The in-stream rule will provide water during the river's low-flow period by creating an exchange mechanism where new users pay a one-time fee toward mitigating their use.
The fee may go toward:
_ Dungeness high-flow withdrawal and storage.
_ Aquifer recharge projects using reuse and other collected water
_ Conservation projects to ensure less is used
_ Buying existing water rights for
_ Any other type of mitigation or conservation effort
Who will be affected
by the rule and how
Those affected by the rule include landowners without a water right, those with undeveloped land who have an unused well and larger water suppliers such as the Public Utility District.
New regulations and impacts could include:
_ A requirement to hook up to larger water systems, if possible.
_ The need to mitigate for water used during seasonal river closures.
_ A mandate of all new wells to go deeper than the shallow aquifer, if possible.
_ Metering new wells to track water use, not to create monthly rates.
_ Allowing homeowners to collect rain water.
Why have a rule at all?
Why have a rule? Ecology planners explain why the rule is being formed, the intent of the rule and its geography by stating:
_ With growth, existing water rights are threatened by overallocation.
_ The state requires that streams receive water rights before new rights are issued.
_ Most of the water in the basin is "legally spoken for."
_ Local streams have chronic low flows in late summer and early fall.
_ Threatened species require certain flows for spawning.
_ New water rights will be available through a new allocation framework.
and Ecology's answers
The main objections and issues raised by the public at the Feb. 18 meeting and Ecology's responses include:
Critics: The mitigation fees on new water rights will drive up development costs.
Ecology: An economic study to review impacts will be completed soon.
Critics: Increasing the cost of a home puts housing outside the reach of many people.
Ecology: The amount of a mitigation fee has not been determined.
Critics: The river has had the same flows for years, so more users pose no problem.
Ecology: Conservation effort and agreements to reduce irrigation caused less water to be drawn amid rapid development.
Critics: The lack of evidence connecting well withdrawal to low river flows.
Ecology: Scientific evidence is available in the Elwha-Dungeness Watershed Plan.
Critics: Limits on new water could hinder small-scale agricultural potential in the basin.
Ecology: Irrigation water will continue to be available; the mitigation system will allow for different types of uses.
Critics: The term "beneficial use" causes landowners with unused wells to go through an exchange system when others with wells in use are grandfathered in.
Ecology: Although exempt from the water-permitting process, well withdrawals still are subject to all other state water laws, including the proposed rule.
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