely, we need answers, “ stated McCloud.

Tom Williamson discussed mitigation.  “Who are the senior water rights holders?” he asked.
He stated that DOE has much money they are taking in and wanted to know, “who is getting that money?”

Ivan Sorenson, a builder, said that Clallam County Commissioner Steve Tharinger told him that it is hypothetical that people could lose property.

[Tharinger served as Chair of the Dungeness River Management Team (DRMT].  He also served as Chair of the Salmon Recovery Board and was a Clallam County Commissioner. He is now a 24th Legislative District Representative in Olympia.]

“What is the process to undo this?” asked a retired management consultant.  “If you don’t want anything done, give it to a committee,” he later announced.

Sequim resident George Chandler referred to the June 6th Sequim Gazette letters, which he had copied.  “Duck and cover by DOE,”  he said.  Chandler stated they are seeking outcome, a “predetermined outcome”.  “Your methods are juvenile. You need a training session.”

Steve Gale, Sequim candidate for House of Representatives 24th District challenging incumbent Steve Tharinger, also testified.  “It is a divide-and-conquer strategy.  A failure of your department.—  absurd, preposterous,” he stated. Gale said it [the Rule] will create economic hardship and scam people out of their rights.
Ed Bowen from the Ozette Basin in Water Resource Inventory Area 20 (WRIA 20), attended and brought his concerns.  “I don’t believe we are playing a fair game here with reserves,” remarked Bowen.    He added later, “I will think about mitigation when the government quantifies their water rights.”

A letter was read  by a citizen, from Sequim City attorney Craig Ritchie. He  also attended the meeting.  The  11-page letter stated that Ritchie was concerned Sequim was not included to vote. He stated that this would create more litigation than the problems here. Since the new Rule is only the Dungeness for WRIA 18,  he stated  that we are the largest voting district. Ritchie  declared, “Sequim was cut out of the Rule negotiations.”

Dr Robert Crittenden of Carlsborg questioned the DOE process. He announced, “Output is not scientifically based, but political.  The model used is not valid, it is flawed—do not adopt!”

Tryg Hoff said the benefits are almost intangible.  He said they [DOE] forced him out. “Arrogant politics,” remarked Hoff.  He noticed there were about 10 DOE staff members attending the meeting. He brought attention to the cost of their earnings for the day. “What is take home pay?” asked the Sequim citizen.

Realtor Steve Marble made his public comment (Steve Marble Comments to DOE, 6.28.2012); Kaj Ahlburg spoke on behalf of the Port Angeles Business Association (WRIA 18 oral comments by Kaj Ahlburg for the PABA 06_28_12); and Dick Pilling, Clallam County GOP Chairman, shared his comments (DOE comments by Pilling, CCRP

Clallam County elected officials announced were Sheila Roark Miller, Department of Community Development, County Commissioners Jim McEntire and Mike Doherty, Steve Tharinger, State Representative, 24th District, who was heavily and proactively involved with promoting the DOE water issue, and Joe Holtrop, Clallam County Conservation District. Paul Haines attended from City of Sequim.  Andy Brastad and Anne Soule represented Clallam County.  DOE staff and facilitators named were: Tom Larenger, Department manager/water resource, Cynthia Nelson, Bob Rhule, Dr. Hal Beecher,, Ann Wessel, Michael Blanton, Sally Toteff, and Judy Beisel, facilitator.

There was a hush for applause by Judy Beisel, as she was making it a point to add to the record by tape, the date, time and names and comments of the public.  This was done at 8 pm, before the public comment time. The question was raised by some attendees, including this reporter.  Were the many questions, at the first of the meeting, recorded “for the record”?

The meeting ended at 9:45 pm.

From the Executive Summary…Costs and benefits.  Ecology estimated total costs of $7.7 million— $23.1 million associated with the proposed rule.  These costs are present value terms,over 20 years.
[The figure was based on building permit growth. However their chart shows
it would number $23.1 million based on population growth.]

The Executive summary (last page) lists the “least burdensome alternative.

No action.
No mitigation.
Use of deeper aquifers.
Lower minimum instream flows.
No water measurement.

————————————————————————————————————————

The Watershed Plan recommendations were approved by Clallam County Commissioners June 7th, 2005.

The key rule elements include:

Setting instream flow levels in the watershed to protect aquatic resources, including habitat for threatened salmonids;

 

Closing surface waters to new withdrawals with the exception of seasonal water from the Dungeness River.

 

Requiring mitigation for all new consumptive use of water, including permit-exempt withdrawls;

 

Establishing reserves of water for future indoor domestic use;

 

Setting maximum allocations of water from the mainstream Dungeness during the open period;

 

Allowing storage projects; and

 

Requiring measuring of new water uses.

Expected adoption date to accept this rule is no earlier than August 31, 2012.

How to submit your electronic comments by July 9, 2012.

http:www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wr/instream-flows/dungeness.html

or email Ann Wessel  awes461@ecy.wa.gov
mail to Department of Ecology
Bellingham Field Office
Attn:  Ann Wessel
1440-10th Street, Suite 102
Bellingham WA 98225-7028

Fax    comments to 360-715-5225  attn:Ann Wessel

Water Resource management program for the Dungeness portion of the Elwha-Dungeness water resources inventory area (WRIA 18).

Dungeness Water Watch information:  Banking on future water supplies. The Dungeness water exchange and the cost of water. Watch video with Anne Soule, hydrologist, Clallam County Environmental Health. htttp://www.youtube/watch?v=SM76vWRDXtM    February 2012.

You can find information as posted by the DOE here: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wr/instream-flows/dungeness.html .

A list of salaries for the DOE employees from 2009 can be seen here:  http://lbloom.net/de09.html

Photos from the even (click on photo for larger image):

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, any copyrighted work in this message is distributed under fair use without profit or payment for non-profit research and educational purposes only. [Ref. http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml]

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