Ecology provides $11M to boost stream flows, protect watersheds

Aug. 12, 2009
OLYMPIA, WA, Aug. 12, 2009 -- In response to the economic slowdown, the 2009 Legislature provided $11 million to local communities to improve water availability, water quality and fisheries habitat across the state...

OLYMPIA, WA, Aug. 12, 2009 -- In response to the economic slowdown, the 2009 Legislature provided $11 million to local communities to improve water availability, water quality and fisheries habitat across the state.

The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) is awarding:

* $4 million to fund 10 projects to improve stream flows and fish habitat in the Elwha-Dungeness, Entiat, Island, Quilcene-Snow and Walla Walla watersheds. Six counties will be affected: Chelan, Clallam, Island, Jefferson, Walla Walla and Whatcom.
* $7 million to 29 local watershed management groups to protect and restore the health of watersheds. The funding also will help pay for related projects to improve the management of water supplies that local watershed management groups have deemed critical for future economic growth and environmental quality.

"Washington's streams create billions of dollars of economic activity, support healthy communities, and are a key to a quality of life that is the envy of many other parts of the world," said Gov. Chris Gregoire. "Even during these difficult economic times, it's imperative that we sustain our long-term investments in our water supplies."

In the past two years, Ecology provided $8.6 million for 32 stream-flow improvement projects and $11.2 million to 33 local watershed planning groups, for a total of $19.8 million.

Grants improve stream flows in habitat critical basins for fish
The $4 million in stream flow projects will benefit mostly river basins which provide habitat for endangered or threatened salmon. The grants will be going to projects in six counties: Chelan, Clallam, Island, Jefferson, Walla Walla and Whatcom.

"What we do today in these fish critical basins will help build and sustain water supplies for the future and protect supplies now for senior water right holders," said Ken Slattery, manager of Ecology's Water Resources Program.

The Walla Walla Basin Watershed Council and Walla Walla County Conservation District will receive more than $2.3 million, including:

* $807,920 for the third phase of an aquifer replenishment program to identify types and locations needed for shallow aquifer recharge projects and evaluate the impacts of such projects on groundwater levels;
* $650,000 to replace five miles of the Old Lowden irrigation ditch east of Lowden with a pressurized pipeline and pumping station;
* $530,000 to replace 2.5 miles of the Bergevin-Williams irrigation ditch east of Lowden with a pressurized pipeline in conjunction with the Old Lowden project.
* $350,000 to replace the full length of the Garden City ditch and the upper half of the Mud Creek 7 ditch southeast of Lowden with a gravity feed pipeline.

Olympic Peninsula grants totaling $810,000 for stream flow improvements will be used as follows:

* $450,000 to the Clallam Conservation District to replace 8,250 feet of open irrigation ditch with pipeline, part of a multi-phase project that will ultimately pipe the entire Dungeness Irrigation District;
* $265,000 to Clallam County to continue work with Jamestown S'Klallam tribal water users and Washington Water Trust to secure sources of water for the launch of a Dungeness water exchange; and
* $95,000 to Public Utilities District No. 1 of Jefferson County for a water storage feasibility study of Peterson Lake.

In addition, these projects are funded:

* $436,050 for the Cascadia Conservation District in Chelan County to convert five Entiat River surface water diversions to groundwater wells for five separate water users.
* $283,570 for the Bertrand Watershed Improvement District in Whatcom County to double summer stream flows in Bertrand Creek with water pumped from a groundwater aquifer.
* $132,460 for the town of Coupeville on Whidbey Island for an aquifer storage and feasibility study.

Grants keep watershed management on track
Gordon White, manager of Ecology's shorelands and environmental assistance program, said $7 million is targeted for local planning entities that have approved plans in place or nearly complete.

"Many of these citizen groups have been working diligently for 10 or more years to develop and implement their watershed management plans," he said. "These awards will help communities ensure they have the water they need to support current and future uses while protecting critical fish habitat."

