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Irrigators impose voluntary restrictions

Seven Sequim-Dungeness Valley irrigation districts and companies have agreed on a water conservation plan to address Dungeness River stream flows seen only once every 20 years.

"If voluntary cutbacks are not sufficient, the association will implement (proportional) water distribution on as fair and equitable a basis as possible," said Ben Smith, president of the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Agricultural Water Users Association.

"This may mean shutting down some ditches on a rotating basis for several days at a time to enforce equal distribution of water."

Smith said the stream flow at the fish hatchery was 202 cubic feet per second on July 22 compared to an average flow of 412 for that date.

These low stream flows mean there is not enough water to meet all irrigation system demands, he said.

So the association of seven irrigation districts and companies has volunteered to maintain a minimum stream flow of 60 cubic feet per second to protect endangered salmon species.

Irrigators legally are entitled to 50 percent of the Dungeness River stream flow.

The drought response plan also states that when Dungeness River stream flows approach 120 cubic feet per second water to all duck, fish, landscaping and recreational ponds will be shut off either voluntarily, by irrigation district or company personnel.

The plan also calls for voluntary curtailment of lawn watering and recreational uses such as golf courses and playgrounds and fruit and vegetable gardens.

Reach Brian Gawley at bgawley@sequimgazette.com.

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