Concerned community wants answers about proposed WRIA 18 Plan - Majority still want it remanded for further work

By Lois Krafsky-Perry
Citizen Review Online

Sequim, WA – 2/2/05 - “This is exactly what local government and local democracy is all about - not what you like or don’t like- roll up your sleeves and bring concrete suggestions and implement change,” said Clallam County Commissioner Mike Chapman-R, as the lone commissioner opened one of two focus session meetings February 2, at Sequim High School cafeteria.

Approximately 200 citizens gathered to discuss, “Groundwater Supplies”.
Chapman continued: “Believe me, we have been inundated since last fall with comments: at least 1,000 for each commissioner. We had three public meetings. We have heard from the community. Last fall it was said to accept or send it back. You told and we listened. That’s what we want, us elected. I can assure you all three commissioners have not made up our minds,” he said.

“The hearing tonight is staff, not elected” Chapman stated. “You are upset; I take deflection. Three to one are upset this week because the Board has not adopted the Plan as adopted last fall.” He explained that he had received lots of calls in the past week. “Last fall - probably three to one,” said Chapman. “They [planners] are not elected. Until we [commissioners] make the decision, you bring comments to us and continue to bring overall process complaints. Public comments, I’ll admit I’m wrong to local Realtor comment, (referring to comments quoted in local newspaper) Wrong - I apologize. Today, I received another document from Realtors. I applaud them for that. Teri and Mike McAleer. I was wrong - they were very specific. I apologize to your organization,” Chapman announced.

Invitations to interested citizens were mailed by Clallam County Community Development (DCD), it was also noted in several area newspapers that two meetings were planned for February. The invitation stated, “You are invited to attend upcoming Planning Team Focus Sessions to clarify and discuss Plan recommendations and stakeholders’ concerns on the following topics: “Groundwater Supplies” for February, 2, meeting and “Instream Flows” for the Port Angeles meeting February, 8, at Roosevelt Middle School Gym from 6:30 to 9:00 PM.

“I ask you for your specific questions, comments, or areas of concerns. Number one - send it back with specifics. The Board needs to know your questions have been answered,” appealed the District 2 (Port Angeles area) commissioner.
Ann Soule was then introduced by Chapman as, “Clallam County Ground Specialist.” She explained, using a chart, that they [planners] had considered by, “common consensus”.

1. Groundwater exempt amounts. 5,000 gallons per day as set by 1945 law.
2. Metering individual wells.
3. Irrigation of up to ½ acre non-commercial.
4. Some limits.

Soule elaborated, while referring to page 3.1.4 of a handout that had been passed around. With only 60 copies passed out, most of the almost 200 citizens present had nothing to which to refer. She said well metering to pursue a groundwater reserve was left vague. “We got flak about that and got the message,” she remarked. She talked about goals for future MOU (Memorandum of Understanding), metering, and reporting group systems. “A hot topic is individual wells regarding metering. Number two on my list, I put on the bottom two,” she said.

Soule then elaborated on public water systems and individual wells referring to pages 15-17 in the 20-page limited handouts, “Groundwater Focus Meeting----Guide to the Attached Watershed Planning Recommendations.” The 20 page handout listed five areas of interest. Copies may be obtained from county DCD’s office. A videotape may also be available.

Dave Nazy from Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) showed a slide presentation and answered questions. He also discussed Darcey’s Law and Conductivity.

While Nazy was explaining his theory of water suction and how water would be headed back to a stream, Marguerite Glover, a Sequim Realtor, commented about determinations of discharge back into the soil amounts. As he had described his theory, Glover said, “this is a lot less than what really happened. It is very dependent on the actual user.”

At that time, Soule referred the visiting speaker to return back to his chart, where he reminded the crowd, “Water has got to come from somewhere, so …this is four things to answer.” Nazy listed some areas of interest such as available water, beneficial use, and impairing existing senior water rights.

