Watershed planning process frustrates landowners - Commissioner, agencies attempt to guide focus session toward concensus on proposed plan

February 12, 2005

Lois Krafsky-Perry
for Citizen Review Online

Port Angeles “This is the second of two focus sessions with the public. Tonight’s topic will be on instream flows,” announced Clallam County Commissioner, Mike Chapman-R, to more than 100 people, at Roosevelt Middle School gymnasium, for the February 8, “focus session”.

Sidebar: Statistics from Public Testimony & subsequent "comments" on proposed WRIA 18 Watershed Management Plan

The official public testimony for proposed WRIA 18 (water resource inventory area) Water Management Plan was officially closed October 16, 2004 by the county commissioners at their regular Board meeting. At that time, 87.4 percent of the people, out of 415 testimonies, opposed the proposed plan as written and the majority of citizens asked to have it remanded and sent back to the planning units for more work. Many who favored the plan were agency people, WRIA team members, and members of staff.

(The commissioners closed the official public testimony at their October 12, 2004 public commissioners meeting and extended public testimony to October 16. Although
minutes for commissioners meetings are online for the past year, the October 12 minutes are not. According to Trish Perrott, who works in the commissioners office, she has not had time to do the minutes for October 12, 2004. As of February 14, 2005, Perrott said the minutes for that date are still not available to the public. She was also unable to send a fax copy.)

Since the public testimony was closed in the fall, many letters and emails have been counted as “input” by the commissioners. The week before the scheduled focus sessions, many letters were submitted and recognized by the commissioners. According to Chapman, at the Feb 2 meeting in Sequim, the recently received input placed those in favor of the plan as 3 to 1. There were approximately 40 letters of correspondence to the commissioners that week. One letter was submitted by an I-5 Democrat activist in Seattle, who gave her appreciation for this area as her reason for giving her input to the direction of our county.

“This is ridiculous, I am getting so tired of all this, and who do they think they are?” were some of the comments overheard by concerned citizens as they gathered to hear proposed plans for their private properties.

The acoustics in the building made it difficult for people to hear the speakers, as well as those who made comments and asked questions from the crowd. The microphone serviced the agency people, who moderated the meeting, but not the citizens seated in the bleachers. As some comments were fielded back to the citizens, by the facilitators, the people were dependent on their paraphrasing. Those comments were also written on a slate in the front of the room by Ann Soule, a county groundwater, “specialist”.

“We will have some scheduled presentations with Washington Department of Ecology (DOE) and Fish and Wildlife, with some of their technical basis for instream flows,” announced Chapman. He recognized some planning unit members in attendance and said he publicly wanted to thank them for their continued public service on this issue. He joked that they are currently in the witness protection program so he would not be introducing them. He said their names were on the document - so people could talk to them, individually. The commissioner introduced Rob Robertsen, elected Department of Community Development (DCD) director.

Chapman was the only commissioner in attendance at that time, although Mike Doherty (D) entered the meeting later. “I think overridingly we are making some progress, we are receiving public input, I think it’s a the, the, from the commissioners’ standpoint we certainly have appreciated receiving public involvement and the continual process of receiving public input, I think we are getting kind of down, I think after tonight we really are going to be wrapping up the public outreach focus that we have added. Staff has addressed Rotary Club, the Chamber of Commerce, business groups, Realtor groups - and we are really getting down to the where we are beginning to hear over again some of the same concerns that have been raised and I think that from where I sit as the chair of the Board, what I am expected to have what will happen after tonight is that staff is going to begin to synthesize and consolidate the public comment that we have been receiving and they are going to be able to take those comments back to the planning units and it is my full expectation that the planning unit will be coming forward to the Board with some recommendations on some areas that they want to take a second look at.”

