following article appeared in the February 15 edition of the Peninsula Daily News.
Water limits raise fears about
development; rule puts 500-gallon curb on new wells
Peninsula Daily News
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first of a two-part series on
proposed state water conservation rules and their effect on wells and water
rights in the Dungeness and Chimacum basins.
A new limit on land development is coming
our way: State water conservation rules that limit the amount of water that can
be drawn from new wells.
Fish will be part of the equation, as the
state Department of Ecology proposes restrictions to conserve water in rivers
and streams that constitute salmon habitat, as well as underground water in
The regulations would not affect owners of
existing, permitted wells, but only those with undeveloped property who want to
drill a well, including those who already have applied for one.
New water-use regulations proposed for
both the Dungeness Valley in the east end of Clallam County and the Quilcene and
Chimacum areas in Jefferson County would:
daily use of a new well to 500 gallons. It's estimated a family of four uses
about 300 gallons a day for personal use such as bathing, drinking and doing
laundry, Ecology watershed planner Cynthia Nelson said.
Owners of existing wells could continue to
draw down up to 5,000 gallons daily.
meters on new wells to monitor usage -- with possible fines for exceeding the
In the Chimacum Valley, water demand has
been so high that Ecology is proposing that only indoor water use for new wells
be permitted until an additional water supply is found.
In the Dungeness River watershed, the
regulations could lead to new permit fees that Nelson said could exceed $2,000
per new well.
The far-reaching measure would affect any
undeveloped property in the areas covered by the restrictions, including parcels
inside the Sequim city limit where wells can be dug, Mayor Laura Dubois said
Ecology says that wells in the Chimacum
and Dungeness areas are sucking water out of aquifers at dangerous
Regulations are necessary to protect
salmon and safely manage development for future population growth, Nelson
Ecology has proposed instream flow rules
-- regulations intended to guarantee enough water to support fish and wildlife
and human use -- for both watershed areas, with some variation between
The public comment period for the rule in
the Quilcene River and Snow Creek watershed ended Friday.
No end-date has been set for public
comment on the Dungeness version of the rule.
The new rules are the result of an ongoing
water management process, Nelson said, that began in 2005 with two goals in
Protect endangered salmon that find it
difficult to survive and spawn in low-water-flow streams and rivers.
Better manage land development that is
drawing down water from aquifers.
But the proposal has the North Olympic
Peninsula real estate industry and property owners up in arms.
The rules pose an onerous prospect for
landowners not on current water systems, those in the real estate industry
"There's a sense that this is a taxation
process that our government is going through, that there really isn't science
behind this," said Dan Erickson of Coldwell Town & Country, which has
offices in Sequim, Port Townsend and Port Ludlow.
"That doesn't mean we don't have any
concern for the environment."
Doug Hale, one of Erickson's real estate
agents, estimated hundreds of property owners could be affected by the
"There is a lot of undeveloped land out
there that people have been sitting on for years," Hale said, adding that the
state "already threw us a double whammy" about 18 months ago by prohibiting
development on 1-acre parcels in rural areas, limiting such development to
minimum 5-acre parcels.
It's important that the public participate
now in meetings having to do with the instream flow rule, said Marguerite
Glover, who serves on the Water Working Group for the Dungeness Instream Flow
Rule process, and who is also the co-chairman of the government affairs
committee of the Sequim Association of Realtors.
In an e-mail urging attendance at a
workshop on the proposed rule for the Dungeness Valley, which will be from 4
p.m. to 7 p.m. at John Wayne Marina, 2577 W. Sequim Bay Road, Sequim, she said,
"The instream flow rule will affect all new water well users, including those
who have a well that has not been used yet, on a piece of property.
"Ecology plans on publishing the draft
rule late in March, or early in April, with an adoption date of May
"Once the rule is published, there can be
no substantive changes. That is why it is very important to give Ecology input
Frank Roach, 80, intends to preserve his
101 acres outside of Sequim for wildlife, but believes the pain should be spread
"This loss of water in the Dungeness
River, the solution to that should involve everybody, not just the people who
own houses," he said. "The solution should be far-reaching."
The Sequim area is being singled out
because that's where most of the growth is, he said.
He has "deep concerns," he said, that
fresh water is used by gas stations for industrial-type uses and by car-wash
businesses and school districts for washing vehicles. Roach said Class A,
non-drinkable water or rain water would be just as effective for such
"Go green," he said.
Staff writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached
at 360-417-3536 and paul.gottlieb@
Jefferson County Editor Jeff Chew contributed to this report.
NEXT MEETING about a new instream flow rule to provide adequate water for salmon
habitat and human use in the Dungeness Valley will be Wednesday.
workshop will be from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at John Wayne Marina, 2577 W. Sequim Bay
Ecology wants at least the water draw-down
rules for new, unpermitted wells ready for 180-day public review by May, so that
they can be in force by November, said Cynthia Nelson, Ecology watershed
time limit has been set for public comment for the Dungeness
public can comment on the rule by writing to Ann E. Wessel, instream flow rules
coordinator, Department of Ecology, Water Resources Program, P.O. Box 47600,
Olympia, WA 98504-7600 or by e-mail to awes461@ecy.
Information about the rule, and about
Water Resource Inventory Area 18, can be found at www.ecy.wa.gov/