Clallam County’s commissioners have added another surprising twist to the 20-year effort to implement the new Dungeness Water Management Rule.
The rule, which goes into effect Jan. 2, will require Clallam County and the Department of Ecology to work together. The roles and responsibilities of each are found in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) the commissioners first approved during their Tuesday, Dec. 11, meeting, then later shelved.
Commissioner Jim McEntire, who has served as the commission’s point man on the controversial rule, said he believes the county and Ecology must first iron out the details regarding the rule’s rollout.
The MOU was scheduled to be signed this morning, Dec. 12, at a meeting of the Local Leaders Water Group.
The commission’s decision to delay the signing of the MOU may result in a delay in the rule’s implementation. McEntire said he hoped to “prevail on” Ecology to delay the rule until “at least one public session has been held to work out the details.”
During the first discussion of the MOU, both McEntire and Commissioner Mike Chapman voted to approve it. Commissioner Mike Doherty voted no, pointing to a recent addition to the MOU that would provide a $100,000 grant from Ecology to purchase domestic water rights for new home-owners and others who will be required to purchase “mitigation water” under the new rule.
“I’m concerned about that,” Doherty said. “I think this sets the wrong priority for the state.”
Chapman expressed his surprise at Doherty’s rejection of the grant, noting that the $100,000 is state money.
Doherty said the state has many other priorities for funding. In an interview following the meeting, Doherty said, “I went along with $100,000 because it was for the transition.”
Now, he said, he’s concerned about a second agreement between the county and the state. Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant has told the commissioners he will seek $2.05 million in legislative funding for water mitigation projects in the Dungeness Basin. In recent weeks McEntire said he hoped those projects might provide mitigation water for domestic use for the next two decades.
“You’re talking about 20 years of development,” Doherty said.
“It got to be much more money and a longer horizon. Over the last several days I thought about it and decided against it.”
Doherty said he’s concerned about the availability of water in future years. “Over the years I’ve seen a depletion of the water resources — the snow pack, the glaciers — in the Olympics. A dramatic impact.”
“Long-term sustainable water is at risk.”
Doherty said, “I’m trying to be more responsible. We need to get a better handle on what the water supply will be before we seek subsidies to continue development.”
Doherty added that he’s also concerned about climate change. He said he was pleased the county recently held a discussion on ocean acidification.
“At least we’re starting to look at the science about climate change. Water is part of that,” he said.
McEntire said the new water exchange will start up on Jan. 2, ensuring mitigation water is available to those who need it.
A “dry run” of the process of obtaining water rights originally was scheduled to take place Dec. 13, but also was delayed.