Chapman continued: “I think that is very appropriate for them to come and work with the Board on areas that they would like to take a second look at. I don’t know whether the planning units are going to like this, but you know they put in a lot of time and effort into this and we want to listen to the planning units going forward. It is going to be my expectation that in the not too distant future we will be hearing back from the planning units as to areas that they would like to have more time to work on, before the Board were to take official action. So we began receiving comments, we continue to receive comments again as ah, one elected official, you can continue to give comments on issues that we talked about last night. You can continue to submit comments, via email or letters to the Board of Commissioners. They [letters] will be given to staff so they can be incorporated with staff report. I have had some questions as to when the staff report will be completed, well there are lots and lots of documents, maybe hundreds of documents that have been presented and so we’ve gotta give it a little bit of time. We want a quality product, of, of bringing all the comments together. I want a quality product that the planning units can work off of and take a look at and not something just rushed because ah we are asking for that, so that I would ask your patience, we actually have a limited staff, to, do, they actually have other duties that they have to ah they don’t spend their entire work day on just this one issue, so let’s give them a little bit of time, ah, you know we may see something after the President’s Day weekend. Again, I, I told them today, my, you know, it is not about herding something out but let's have a quality product that we can again go to the planning meetings with it, have them kinda know where we are at with the public input process.”

Some of the other comments Chapman said he heard this week was the sound system was terrible at the last meeting. They tried to improve that, according to Chapman. “Folks were disappointed last week that there were presentations before we got into the question and answer session, but honestly, let me remind folks, this is not considered a public hearing before the Board of Commissioners. This was billed and advertised as a focus session and so in my mind the presentations and some background material is important because it is the same information that the planning teams have had over the years to work off of ---now it is not going to be the same depth but again we are going to have some presentations tonight, um, and then we’ll get into the specifics. We are gonna ask once again for folks to stay focused, if there are issues of concern that we boil it down to specific statements of concerns, specific questions and/or specific recommendations and again some of the groups like the Realtors have continued to come forward with specific written documents, and that makes it very easy, especially for staff as they begin to compile all of this because they can just submit those written documents for the planning units to take a look at it.” He then opened for questions. “Are you still accepting written comments at this time.,” asked a person who did not give their name. “Yes and staff will be accepting those up until the point where they deliver their report to the commissioners and to the planning units and then they’ll still be accepting them. We would hope and what I would say and what we always say in these circumstances is that the sooner we can get written comments to staff, the more complete they can ah get it into the packet that will be coming forward. Up until the point that comes to the commissioners though, yeah you can especially you can still submit written comments---um and its best to submit those directly to the Board of commissioners because it is a matter of public record,” elaborated Chapman. …He continued, “so we are making progress and like I said, we’ll be, we’ll be ah, we’ll be waiting and after tonight, staff will be working hard on and kinda bringing a synopsis together and then we’ll be waiting to hear back, I think the Board will be waiting and expecting to hear back from the planning units themselves as to where they want to go from here. Um, I have talked to a number of planning unit members and I have a general idea of what some of them are thinking, but they are a unit, they are a planning team, so again individual members in this process, individuals have to work within the process that we set up in the planning units themselves, so …,”

Chapman then introduced Brad Caldwell of Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WFW). Cynthia Nelson was going to do his introduction but was not there at that time, so Chapman continued speaking.

“Let me remind you of one more thing, the Board of Commissioners are continuing to hear from folks and we appreciate that and for public comment as it continues to come it: it is still a matter of public record. I want to clarify that. It comes into the Board of Commissioners it is still a matter of public record. It will be documented throughout this entire process,” said Chapman. He continued, “I had some questions this past week, whether or not the public process is still occurring. Because we are still a legislative body the input that we take is a matter of public record, so all of that information that comes to the Board will be made available…a lot of that is available now, but as far as staff having the chance to synopsize it all…” Chapman then introduced Nelson, who introduced DOE Brad Caldwell and Dr. Hal Beecher, Washington Fish and Wildlife, who showed a power point presentation and discussed instream flows methodology.

Read the Chapter under discussion, about "Instream Flows" by clicking here. It was one of two handouts at the meeting.

Information from the handouts were covered by the agency presenters for approximately the first hour of the meeting. The meeting was then opened up for questions, limited only to the topic under discussion: instream flows, despite the fact that many present had expressed concerns about the proposed plan as a whole.