“We are here to roll up our sleeves and get our ideas on the table,” relayed Chapman to the crowd, who had gathered for just that. Chapman volunteered an unsolicited comment that he thought the 500 gallons per day should probably be remanded from the Plan. “Would you remove and sign on it,” asked Keith Winter, a local well driller. “I think it should be removed,” answered Chapman. He was then asked, “does that mean the Plan would be off the table?” The twice-elected commissioner answered, “I can’t make that decision.”

Chapman also stated, that for voluntary well metering there is no staff money and it is a hot button issue. “The planning unit makes decisions on the Plan and the commissioners don’t tinker with it. The planning unit members have authority over the plan of the Plan. Do we accept or send it back,” questioned Chapman.

Cynthia Nelson, Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) reminded the crowd, “ they can’t strike off anything from the Plan.” Nelson addressed the 5,000 or 500 gallon issue. “If it is taken off the Plan, the team would forward to the commissioners to take action on it. We will have to have consensus. Non-governments [including the Tribes[ must also agree,” said Nelson.

A member of the attendees asked, “who has the Plan in their hands for action?” Chapman answered, “we do, further action as we speak. Yes the Board [of county] commissioners is the last government to sign off, the commissioners have it, we want to take public input…”

“Do you have veto power?” asked another citizen. “Yes,” affirmed Chapman.”
Winter then asked Nelson, “what is ecology [DOE] mandated to do with HB 2514? There is a big separation between mandate and what we are required to fill by law.” Chapman answered Winter by saying, “another time.”

Winter stated the data is slanted and mentioned recharge. “Base flows are irrelevant if static levels are not charging. The rest is not required,” emphasized Winter.

Some community members questioned the City of Sequim’s involvement or lack of involvement in the planning. Sequim was not one of the “initiating governments” specified by law.

Port Angeles resident, Kaj Ahlburg asked questions about new and exempt wells (page 6). “The term ‘reasonable time’ is vague. Please clarify and where water is available. Be specific,” he suggested. Ahlburg said there should be statutory protection for further happenings. “Two excellent points,” said Chapman.
As people gave suggestions and made comments, members of the un-elected planners took notes on a “suggestions” slate at the front of the room.
“For the implementation phase, there needs to be another round of public meetings,” suggested Chapman. He continued with, “this does not supercede present Plan documents.”

“It is an interesting dichotomy, staff works for Environmental Health and is appointed to answer to commissioners. The elected Director of Community Development [Rob Robertsen] has been nowhere near any of these meetings. How to mesh these two together, I don’t know. He has his own department; he is an elected official. He could reject it,” announced Chapman, who used the illustration of the Sheriff’s Department. “The Board doesn’t tell the Sheriff what to/for.”

Questions were asked about instream flows and Chapman reminded the person that Tuesday night would be the time to discuss that.

“Who sets instream flows?” asked Winter. “I encourage you to come next Tuesday night,” interrupted DOE representative Nelson. She continued, “What we are proposing to do is make this groundwater reserve not subject to instream flows.

“There are instream flows we have not met in 60 years,” said Winter. He continued with, “if ecology really wants us on board, get rid of hydraulic continuity tonight. Since 1997 and all the dog and pony shows, you have not discussed Darcey’s Law and hydraulic conductivity until tonight.”

A citizen complained about not being able to hear the presentation and no microphones available. Many people also complained that although references were being made from the handouts, most of the attendees were not supplied with the information, and were unable to base comments on discussion items. “I apologize…a terrible venue. Next time---a better system,” promised Chapman.
A county resident asked questions about the use of wells for those around Sunland area. “A private owner has a right to his own well,” he said. The man was concerned about prices he said were “jacked up” by the City of Sequim.
Louise Winter, a homemaker, asked for clarification. “Is this a public meeting?“ she asked. “Yes,” answered Chapman.

It was suggested by another to use balance and use common terminology on both sides of the equation. “Put in your document, your equation,” he remarked.
Isabelle Dunlap, a former Sequim realtor suggested defining the work, “reserve” and not physical location, “like a trust act,” she said.

