Group to sue state over Dungeness water rule – PDN

Sad, but expected. They likely will lose, as other suits have, and cost the State hundreds of thousands to defend.

The Olympic Resource Protection Council has decided it will sue the state over a rule that governs water use in the Dungeness Valley. In a meeting Thursday night at the Sequim library, the group membership agreed to pursue a lawsuit against the state Department of Ecology in an effort to force the agency to review the Dungeness Water Rule…. Water use in the basin was restricted by the Dungeness Water Rule, a measure instituted January 2013 by Ecology with the aim of preserving water in the Dungeness River for both human use and for aquatic species when its flow diminishes in dry summer months. Joe Smillie (Peninsula Daily News)

Washington Supreme Court Rules For Tribe In Skagit Case – Earthfix

This decision has huge ramifications. The Tribes have always said that they have the right to go after upstream water regulations within the watersheds if the State didn’t appropriately protect the salmon stream flows, and now the Supreme Court has agreed with them.

A Western Washington tribe Thursday won a legal victory that will ensure more water stays in the Skagit River to help salmon and steelhead. The decision could affect 6,000 landowners who were allocated water under rules that have now been struck down. That figure includes more than 600 residents with homes that have already been built. The Washington state Supreme Court ruled that the Department of Ecology overstepped its authority in allocating water from the Skagit River for new development.

This has to do with the Washington Instream Rule and whether the State has been doing the correct job in balancing water use for development and water use for fish.  The virtually unregulated use of water for any and all comers is a throwback to the 1800s, and it is widely understood now that rivers can have too much water taken out of them, and the local aquifers  which often recharge them.

This will be coming to a county near you here on the Peninsula soon, due to this decision. The good news is that the counties here and the Tribes have been working very cooperatively to work this out. There are still some locations to be worked out, but this should help clarify those discussions.


And this:

Ecology director committed to finding water supply solutions in the Skagit Basin after state Supreme Court ruling

OLYMPIA – Washington Department of Ecology Director Maia Bellon today renewed her commitment to ensuring adequate water supplies for home owners and stream flows in the Skagit Basin after Ecology’s 2006 water management rule for the Skagit Basin was invalidated.

The Washington state Supreme Court ruled 6-3 today that Ecology in 2006 exceeded its authority in setting aside water reservations for new uses in the Skagit. The 2006 rule amended a 2001 water management rule that protected stream flows basin-wide.

A reservation is a specific amount of water set aside for specific uses in watersheds closed to new groundwater wells. In the case of the Skagit, these reservations have provided a source of water for homes, agriculture, livestock and businesses since 2001. The court today ruled in Swinomish Indian Tribal Community v. Department of Ecology that Ecology cannot set aside reservations of water through adoption of water management rules where water was previously set aside to support stream flows for fish. Without water reservations, later water uses can be interrupted when dry spells impact the protected stream flows. Ecology found in 2006 that limited reservations would not substantially harm fish populations. The Swinomish Tribe challenged the establishment of the reservations in 2008 and appealed a Thurston County Superior Court finding in Ecology’s favor in 2010.

“I am disappointed in today’s ruling but no less committed to finding water supply solutions for homes and businesses,” Bellon said. “We will be working with local partners to manage the water supply in the Skagit Basin to ensure stream flows are protected and the needs of existing and future water users are met.”

A total of 475 homes and 8 businesses have relied on Skagit reservations for their water supplies since 2001. Ecology will be looking for water supply solutions for those homes and businesses who are affected by today’s ruling.

Ecology is assessing today’s decision and how it may affect water management in other areas of the state.

For today’s court decision, go to:

Ecology budget squeeze: Efficiency or neglect? – Crosscut

Given the Department of Ecology backing of net pens against all opposition from elected local officials, scientists, and the population, perhaps it could be argued that they need to have their budgets cut. The question would be, from which department? Apparnently when one local elected official called on the new head of DOE, Maia Bellon, not long after she took office, she told him that her department couldn’t allow a ban on net pens in the counties Shoreline Master Program, that the issue had to be taken to the legislature. No one has ever said that before. Given that her department is one of the departments that approves in water aquaculture in the State, it was an odd statement. And she is getting paid how much to manage this organization? Given that even a nuclear power plant, a water dependent business, would have to be sited up off the waters edge, you would think that closed containment aquaculture could be also.

One potentially divisive piece of the Washington Senate-House budget talks is whether the Washington Department of Ecology faces significant cuts, including the potential closure of its Bellingham office. As with much of the rest of the state’s operating budget, the Republican-oriented Senate wants to trim part of Ecology’s budget for 2013-2015. The Senate’s Majority Coalition Caucus — an alliance of 23 Republicans and two Democrats — believes the ecology department has become too fat and should be trimmed to become more cost-effective. The ecology department disagrees. The Bellingham office plays a variety of roles, ranging from helping out in the response to the recent I-5 bridge collapse to working on the review of a proposed coal port north of the city.

John Stang reports.

An open letter to our State Representatives and Senator – Regarding the Jefferson County SMP

Over the last six years, dozens of individuals have worked on updating the Shoreline Master Program, as required by the State Department of Ecology. I was a member of the group of citizens who volunteered hundreds of hours of my time to help craft it.

The document was approved by the County Planners and also approved by the Planning Committee and the unanimous approval of the County Commissioners.

There was one issue that was a sticking point, in that the County chose to ban Net Pen Aquaculture in county waters. To be clear, there are no net pens currently in Jefferson County, and the last ones were removed decades ago, because they were failures.

The Department of Ecology allowed the banning of net pens in Whatcom County’s SMP.

Now, the DOE is saying that we cannot ban net pens in Jefferson County.

There is good scientific evidence that net pens negatively impact native salmon, by becoming a ‘vector’ for infections and infestations of parasites, such as sea lice. If you want to know more, simply listen to this audio podcast I recorded last month when Dr. Lawrence Dill came to Port Angeles. The link to his slides and video of him presenting is listed to the left of this column.

Our banning of net pens can be looked on as temporary, as future updates to the SMP, can reverse this if science is shown to be able to properly manage the threat. Also, there is new technology that could see net pens put near the shore, or “upland” and not be directly in the water. We all look forward to that technology being proven workable.

The State of Washington, and our Federal Government, is spending hundreds of millions of dollars over decades to protect and restore the native salmon to our waters. It seems totally out of step that the Department of Ecology, that is chartered with defending our environment, should essentially tell our local officials, after all this work, that if we do not approve the SMP with net pens allowed, that they will withdraw our work and rewrite the SMP themselves as they see fit.

This seems to be the kind of behavior we would expect if officials had some kind of stake in the outcome. It is not indicative of the organization or the man who is chartered with protecting our environment. I am sure that’s not the case, but this is an election year. And appearances are everything.

That said, I am calling for the removal by the Governor of Mr.Ted Sturdevant, the Ecology Director. His actions have gone against the years of work of informed citizen volunteers, against the work done by elected county officials of Jefferson County and against the ecology of the Sound that he is chartered with protecting.

I hope you join me and phone or email your support of this letter to the Governor’s office, and our elected officials, Representative Van De Wege, Representative Tharinger and Senator Hargrove. Their contacts are found to the left side of this page, under Governmental Sites, near the bottom of the list. Linda Barnfather is currently handling both Tharinger and Van De Wege administrative assistant duties, so one email or call to her will handle both of them