Comments and suggestions were offered by those citizens present; and although other members of the audience were often unable to hear due to the very poor acoustics in the gym, we were able to obtain the statements via a tape recording we made. Later in the evening, a microphone extension cord was offered for use by Bob Forde, and after that, the microphone was used at times for those attending. The people who couldn’t get to the microphone phrased their questions or comments, and were re-stated by one of the agency people with a mike, or by Commissioner Chapman.

Several of the statements and questions follow:

The first segment of questions and answers are reflected by the rephrasing by agency staff, as the rest of the audience was unable to hear what the original questions were.

Brad Caldwell: “The question was ‘was there any attempt to try to relate what the natural flows would have been to the flows that are there now in the course of doing the inflow stream studies’, and yes, that was, there certainly has been a lot of looking at how much has been taken out and so you have that together with what’s in there and say you can certainly get an idea of what would have been there, if it weren’t diverted.”

Cynthia Nelson answered the question from an attendee (not heard), “what would be the consequences of those snow-packs this year, which it looks like were in store for,” she answered. “um, I’ll start with the part that I know about which is over on the Dungeness, um, we have an agreement which is in place right now with the water users, the irrigators over in Sequim. Um, we’ve had a three year contract with them and it is similar to what we did in 2001, when we had a lease problem with them during the drought and um, we discussed this with members of the planning team and with the water users, biologists, and thought, okay, well, the main, um, concern of the irrigators was that they would be able to irrigate through July and the main concern of the biologist was that we have more water in the river late July, the starting of August, so what we wound up with was, um, late season leases, um, where irrigators have voluntarily said that after August the first they will stop irrigating and leave the water in the river that they otherwise had a right to take. And this three-year contract, which we are in the last year of this year had about 1400 acres that were in the use for that, and that was for the benefit of over 10 cubic feet per second to the river. So I know that that will kick in and we will have that as far as what the water users have already agreed to, and I know that during our planning team discussions, um, Steve [Gray] can talk to you better than I can. Maybe some of the others have something to say about the fish too,” offered Nelson.

Nelson synopsized a question and lengthy comment by Marguerite Glover, a Sequim Realtor. “I think Marguerite’s question is, um, basically what are we doing to kind of quantify or assess the differences between the major irrigation diversions and those affects on the river that are direct versus the more diffused smaller well withdrawals that might be close to the river, might be distant from the river, might be distant from the river, might be shallow aquifer, might be shallow aquifer, might be deeper aquifer. Um, we definitely tried to address that during our planning process an, um, were you at the groundwater reserve discussions? Oh, I think they covered it, um, pretty well, they started to address it pretty well then…” A comment was made by Marguerite (not heard). Nelson answered, “Well, what I was going to volunteer is, um, as a start to try to put some information out there, I was going to volunteer put, to reconstruct my power point from tonight, (giggle) and then post our power point presentation on ecology’s web site, including Dave Nazy’s [DOE] I think, because people seem to be very interested in the science of that and, um, we have tried to take those things into account, um, we’ve got the ground water model that was done as part of the ag water conservation plan, the environmental impact statement----it does show a lot of hydraulic continuity, um, it does look from the potential build-out here especially over in Sequim/Dungeness valley that, you know, you could have 19,000, if you just have the medium growth rate, you could have 19,000 lots there, which is a significant increase and so we are talking about the cumulative affect of a lot of little things happening. But it is a big question too and short answer is yes, we have tried to take that into account and we’re still working on it.”

Another question (unheard) about the instream flow setting. Nelson answered, “the instream flow will be set by a rule and the groundwater reserve, is that what we’re talking about?---will be senior to that so anyone who has a junior water right holder prior water user that doesn’t come out of the reserve will be subject to interruption when the flows drop, but if you have taken your water out of that reserve, then you will not be subject to being shut off when the flows drop.”

Keith Winter had questions about reserve amounts. Nelson joked, “we’re still working on that, I can tell you it won’t be as big as some people would like probably (giggle) and bigger than other people would like (giggle).”

Winters asked, “then the reserve is going to encompass all of WRIA 18?”

