Watershed planning process frustrates landowners - Commissioner, agencies attempt to guide focus session toward concensus on proposed plan
February 12, 2005
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”.
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
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.
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.
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)
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.
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
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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