Ecology director signs agreement with Dungeness irrigators to benefit agricultural economy, protect future water supplies | September 2012 News | Washington State Department of Ecology

OLYMPIA – An agreement signed today by Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) Director Ted Sturdevant with Dungeness irrigators will help ensure adequate water supplies for the agricultural economy in the Sequim area and provide water for new uses in the Dungeness River Basin.

The agreement with the seven irrigation companies in the Dungeness River Agricultural Water Users Association (DAWUA) documents efforts by irrigators to conserve water and improve habitat andidentifies how much of that conserved water, set aside in the state’s trust water program, they may sell or lease to the community for new uses. It also secures water supplies for agriculture in the Dungeness for generations to come.

Ecology is proposing to adopt a water management rule this fall that will require new groundwater uses in the Dungeness watershed to be offset or mitigated. Property owners typically achieve mitigation by purchasing an existing water right or portion of a water right, or obtaining mitigation coverage through a water bank. Today’s agreement clears the way for the Dungeness irrigators to make some of their water rights available for purchase as “mitigation credits.”

“Between in-stream needs and out-of-stream uses, the water in the Dungeness Basin is spoken for,” Sturdevant said. “That means we have to find ways to offset new uses, so future development doesn’t come at the expense of current needs. This agreement today is a key part of our plan to mitigate for those new uses, and ensure healthy streams and a healthy economy.”

Said irrigation company director Gary Smith: “The Dungeness water users association and its members have been working toward better water management in the Dungeness Valley for many years and have received a great deal of help from Ecology, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and the Clallam Conservation District. Over time, irrigation water withdrawals from the Dungeness River have been cut in half, creating an amount of trust water that will be permanently dedicated to river flow and an amount in the irrigators’ name that can be used as a cushion for changing irrigation needs.”

Ecology is currently responding to more than 900 comments received during the public comment period on the proposed water management rule for the Dungeness. The rule was drafted to fulfill the goals of an agreement-in-principle reached more than a year ago with the Local Leaders Water Management Work Group to protect stream flows in the Dungeness River and some small streams where four fish species are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The group, comprised of the DAWUA, Clallam County, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and the city of Sequim, supports adoption of the water management rule provided that water supply solutions are pursued in the watershed. These include state-funded projects to provide mitigation water such as shallow aquifer recharge to replenish groundwater and small storage reservoirs for irrigation water.

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