Nelson answered,”um the reserve that we’ve spent the most time looking at thus far is the one over in Dungeness watershed, that would cover over about Seibert creek east and it’s because we know we know we’ve got some multiple aquifers there, we have the irrigation system, we have a lot of things going on on the east side that are absent here on the Elwha Morse area, so those things are yet to be addressed.”

Winter raised concerns about the geology area (not heard) and Nelson answered, ‘I think the concerns that you are raising are things that we’ve been thinking about how to address. You just have a reserve that covers an entire area---do you have some areas that are more alike that you say ‘okay, here is part of a reserve here, here is a quantity over there’ and then again do you protect small streams by saying, well, the reserve applies to the entire area - what we have is not to exceed amount here, um, and I want to say too although I don’t want to digress from the reserve too much, I want to say that this reserve is being looked at as an interim measure. Um, if they started at, you know what we’ve talked about so far is looking at the 20 year build-out sort of the median 20 year build-out, what does it look like the demand would be for domestic use, um, like your inside use excluding long irrigation and the basic things that happen in the summer that take more water than just your in-house. So we base it on that and, um, …when people start taking out of the reserve, we also want to pursue the ideas of other sources of supply, like the off channel storage looked at on the Agnew ditch. That was one of the studies that was done during the watershed planning. That was one of the studies that was done during the watershed planning and the Agnew folks are actually going forward with planning and they got some more money from the state to move forward on that.”

Nelson continued explaining “there is the reserve, it is going to be for domestic uses and then we’re looking for how to make some more water available.” Winters continued to question Nelson on the details of the reserve.

Nelson responded: “Well, the details of the reserve haven’t, we spent a little time, it’s been about a month ago, we started talking this and we haven’t ironed anything out detail-wise, we haven’t talked about it for a few months now and it is one of the topics that I would like to bring up with the planning team and talk about it so more because there’s a lot of issues, such as the one that you are bringing up now that I think it would benefit from some more discussion.”

Dr. Robert Crittenden said, “ your reconcilable difficulties with the methods, the toe width methods and IFIM such that the instream flows that you set are not scientifically valid, however there are alternative methods which can be used and, I simply wrote down some simple recommendations on this and my recommendation to the team is that you actually take another year and use the other methods and start over again on the instream flows.” Chapman answered, “and again written comments are appreciated, thank you.” Bob Forde raised the question, “is there any allowance to the plan, and I think there should be, for what if, huge fish returns like we have seen, enormous water flow, is there any adjustment, we all know that nature adjusts and it seems to me always we are talking about…what if, and it is all gloom and doom and the sky’s falling, we have to adjust. What about the other side of that where there would be huge returns, is there any adjustability in this plan or have you talked about it.” Nelson answered, “as a matter of fact, we have discussed this. This is a concept that came up in the early 90’s when the Dungeness stream folks were doing their watershed planning the first time around. The agreement was made if I understand it, that everybody would sign off on the flows as recommended and they would go into rule and they would be revisited and people would keep an eye on how affective the habitat restoration had been, people would try to monitor successes, and was put forward that there could be a time that which we wouldn’t need the flows that high. And so that we would say, okay fine, lets see where we are, let’s do the scientific evaluation and see what’s best. So yes, we actually have contemplated that.”

Kaj Ahlurg, a Port Angeles resident commented, “there seems to be some muddled terminology in the document right now--- as was explained, stream flows is the actual flow in the stream---instream flows is an abstract regulatory level which if not met has certain consequences for future water right holders.” He made suggestions for the written slate, which were recorded by Soule, for some other adjustments.

Marguerite Glover (second comments)
“I am wondering, in the Plan and in the Dewey model guide talks about that we can’t impact more than two percent of the habitat and that we’ve got about only 50 percent recharge when I think that in the valley we actually have more because we have so much pervious, real porous soil and so what I’m wondering is, where is that in the RCW or where was that in the rule process where we comment on those two things?”

