Until the Washington Water Trust concludes a purchase of senior water rights, new homebuilders in much of rural eastern Clallam County won’t be able to procure water for outdoor use.
Indoor water can now be purchased from Ecology’s “reserves” — water rights set aside by the agency to ensure that development didn’t come to a halt following the Jan. 2 effective date of the new Dungeness Water Management Rule.
Ben Smith, president of the Sequim-Dungeness Agricultural Water Users Association, said he hopes his organization can soon work out the details for selling water rights to the Trust, which will then broker those rights to those who require “mitigation water” under the rule.
During the Wednesday, Jan. 9, meeting of the Dungeness River Management Team, Smith told those in attendance he hopes the negotiations will be completed, and a contract signed, in “two or three months.”
Smith said his organization now anticipates selling approximately 2 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water. He said they are working with an assumption that each cfs has a value of approximately $450,000.
Gary Smith, spokesman for the Water Users, said how the transfer will take place — piecemeal or as a one-time package — still is being negotiated.
He said the Water Users are considering a proposal from the Water Trust for “a single sale of water that would fill the projected needs for 10-20 years, but no decision has been made to date.”
Since 1990, between 52-77 percent of new homes built each year in Clallam County have been constructed within the affected area.
Completing the sale will provide outdoor water rights for those living in the more densely populated sections of the affected area but won’t provide outdoor water rights throughout. Hundreds of additional lots aren’t anticipated to have outdoor mitigation water for the immediately foreseeable future.
Those serviced by the City of Sequim or Clallam PUD aren’t affected.
Those who have a private well they were previously utilizing aren’t affected, unless there is a change in their use.
The Dungeness Water Management Rule, 20 years in the making, is designed to enhance flows in area streams while protecting the interests of senior water rights holders.
Those who hope to drill a well in the area affected by the rule are required to purchase water rights. Most of the purchases are expected to be brokered by the Dungeness Water Exchange, which is run by the Washington Water Trust through a contract with Clallam County.
Clallam Community Development Director Sheila Roark-Miller said her office is now providing indoor water rights for those who drill a well. If the request is accompanied by a building permit, the $1,000 cost is paid with funds from a $100,000 grant made by the Department of Ecology to Clallam County. The funding is anticipated to last through June 2013.
The rights remain with the land and can’t be sold to others.
Roark-Miller said indoor water rights also can be purchased by those who aren’t currently seeking a building permit, but that they will be expected to pay the $1,000 cost.