Statewide, 29 planning groups covering 34 distinct watersheds are receiving basic support grants. Many watershed entities are also getting money to pay for special projects.

In Eastern Washington, 17 watershed groups are getting funds:

* Chelan - $120,000 for watershed plan preparation.
* Colville - $67,500 for watershed plan implementation.
* Entiat - $100,000 to implement several watershed plan projects and $90,000 for additional plan implementation.
* Hangman Creek - $415,395 to identify basin groundwater zones and $180,000 for plan implementation.
* Little and Middle Spokane - $97,000 for a water supply and demand forecast and $217,500 for plan implementation.
* Lower Lake Roosevelt - $170,000 for plan preparation.
* Lower Spokane - $202,157 to finish plan adoption and implementation.
* Klickitat - $110,000 for a water availability study and $240,000 for plan implementation.
* Methow - $174,000 to update the stream flow rule and $230,000 for plan implementation.
* Middle Snake - $230,000 for plan implementation.
* Moses Coulee-Foster - $140,000 to monitor implementation of the watershed plan and $71,500 for plan implementation.
* Okanogan - $2,000 for plan adoption processes.
* Palouse - $180,000 to craft a water management plan for the Palouse Basin aquifer and $20,000 for plan implementation.
* Rock-Glade - $60,000 to develop a water quality improvement and protection plan for Rock Creek and $200,000 for plan implementation.
* Stemilt-Squilchuck - $50,000 for plan implementation.
* Walla Walla - $450,000 designated by lawmakers and $30,000 to manage the Walla Walla water management initiative and create a watershed council.
* Wenatchee - $134,654 for hydro-geologic monitoring, outreach efforts, groundwater reserve accounting and water quality studies and $190,000 for plan implementation.
* Entiat, Middle Snake, Okanogan, Walla Walla and Wenatchee - $107,500 for continued stream gauging to manage water supply and demand.

In Western Washington, 12 watershed planning units are receiving grants:

* Elwha-Dungeness - $100,000 to help put a water management rule in place for the Dungeness River basin and $180,000 for plan implementation.
* Grays-Elochoman and Cowlitz - $73,156 to develop a water utility in south Lewis County and $224,000 for plan implementation.
* Island - $156,510 for water use-oriented community outreach and education and $141,786 for plan implementation.
* Lewis and Salmon-Washougal - $222,000 for plan implementation and support.
* Nisqually - $80,000 for plan implementation.
* Nooksack - $300,000 designated by lawmakers and $241,000 to continue efforts to develop and implement water agreements for the Nooksack River basin and Bertrand Creek watershed.
* Quilcene-Snow - $98,000 to evaluate the effects of future groundwater withdrawals in Chimacum Creek and $155,000 for plan implementation.
* San Juan - $60,000 to monitor local groundwater resources and $101,300 for plan implementation.
* Skokomish-Dosewallips and South Shore of Hood Canal in Mason County - $55,000 to inventory and monitor the quality and quantity of fresh water resources and $275,000 for plan implementation.
* Sol Duc-Hoh - $41,000 to finish writing implementation plan.
* Upper and Lower Chehalis - $155,000 for plan implementation.
* Elwha-Dungeness, Quilcene-Snow and Wind - $60,000 for continued stream gauging to manage water supply and demand.

Washington's watersheds contribute mightily to the state's economy. Some examples:

• Value of domestic water right: A domestic water right can contribute as much as $40,000 to $80,000 to a lot's value.
• Value of irrigation water: Water for agriculture east of the Cascades is valued at $40 to $120 per acre-foot per year. Washington's 1.8 million acres of irrigated agriculture (43% of farms) generate $3 billion in agricultural products sold in a year.
• Economics of fish: Fish that are dependent on Washington's freshwater have an annual economic value of $1.3 billion per year.
• Water as energy: Washington's 93 hydropower dams generate more than $3 billion per year in economic value.

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