Realtors offer constructive suggestions for changes on WRIA 18 Plan

Feb. 3, 2005

Following is the Review of Specific Recommendations for changes to the proposed WRIA 18 Watershed Management Plan (Realtors' suggestions are in bold):

Sequim Association of REALTORS®
Port Angeles Association of REALTORS®

WRIA 18 Planning Unit Special Meeting
Review of Issue Specific Recommendations

February 2, 2005

6:30-9:00pm Sequim High School Cafeteria
Issue of Focus: Groundwater Supplies

Clallam County REALTORS and interested parties:

In response to your diligent advocacy efforts, the Board of Clallam County Commissioners have directed the WRIA planning unit members to re-convene for two special meetings to review, discuss and evaluate concerns raised in public testimony regarding specific issues in the Watershed Management Plan. The Board determined the Planning Unit needed to be aware of the level of concern held by community members and should address those concerns. How these meetings will affect the Plan or the Plan adoption process is unclear, however it is important these meetings be substantive and contribute toward identifying specific amendments to the Plan.

Collectively, our efforts have been to seek solutions. In the spirit of collaborative policy making, I hope you will make every effort to attend these meetings to help re-assert our our recommendations to certain proposals in the plan.

It may be the Planning Unit’s intention is to make more specific the generalized nature of some recommendations in Phase 4 of the planning process. During Phase 4, an implementation plan will be developed. According to state law, the implementation plan does NOT have to be legislatively approved or open for public hearing. Therefore, this Phase is our last chance to have input into the Plan.

Our primary desire is to see the vast list of recommendations categorized under groundwater quantity prioritized. Prioritization should be guided by an overall policy that seeks to encourage voluntary conservation efforts, study further the groundwater model and increase efforts to fully characterize the aquifers and the effects of groundwater withdrawal on surface water.

WRIA 18 Watershed Management Plan Recommendations – Selected

Allow groundwater withdrawals from deeper aquifers in continuity with surface water if impacts on stream flow are mitigated. (Recommendation A-1 at page 3.1-8)
Mitigation requirement should include consideration of recharge capabilities of onsite septic systems and should identify a realistic recharge rate of at least 75%.

Encourage all new water supply wells, including exempt wells, to be drilled to the second aquifer or lower in the Dungeness Planning Area/East WRIA 18. (Recommendation A-3 at page 3.1-8)
We concur with this policy recommendation not only for water management purposes but to protect public health.

New exempt wells should be drilled only where public water service is unavailable. Unavailable means not within a reasonable timeframe, in not cost effective, or is not feasible. If new development lies within a reasonable distance from the boundaries of the service area of a public water system, that public water system should have been contacted and requested to provide service prior to land use approval. (Recommendation C-2 at page 3.1-9)
We agree in principle with this recommendation however important concepts need to be defined and important information which could support implementation was not included in the Plan. “Reasonable timeframe”, “cost effective”, “not feasible” and “reasonable distance” are relative and subjective terms. At what point will these terms be defined? These terms may be defined when and if this recommendation is codified into law. However, should this recommendation be incorporated into general policy what will prevent the definitions from being interpreted at the random discretion of County line staff?

Implementation of this recommendation also depends heavily on the desire and capability of public water systems to expand their service outside existing service areas. This recommendation should have been informed by a review of each public water systems’ future business plans and capability to fund the capital improvements necessary for such expansion.

Clallam County should approve building permits served by exempt wells only if public water service is unavailable.
a) The County should allow exempt wells to serve new development in East WRIA 18 according to the intergovernmental agreement to be developed.
b) In West WRIA 18, where stream closures have been recommended or established by rule, exempt wells may still be developed according to exceptions developed in an intergovernmental agreement between the State and the County, at minimum.
(Recommendation C-3 at page 3.1-9)

Because exempt well development is so completely dependent on the content of the Intergovernmental Agreement, we request that this all important contract be completed prior to the Plan’s adoption. Our concerns regarding the uncertainty of future exempt well development have been met with accusations of misrepresentation of the issue. We maintain that until this agreement is completed, future development of exempt wells is uncertain and at risk.

Where new development is proposed and Group A public water service is unavailable as described in described in Recommendation C-2 above, formation of a water system is encouraged, and Ecology should consider issuing a water right for those systems. (Recommendation C-5 at page 3.1-9)
This recommendation should not stand alone without benefit of being incorporated into the terms and goals of the Intergovernmental Agreement. Because exempt wells may be the only avenue available to landowners to develop their land and the Plan proposes to limit exempt wells as per the Agreement, landowners have the distinct possibility of being put into the intractable position of not being able to develop their land should a water right application be denied.

Consolidation of exempt wells to public water rights and service from existing Group A systems is encouraged. (Recommendation C-7 at page 3.1-10)
This is an important and substantial recommendation, implementation of which needs to be facilitated jointly by County government and the various public water systems. This recommendation should be given high priority and with proper incentive, could go a long way in achieving many other goals of the Plan.
Intergovernmental Agreement for Dungeness Planning Area Groundwater Withdrawals.
(At pages 3.1-10-14)

(Because this portion of the Plan is not organized into specific recommendations, we treat it differently for the purposes of this document)

Again, we emphasize the importance of having this agreement finalized and incorporated in the Plan BEFORE the Plan is adopted. If not, the following information should be identified in the Plan to ensure Department of Ecology’s rule on In-stream Flows for streams in the Elwha-Dungeness Watershed are guided to the fullest extent, by the Plan. Should this information not be incorporated in the Plan, the Department of Ecology will revert to their recently released Guidance Document for In-Stream Flow Rule-making. The legislative intent of the Watershed Management Act is for water management to be locally driven. By identifying this information in the Plan, we assure all water management activities are guided locally:

1. The anticipated future demand for exempt well use in the Dungeness watershed.
2. The anticipated return flow rate from exempt domestic well use.
3. The projected impact of future exempt well use on stream flows and potential loss of habitat that would result from exempt well use.
4. The need for a reservation of stream flow that would not be subject to the instream flow in order to provide domestic water supply.
5. The limitations, if any, that should be placed on exempt well use including the gallons per day that would be allowed for exempt well use.
6. The extent to which the County should retain its discretion to act on and implement the Watershed Plan without creating a third-party cause of action against the County, or, in the alternative, the extent to which the County should condition its approval of obligations to implement the plan on a specific reservation of water for future exempt well domestic water supplies.

As written, the Plan obligates the County to take certain actions. On Page 3.1-12 in reference to the goals of the Intergovernmental Agreement the Plan says:

Regulatory Controls: The County will pursue (emphasis added) legally-enforceable regulatory controls aimed at: (1) limiting the number of new exempt wells in favor of larger systems, (2)regulating the location, minimum depth and density of wells, and (3) reducing the withdrawal rate allowed from exempt wells. Elements of public water system plans, growth management plans, GMA and zoning ordinances, and building ordinances related to water development, use and delivery will be consistent with and support implementation of watershed plan elements.

Once the Watershed Plan is adopted, these obligations become binding on Clallam County in accordance with RCW 90.82.130(3)(b). Especially troubling is the hierarchy created in land use planning where the Watershed Plan guides the Comprehensive Plan, zoning ordinances, and building ordinances. This language should be deleted from the Plan.



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