Skagit County: Pump house for pipeline may be built next summer - Approx. project cost of $6 million to leave more water for fish


Skagit Valley Herald

The Skagit Public Utility District could construct a pump house for its pipeline project next summer if the permits are issued in time.

The district plans to build a pipeline to draw water from the Skagit River east of Sedro-Woolley. The water will be pumped 1,300 feet through an underground pipeline to the Judy Reservoir, which is about 400 feet above the river on the side of Cultus Mountain.

The project is expected to cost $4 million to $6 million.

The project will provide a more stable source of water than the four Cultus Mountain streams the district depends on for its main water system, said Ken Kukuk, general manager of the utility.

In the short term, it will allow the district to refrain from drawing water from the streams when they are low, leaving more water for fish passage.

While both the streams and the Skagit River are subject to minimum flow levels, the river’s flow increases and decreases throughout the day, in part because of the release of water from Puget Sound Energy’s Lower Baker Dam at Concrete. The utility can draw water from the river when it’s high, Kukuk said.

“We have to learn to manage the resource, and that’s what we’re all getting practice in these days,” he said.

The district’s main water system provides water to Burlington, Mount Vernon, Sedro-Woolley and much of the surrounding areas. It also manages other small water systems throughout the county, but those have separate water sources.

The project will allow the utility to use less water from the Anacortes system as well, Kukuk said. In drought conditions, the utility sometimes purchases water from Anacortes because that system draws water from the Skagit River, a more stable supply than the mountain streams.

The district also uses Anacortes water for its pipelines in the Bay View area, he said. The district eventually will shift to using its own water for that system. The district probably will always buy water from Anacortes for its service area on south Fidalgo Island, he said.

Construction of the pump house is subject to a “fish window,” a limited period of time in which work can be done in the river. But Kukuk said he expects the pump house work can be done in a single summer if permits come through.

The district already has a shorelines permit from Skagit County. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has sent information on the permit to other agencies for comments.

The pump house will include five 900-horsepower pumps, each capable of pushing about 7.5 million gallons a day. Only rarely would all five be used at once, Kukuk said.

After the pipeline is finished, the district is looking at expanding its filtration plant so it can process more water, Kukuk said.


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