Chapman said, “any volunteers?” As he handed the microphone to Nelson she jokingly said, “give me enough rope to hang myself., It’s a couple of concepts kind of mixed together, Marguerite. There have been discussions about reserves in other watersheds. I don’t know if you have been following the Sammamish basin at the Stiliguamish. One of the things of interest is---say that we agree on x-quantity of CFS and translate it into gallons for a ground water reserve. So what we are looking at is the affect on the river. And we need a way, we need some assumptions that we are going to use in order to track what that estimated affect is on the river.

"So, one of the things that’s been proposed as one option is to agree on a per-household average use. This does not mean that people were restricted to that amount, it would mean for tracking purposes, after the fact. We’d sit down every year, kind of look at the building permits, try to figure out, you know how many had been committed, how many houses had been built, and then say ok, if there is x-number of gallons per day associated with a residence, where are we then on the reserve. One of the things that we are trying to take into account is the fact that we know that there isn’t necessarily a direct affect on the river. It is not necessarily a one-to-one. There is actually, you know, a storage function in the aquifer that attenuates the affect on the river. Another way, you can either say, ok here is the per-capita and the way we think it is happening and just track that directly at the reserve. If you came up with 400 gallons a day, or 350 or 500 just say, ok, here is ten houses, five hundred gallons a day, this much as a reserve. Or you could go with the approach of saying, well we are going to assume there is some septic recharge we know that when you are just looking at your in-house use, just your domestic use, you are looking at 90 percent, give or take, um, sometimes we use more conservative numbers when we’re thinking people are irrigating, so, but it is real interesting because there is a handout that I gave the other night, I don’t know if people got it or not, but one of the engineering companies looked at the Skagit watershed and they did an assessment of what happens when you go from you domestic in-house use primarily with a absolute minimum of outdoor watering, what happens with the recharge. It goes from 90 percent down to in the teens. It drops way down when you start irrigating your outside…” Those are a couple of things we are still working out, what would be the best way to track it. What is a reasonable set of assumptions to make it best per capita. So, there is a lot in there that can still be talked about---I hope I am not going on too long about it.”

Chapman then noted Clallam County Conservation District Supervisor Steve Marble, who was standing to address the agency facilitators. Chapman stopped to recognize Commissioner Mike Doherty, who had entered the room late. Chapman also identified a local school board member, who had also come in late. Chapman did not recognize Marble by his elected office, however. Marble reiterated to the facilitators by saying, “what we have been told is that if this plan were implemented with full build-out, we would be saving approximately 3 CFS in the river, that’s the estimation. To put that in perspective ---Anne [Soule] is that correct” he asked.

Soule acted confused and did not seem to understand Marble’s question. He repeated, “Would be saving 3 CFS if went to this reserve. Was that your prediction? She continued to act confused.

Marble continued to remind her of previous statements. “Well putting 3 CFS back into the river that wouldn’t otherwise be there if we didn’t implement this plan. “No, that is not what I’ve been trying to say,” answered Soule.

“What have you been trying to say,” asked Marble. “How many CFS is this plan going to put back in the river?

Soule answered, “this plan is not putting anything back in the river.”

Marble then asked, “how much are we saving?” Soule answered, “we’re not saving….with this plan….”

Marble said, “if the impact of the plan on the CFS of the river.”

Soule said, “ok, maybe one way we could talk about this um, if we were to not have the plan and development were to occur status-quo, we would see a lot of um individual well developments, oh, probably a lack of water rights because that problem wouldn’t be resolved. So we have um, fewer larger water systems and no regulations as to how deep the wells were gonna go, so I think the impact to the river would be greater if this plan weren’t, and the aquifers weren’t implemented.”

Marble then corrected Soule saying, “Ok, Anne, I distinctly recall on some of these presentations where you gave a number of 3 point something CFS that would you could say save--- put back,---it’s not put back because it’s not taken out, but that would be the implications of this plan. Do you have a CF number that this plan would implicate or have you not even discussed that? I mean, what is this all about? To raise the CFS in the river, isn’t it?”

Chapman encouraged Soule to enter Marble’s comments on the slate.

Nelson answered, “Steve, I think one way to look at it is to say, if you had no plan approved, if you had no rule - no regulations, the build-out would have significantly greater affect on the river.”

