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Clallam plans groundwater study - State funds search for farm, salmon balance

By Jim Casey

Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County will spend $140,000 to try to solve the enigma of time and the river.

A two-year study, funded by the state Department of Ecology, will determine if the county can store ground water in the Dungeness watershed when the river is high and recover it when salmon require it.

The problem is that the river runs lowest when Sequim-area irrigators need it most.

And "tight-lining" the irrigation ditches — enclosing them in pipes to eliminate exaporation and pollution — has produced a secondary dilema:

Much of the water in the old irrigation ditches seeped back into the ground, recharging the aquifer. Tight-lining prevents the process.

Part of the study will determine if perforated pipes lets them replenish the groundwater, but they can be used only during times of peak flows when the snow in the Olympic Mountains begins to melt.

Carlsborg area

A tight-lining project in the Carlsoborg area will start this summer and continue through next winter.

A half-mile pilot stretch will feature perforated pipes, and nearby wells will be monitored for water level and quality.

Aquifer stroage and recovery, as it's called, could follow three strategies:

  • Augmenting late-season flows in the lower Dungeness River and its tributaries.
  • Enancing flows in adjacent small streams.
  • Recharging groundwater directly in areas near wells that serve public water systems.
County Commissioner Steve Tharinger D-Dungeness, called storage and recovery a matter of "getting the water to the right place at the right time."

Commissioners received a briefing on the study Monday from county hydrologist Ann Soule. They expect to approve the request for proposals for the study at their formal meeting today.

Deadline for proposals is June 30.

The county's partners in the project will include the Clallam Conservation District, Clallam County Public Utility District, Jamestown S'Klallam tribe, Dungeness River Management Team and irrigation districts and companies.

Water users

Gary Smith of the Sequim-Dungeness Water Users Association said the tight-lining process had forced some homeowners near irrigation ditches to deepen their waer wells.

"We would like to see a demonstration project in place as soon as possible," he said, referring to the perforated pipe study.

Aquifer storage and recovery are also key components of the water-management plan for Water Resource Inventory Area 18.

Completion of the study could dovetail with Ecology's rule-setting process in WRIA 18 that the state expects to start in July 2007.

In a related action, commissioners learned of a $15,000 grant to implement the WRIA 18 plan that commissioners adopted nearly a year ago.

The money likely will go to an enlarged version of the Dungeness River Management Team that will include parties located in the Elwha River.

The funds will pay for clerical and information technology work.

Commissioners also reviewed a $14,000 grant from the state Women, Infants and Children program in which volunteers will monitor water quality at six recreational beaches in Clallam County.

Most of the work will be done by the volunteer Beach Watchers program with assistance from the Jamestown S'Klallam tribe.

The beaches are Port Williams, Jamestown, Cline Spit, the mouth of the Elwha River, Freshwater Bay and Salt Creek. The grant will fund sampling through October 2007.

The BEACH program — Beach Environmental Assessment, Communication and Health — is separate from a health department testing that samples shellfish tissue for toxins.

Reporter Jim Casey can be reached at 360-417-3538 or at jim.casey@peninsuladailynews.com.


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