group seeks state action
Plans to allocate 'finite' water
supplies in face of 'dwindling' salmon runs
DODGE THE OLYMPIAN
OLYMPIA, WA -4/3/02 -- Plans to manage water
for communities, crops, fish and wildlife are under way in 40 of
the state's 62 river drainage areas, including all five river
basins in South Sound.
Thirteen of the plans are slated for completion next year,
including those for the Nisqually and Chehalis rivers.
The so-called watershed plans are viewed by many as a way to
reach agreement at the local level on how to allocate finite water
supplies in the face of population growth and dwindling salmon
Tuesday, a 16-member committee consisting of community,
business, water supplier, local government, tribal and
environmental leaders met in Olympia to begin work on a report to
the Legislature on ways to turn the plans into action.
The committee is charged with identifying possible funding
sources, changes in state law and rules to ensure the plans are
In some respects, the committee faces many of the same
challenges and issues the state Legislature has wrestled with in
the water reform arena -- often with little success.
Water reform legislation languished in the 2002 session, for
"Given what happened in this session, this group's work is
even more important," said Dick Wallace, state Department of
Ecology's watershed planning coordinator.
An example of a sticking point with lawmakers is setting
in-stream flows that are adequate to protect water supplies for
fish, farms and growing communities.
"I don't think the Legislature will resolve in-stream
flows," state Ecology Director Tom Fitzsimmons told the
committee. "Those decisions have to be made at a more
Watershed planning across the state is funded by Ecology, which
saw its budget for such work cut this biennium from $11.9 million
to $9 million.
Money for local governments to work on setting in-stream flows
was reduced from $2.1 million to $1.2 million.
The committee will be recommending ways to finance the plans
"It's totally unrealistic to think you can implement
watershed plans on grant money alone," said Tom Anderson, a
committee member representing the Whatcom County Public Utility
Local funding from property taxes or special taxing districts
will be necessary to carry out the work, he suggested.
The committee is scheduled to submit its report to Gov. Gary
Locke and state lawmakers later this year in time for
consideration by the 2003 Legislature.