Have they quantified that at all,” asked Marble.

“Yeah, I think we have tried to establish a general thing about what it is,” said Nelson.

Marble then asked, “so then what is the impact?”

Nelson said, “well….”

Marble encouraged her not to talk in generalities. “You said it before at other public meetings.

“A consultant developed the groundwater model for us---emphasize that it is a groundwater model and they were much more comfortable that it predicted affect of groundwater and when you extrapolate that to surface water, they said that was pushing to where they could extrapolate, they could give us an idea of what was going to happen but they were on much better ground to talk about the groundwater. Is that a fair characterization, do you think” she asked.

It surprises me that you are not quantifying those things, you model everything else.”

Marble reminded Nelson that the bulk of the water used is agriculture. He mentioned the savings that the Conservation District and the agriculture people have done with the irrigation ditch piping. “To put it in perspective, in the next 6 years, we’re expected to save another 10 CFS, and that is limited on how much money we have to do piping
with, that’s not piping all the ditches, that’s what we anticipate doing from what we have. We’ve already done, what 7-8 CFS. How did that related to the residential use and my understanding it has been about three---in other words, we are having all of these
meetings, we’re going through all of this energy, we’re putting together this plan, we’re putting all these restrictions on to save a real small amount and maybe it will impact fish a little bit, maybe it will be a negligible amount. But, we are going through all this energy for it. It surprises me that you are not quantifying those things, you model everything else.”

Nelson said, “Well, if we didn’t have this plan and we put no thought into regulating….”

Marble said, “...and let me clarify, I am not advocating not having a plan.”

Nelson said, “ok, I think there would be other effects on the river besides the direct effect of withdrawal, I think you were talking about changes in recharge to the aquifer and if we had more pavement in the watershed, there is a any number of things that actually affect…”

“But that’s not what I’m talking about, I’m talking about rivers as it relates with ----is talking about instream flows, it is not a savings, this plan and what we’re doing with residential wells impact instream flows” Nelson said, “I would say that the potential impact on instream flows from the water…from the irrigation system is multiple more than the …the effect of the residential is a fraction of it. The situation that we have on the Dungeness for instance is, 3 ESA listed species, tribal treaty rights, instream flows, I mean the rivers essentially been closed to withdrawals informally since the late 40’s, I believe. In a situation like that, when ecology develops an instream rule, we know that it’s already in deficit. So, we have to say, ok, we are going to allow a hit to a river that’s already in deficit…”

Marble then asked specific questions about his property and if he is affected by the Dungeness. It was determined that he would be included with WRIA 17 watershed and Snow Creek. However, stated he was going to be impacted by these regulations.

Nelson said there are administrative things they need to talk about now as WRIA 17 does slap over to Clallam County. “There are some administrative things that we have to think about now… Does that answer your question,” she asked.

“Yeah, you’re telling me that I’m not going to be part of that reserve program that you’re talking about when I go to drill a well.”

Nelson giggled and answered, “well you won’t be part of the Dungeness reserve I believe that they are establishing reserves over in 17. The rule itself at the inventory boundary, I know don’t get….giggle.”

Marble asked, “am I going to be saving instream flow in Snowcreek or the Quilcene river.”

“Snowcreek, more likely,” answered Nelson.

Marble said, “Although I’m on the west side of Discovery Bay and it’s as clear to say that as it is to the Dungeness river.”

Nelson said she did not know the geography of where his place is. “But the situation is that the rules that we have to develop will follow the lines of the inventory area boundaries, by law, and sour inventory area boundary for 18 stops at Sequim Bay. The Clallam County goes all the way over across Miller Peninsula. And you’ve raised the point that people have been sort of nagging, it’s a nagging pain (giggle) that’s gone on for years,” she said. It has been brought up about, can we change the inventory area boundaries to something more reasonable and I told our planning group that now is the time to ask that question and I don’t know that we are going to tackle it in the immediate future in part of these discussions right now, but I think it is next on the agenda because it is an issue that we should look at, to decide if it’s feasible and how it would work.”



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