McAleer asked if the MOU [Memorandum of Understanding] would be finalized prior to adopting the draft. He is concerned about the sections on individual wells as well as contradiction of terms. “In reserve they are going to need to be accounted for. We need a way of accuracy,” answered Soule. The question of individual wells was addressed by Nelson (DOE), who appeared to share McAleer’s concerns. “This is why we need some people to put meters on wells - to see,” announced Nelson.

Winter asked, “Are we talking exempt wells but not have to be permitted? What happens after we tap the reserve? “ Chapman answered, “The Plan addresses this.”

“The MOU answers this,” uttered Nelson. She referred to the Agnew District proposal for upland source.

Another person asked about current growth and defining exempt wells. Several asked that this be taken off the table. After more discussion, which was hard to hear at times for lack of microphones, Nelson said, “we will have to figure when we look at the MOU. We have not decided how we are going to allocate that. Still have to look about trying to factor all those things. It can be discussed in public forum for now.” Chapman then said after more discussion, “Before we implement regulation, I would like to see groundwater established---not pie in the sky. I am moderating and am the bad guy tonight.”

McAleer raised the question of regulatory control. He referred to 3.1.12 and said he also had not received a handout. He said the local comprehensive plan should be ahead of the water plan, and in synch, and not the reverse. Nelson said that they realize some of this is, “Draconian and raising red flags to you. We have understood that already,” she said.

Jerry Strawn, a local Realtor asked, “Will changes be re-written?” Chapman answered, “if remanded and if changes are made, commissioners will have a public meeting, can’t imagine why we wouldn’t.”

“Even if the Plan is agreed by commissioners, MOU ecology will write it,” boasted Nelson.

Chapman announced, “public meeting in all fairness is my recommendation. I might not be chair by then. Get on with this.”

Proper science was discussed and Dr. Robert Crittenden submitted a handout, which is a copy of a letter submitted also to commissioners Oct 12, 2004. The letter detailed Tetra Tech’s Buildout Study. The full text of his letter can be found at The letter begins, “the groundwater study completed by Tetra Tech, in 2004, evaluating the impacts which full buildout in domestic wells may have on the Dungeness River, makes several assumptions which are invalid and, also, fails to do the statistical tests which are necessary to establish its scientific validity.”

“We cannot hear you back here,” was often heard during the meeting as some of the planners sat down, turned their back on the attendees, and muttered softly.
Towards the close of the meeting, Chapman said, “I understand many people don’t understand , I apologize, there will be time for review and to make comments.”

At one point when questioned about science, Soule said, “the science of hydrology is not an exact science…”

Bob Forde, a Sequim businessman, referred to page 11. The language, reserve. “A-H is ambiguous,” he said. He discussed the need for a dam or reservoir. “Clarify reserve and hard language on reservoirs,” Forde suggested. “It costs money,” said Chapman.

“I know, everything costs money, this night costs money,” answered Forde.
Protecting wells was mentioned as important to another person. “Protection comes down the road…,” said Soule. As she spoke, Forde said, “the handout says the reverse of what you are saying. Ambiguous at best.”

“Make a public vote before you make your decision, 16 years ago land planning was taken to a public vote,” said Sequim resident Milton Griffing.

In the area again of new wells, Ahlburg suggested, “I think the county should permit new wells. If wells in the future were to require a permit (and I would prefer it if they did not), the issuing authority should be obligated to issue such permits within a specified number of days as long as the relevant specific rules about setbacks and protection zones were complied with, with no discretion to deny a permit or impose any conditions when the rules have been satisfied. I gave the analogy of the "shall issue" states with respect to concealed weapons permits, who have no right to delay or deny the granting of a permit where the applicant meets the specific legal requirements."

Dunlap commented, “the county years ago kicked out the idea of telling people where to set wells. I don’t think the county should be in the business of telling people where on the property people should drill their wells.”

The question of salt water intrusion was raised by another person at the meeting.
A spokesperson for Sequim Association of Realtors said, “we recommend WRIA 18 be remanded back to the planning units.” He was applauded by the majority of people in the room.



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