Clallam urges implementation of water rules - PUD project needs in-stream flows decided
PORT ANGELES — Nine months after they adopted controversial plans to share water between salmon and humans, Clallam County commissioners want to get on with implementing the new regulations.
In a work session with state Department of Ecology officials Monday, commissioners asked the agency to establish so-called in-stream flows — minimum amounts of water in streams and rivers to sustain endangered fish.
Commissioners had adopted plans for the Elwha-Dungeness watersheds — also known as Water Resource Inventory Area 18 or WRIA 18 — last June after months of dispute between environmentalists and developers.
Dick Wallace, director of the southwest region of Ecology, said the agency wants to finish making rules by July 2007.
That won't be fast enough for Clallam County Public Utility District Commissioner Hugh Haffner.In-stream flows
Until Ecology sets in-stream flows, it will grant no rights to pump water from the Elwha or Dungeness basins, except for individual wells that are exempt from the agency's control.
That stymies the PUD's hopes to develop public water systems — especially in the rain-shadowed East End of Clallam County — the better to provide year-round water flows for salmon.
"We've got to do something and we've got to do it quick," Haffner told Wallace and Joe Stohr, special assistant to Ecology Director Jay Manning.
"What's happening is people are just drilling exempt wells."
A public water system in Carlsborg, Haffner said, could treat the area's nitrate-heavy water and use it to recharge the underground water table.
"We're willing to be the agency that works with the county," Haffner said, "but we need water rights."Discouraging drilling?
However, discouraging landowners from drilling wells could be a tough sell, said County Commissioner Steve Tharinger, D-Dungeness.
"I don't think that anyone is going to come out against God, guns and exempt wells," he said.
Nonetheless, public water systems could complement "pocket" sewer systems in places like Carlsborg. They would recharge clean water into the Dungeness aquifer, Haffner said.
Masters said he'd convey the county/PUD message to Manning.
"I'll take that message back," he said. "It's where my boss wants to go."Jefferson County process
In the meantime, Ecology has delayed its rule-making process in Jefferson County, which comprises WRIA 17, mostly the Quilcene watershed.
The deparment didn't give citizens sufficient warning of what it wanted to do — such as banning water withdrawals from certain streams — when it started setting rules last summer, Stohr said.
The result was a public backlash.
A "time-out" allowed the agency to hold workshops on the issues, Stohr said. Ecology now hopes to adopt the regulations in summer 2007.
"I think we are getting a lot more understanding about why we are doing what we're doing," Stohr said.
PDN reporter Jim Casey can be reached at 360-417-3538 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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