The hoax of the instream flow rule

August 5, 2010

By Steve Marble
for Citizen Review Online

The drill is time tested.  Find or create a crisis, use fellow travelers to help beat the drum, then ram through a ‘solution’ which creates more government control at the expense of individual freedom.  

A current manifestation of this drill is the WRIA 18 in-stream flow rule.  The Clallam County League of Women Voters will be sponsoring the Department of Ecology’s dog and pony show on Wednesday, August 11.  The Rule will require metering and strict rationing of domestic water in order to ‘save’ salmon.  At stake are some very fundamental individual freedoms that, in the past Americans fought and died to preserve.

Let me understand.  Because the Dungeness River supports four fish listed under the Endangered Species Act, people desiring to drill a well to serve a home on their own property will be subjected to harsh limitations and will be required to pay mitigation fees based on a complicated formula that fails to equate to any salmon ‘saved’.  Once again the Endangered Species Act is manipulated by an agenda driven agency. 

What we will get is bigger bureaucracy, more regulation, and more money sucked out of the population to pay for it all. No more water will be delivered to the river.   Salmon will not benefit.

Did the salmon populations decline because of low flows in the river?  Why have similar declines in salmon populations occurred historically stretching back to the nineteenth century and beyond into native legends?   Why are rivers flowing out of the National Park, unfettered with exempt wells, experiencing the same declines in fish populations as the Dungeness?  What about rivers in British Columbia with the same problems where domestic wells are also not an issue?  But hey, never let a crisis go unexploited!

Better yet, why were the salmon populations healthy when flood irrigation practices removed greater amounts of water straight from the river than what is being used today in the Dungeness Valley?

And what about these ‘hydraulic continuity’ theories that say all ground water is connected to the river?  Has Ecology ever attempted to test their theory by measuring the degree of influence of these offending wells on the river?   Have they ever attempted to quantify the total amount of groundwater in the watershed versus the amount consumed by exempt wells versus the percentage of the groundwater flowing under the spit and out of the watershed?  How much of the “water saved for fish” is never used by fish, farms, or people? How about quantifying the benefits of this rule on the salmon population? Or does the agency hang its hat on computer models built on flawed assumptions and cherry picked data? What is the risk/benefit ratio?  Why isn’t Ecology required to show cause?

Does setting instream flows at thresholds that streams and rivers rarely, if ever, achieve really advance the public interest?  Or instead are we witnessing a naked power grab?  

Do we really want an out of control agency micro-managing our water use?  The draft rule put out by DOE last Thanksgiving gives the agency the authority to require meters on existing wells although, not to worry, their spokespeople say this will never happen. In fact, they become indignant at the suggestion, labeling the idea that they will require metering of existing wells as disinformation.  But they refuse to remove the language from their document.  Call me skeptical.

So here we are with a rule that requires meters to measure small withdrawals of groundwater with no measurable effect on fish populations, sever restrictions on use of rural properties through water rationing, and a mitigation plan that is undefined. 

Let me advance some alternative theories.  Salmon populations ebb and flow on a variety of factors, most significant being ocean conditions, while, way down at the bottom of the list is domestic wells sucking up so much water that the rivers are drawn down to the detriment of salmon populations.  Water we see seeping out of the bluffs in Clallam County is only a small component of the escaped groundwater that never sees the rivers or streams.  Ecology’s model transposes a closed system model on an open system. The amount of water consumed by permit exempt wells is just too small relative to the amount of water in the basin to measure an influence on the river.  That’s why all the computer model faux science.

So why is so much money and effort invested by the Department of Ecology for such a small impact on the river?  And before the WRIA 18 rule is even available for the public to see, the ball is already rolling on the next assault by DOE on our use of our property- the Shoreline Master Plan Update.  The process will never end until we’re pushed into their Agenda 21 communities.


Steve Marble has been following and reporting on water and land issues as it relates to private property for at least 20 years on the North Olympic Peninsula.