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Dungeness Water Rule: Working the numbers

by MARK ST.J. COUHIG
Sequim Gazette

Posted 12/1/2012

Clallam County, WA – Clallam County Commissioner Jim McEntire says the county is at “the beginning of the end” in putting into place the new Dungeness Water Rule.

 

He added that he hopes that when the discussions are done, there will be funding available for as many as 20 years’ worth of indoor domestic water use.

 

The rule, which has been percolating for more than 20 years, was signed by Department of Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant in mid-November and will become effective Jan. 2, 2013.

 

The rule, which covers much of rural eastern Clallam County, says those who drill a new well, and those who put the water from an existing well to a new use, must pay a mitigation fee for that water. Essentially, they would be required to purchase water rights from a senior water rights holder.

 

Before signing the rule, Sturdevant told McEntire and Sen. Jim Hargrove that the agency would provide a $100,000 grant to pay for inside water for those planning to drill a well in the area. That funding is expected to last through June 2013.

 

Those seeking water for outside use will be required to purchase those rights separately.

 

Sturdevant also agreed to formally ask for an additional $300,000 from the Washington Legislature to fund further indoor domestic water needs in the Dungeness Valley. That request would be part of a larger request seeking $2.05 million from the Legislature, with the majority to be spent on projects to restore and enhance the flow in the Dungeness River and other streams within the area.

 

A few last-minute details need to be worked out before the rule can be implemented, including the language of a memorandum of understanding between the county and Ecology on the roles and responsibilities of each in implementing the rule.

Further discussion

During the commission’s Nov. 26, work session, McEntire was joined by Clallam County hydrogeologist Ann Soule and director of Clallam County Environmental Health Andy Brastad for a discussion of the memorandum.

 

McEntire said he hoped that funding can be secured to provide mitigation water for indoor domestic use for two decades.

 

McEntire later explained his thinking, saying Ecology has estimated the entire amount of mitigation water required for the next 20 years at approximately 1.75 cubic feet per second.

 

“That’s the amount you need to mitigate the consumptive use for the next 20 years,” he said.

 

Multiply that times the cost of water — which has yet to be determined — and you have the number, he said.

 

McEntire noted that mitigation isn’t simply a matter of purchasing water rights. It also can occur through projects that put water back into the streams.

 

The $2.05 million request includes funding for a number of mitigation projects, including developing off-stream reservoirs for water storage. Other plans call for replenishing area aquifers.

 

The combination of cash for rights and the mitigation projects may create the necessary mitigation, he said.

 

McEntire says the budget request should be written to ensure that it creates sufficient mitigation “to credit the water bank for 20 years of consumptive use.”

 

“That’s what we want to support this governor, the next governor and the Legislature to do during the next session.”

 

During the discussion, McEntire also noted that oversight of Dungeness Water Exchange, where water rights will be bought and sold, will either be provided by Ecology or Clallam County. “I like local control,” he said. “That gives people one place to go.”

 

A “dry run” of the process of obtaining water rights will take place Dec. 13. The time and place for the dry run haven’t yet been determined.

 

Commissioner Mike Chapman thanked McEntire for taking the lead on the Dungeness Water Rule, saying without it the county might have been left out of the “robust housing recovery” Chapman sees for Clallam County over the next five years.

 
Reach Mark Couhig at mcouhig@sequimgazette.com.

Marguerite Glover, local Realtor and an activist in property and water rights, had this to say as a comment to the article:

“It would be great if the County could control the Water Exchange, instead of a non-elected 3rd party. The Washington Water Trust is a non-profit; but, t hey still have salaries, phones, transaction charges, etc. Still amazed that Ecology can give the River a water right of 180 cfs in the late Summer, when it has not attained this amount, historically, with far fewer people here! Also, still worried about those who will not be able to purchase water for outside irrigation or stock watering. Doubt most of those wells affect the River in the Summer. And, that WILL bring down their property values. When that happens, everyone else will have to make up the decreased taxes paid by those properties.”

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