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Water Rule Implementation meeting offers little in way of solutions – why do we need it?

Posted 1/15/2014

The Water Rule Implementation Forum met at John Wayne Marina on Jan. 15, 2014, starting at 12:30 p.m. 

(Editor’s Note: This rule essentially covers Clallam County East of Morse Creek and has significant and costly impacts for property owners needing a new well or those owners who would like a change of use for their existing well.

Those who will be affected include those owning property in WRIA 18 West (up to West of the Elwha River), where the WRIA 18 East rule will likely serve as a template when a similar rule is imposed there in the near future, and those who own property not directly affected by the rule whose property taxes will increase to make up for the decrease in assessed value and property taxes of “water have not” properties affected by the rule.)

The following report from the forum is by Marguerite Glover:

There were only had two members of the “public,” in the audience. Both of them arrived an hour or more after the start of the meeting–Bob Forde and Mark Couhig. I did tell the group that Pam Cameron (local farmer/landowner) said that the Water Exchange should be providing mitigation certificates for stock watering, from a well. Mike Gallagher said that Amanda Cronin (Washington Water Trust) was working on that–and, it should become available, in the near future. 22 mitigation certificates have been issued, with about 3 or 4 of those being for outside watering.

Sitting at the table were Mike Gallagher (Ecology), Jim McEntire, Andy Brastad, Carol Creasey, Steve Gray (all County), Mike Kitz, Tom Martin (both PUD), Paul Haines (City), Gary Smith (Water Users), Greg McCarry (Builders), Phil Martin (citizen), Joe Holtrop (Conservation District), Marguerite Glover (REALTORS(R).

Mike Gallagher went over a Powerpoint slide presentation, covering a number of topics. When he emails out the presentation, I will forward that to whomever wants it. There were some mitigation scenarios about greenhouses, a vacant parcel, and two parcels on Antler Ridge Road. The vacant parcel is on Roberson Road. The parcel has a well and power; and, water was used to irrigate a garden, in the past. The owner wants to build a shop, then in the future, build a house. The decision, from Mike, was that the outdoor use will NOT need a mitigation fee. But, indoor use, since not established, would need to pay a $1,000 fee, which is covered by  grant through 2014 (and a wireless meter will be needed, to measure the inside use).

The parcels on Antler Ridge are side by side (This is the old Simdars Heights Road.). On the Water Rule map, one new well will allow outside water use; the other well will not be allowed to be used for outside watering. If I give you Mike’s conclusion, you may not understand it. And, it didn’t totally answer the question. So, hang on until the next meeting, March 19th, when Peter Schwartzmann, developer of the groundwater model, will be there. We will not drop this aspect of our questions. Phil Martin, retired physicist from Fermi National Accelerator labs (a scientist familiar with the movement of water, and with computer models), asked “Why is there a yellow area at all? I don’t see the scientific justification for it.”


In 2013, there were 17 wells drilled, or notices to drill a well, on file with DOE, for wells in the Dungeness Water Rule area. In 2012, 52 wells were drilled in the same area. 2013 saw the lowest number of wells drilled in the Rule Area, on record. But, there were only 26 wells drilled, in 2011.


IN 2003, the Dungeness River had a measured flow of 100 cubic feet per second, on September 30th. In 2004, it was 90 cfs, Sept 30th. IN 2005, 50 cfs. 2006, 80 cfs. 2007, 80 cfs. 2008, 80 cfs. 2009, 57 cfs. 2010, 200 cfs. 2011, 200 cfs. 2012, 120 cfs. 2013 119 cfs on September 14; 1,260 cfs on September 30th. Wow! Any way, the irrigators turn way down, or off, the irrigation ditches, on Sept. 15th, each year (a little water is left in the ditches for stock watering). So, I asked Mike, again, if the River, on its own, without the direct withdrawals, cannot often make 180 cfs, then, why was the River given a WATER RIGHT of 180 cfs? This makes no sense. Mike took note of what I said.


Jim McEntire said that the “yellow and green map has been gnawing at me.”  He said that he and Sheila Roark Miller have been having conversations about what things the county can do to tweak our development regulations. If we can show conclusively that there would be no impact, then we can do away with the mitigation. Jim said, “I’m looking for an inventory of workarounds that we can put into our development regulations.” There could be cisterns (roof runoff). There could be a water provider with a tank truck to fill stock tanks or cisterns. (Paul Haines told me that the City will sell people water that the City can bring up, in a truck.)

On this topic, Gary Smith mentioned that there is $100,000 in the Washington Water Trust/Local Leaders Working Group plan, to try to come up with ways to turn the yellow on the map to green (allow some outside watering).


Jim mentioned that he sees the Carlsborg sewer project as a real plus. The City of Sequim will be using some of that reclaimed water, to recharge the aquifer, in the Valley, on the East side of the River. Jim said that there would be a “substantial quantity of groundwater that didn’t exist before.” And, he wants this water to be credited to the Water Bank, as mitigation. On the flip side, there will be less water in the Matriotti Creek basin, with there being fewer septic systems. However, the WWT and the Clallam Conservation District are already planning on putting water in abandoned irrigation ditches, over by Matriotti Creek, for infiltration/recharge.

Paul Haines did mention that we have a long way to go–and, recharge with reclaimed water is not as simple as it sounds.


Jim McEntire said that there should be a County/PUD/City consortium, figuring out how to provide water for people. Do we use REET $? What do we do? Do we go to the Legislature, and get them to match County money?


Paul Haines said that “the City has built very little of the (water) infrastructure. Almost all of it has been built by growth.”


A positive thing for Port Angeles is that it has a much larger water right than it needs. I think Mike said it would serve 200,000 people. But, I might be wrong. He may have said 100,000 people. With most water, if you don’t use it, you lose it! But, that isn’t true when it is for municipal purposes. They have “inchoate water”–water that they can develop into. However, in the future, if they do not show any progress of developing into the water right, that could become a problem.


I did ask if the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe would have to do mitigation for the water right which they applied for, in the 90’s. It is for a large amount of water, from two wells. The reason I asked is because, while the tribal wells are outside of the Rule Area, Batelle will be required to do mitigation for the impacts of its new well, on the Dungeness Rule Area River and streams; and, the Batelle well will be outside of the Rule area.
The answer from Mike was that the Tribe filled out the water right application as a courtesy. The wells are on the “reservation;” so they are exempt from providing mitigation.


Bob Forde asked, “is it Ecology’s position that water is a finite resource?” Mike responded with a discussion about the water cycle, and water sometimes being available in one place, and not in another. But, on further questioning, he said that “Water is a finite resource.” The discussion between Bob and Mike continued, for a bit, with Bob mentioning that there are rights found in the Washington State Constitution. Both Bob and Mike agreed that every drop of water that has ever been created, still exists. So, that was interesting.


The Olympics are at 41% of normal snow pack. That can change, quickly. In December, we were under 30% of normal snow pack. We can get a lot of snow, and then, a Pineapple Express comes along, and it is gone.


More to come in March…


For background stories about the Sequim-Dunengess Water Rule – click here. 

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