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Dungeness Rule restricts outdoor water use
Thousands of acres in area are affected
by MARK ST.J. COUHIG
The new Dungeness Water Rule, in place since Jan. 2, leaves a lot of Clallam landowners high and dry.
All landowners who hope to drill a well within the affected area will be able to secure the right to indoor water. However, new uses of outdoor water will be denied to hundreds of lots covering thousands of acres.
Though the eligibility of each lot owner to purchase outdoor water rights will be determined on a case-by-case basis, a draft map earlier produced by the Department of Ecology provides a rough estimate of where outdoor water will and won’t be available.
Outdoor water will be available in virtually all areas now served by the irrigation districts. Clallam County PUD provides water in areas west and east of Sequim.
But beyond that, no outdoor water will be available.
The Dungeness Water Exchange, the water “bank” for new rights, will be working on mitigation projects to expand the availability of outdoor water.
Susan Adams is executive director of the Washington Water Trust, which manages the Water Exchange. She said it’s not a huge issue.
“I don’t know that there are many places where there is no water available,” Adams said. “Most of the population occurs where people would have water.”
Ecology spokesman Dan Partridge said Ecology estimates that “only 6.2 percent of the households subject to the Dungeness rule will experience impacts on their property values because mitigation water will not be available to them.”
He said the agency estimated the financial impact on each property “at between $1,000 and $33,000 over 20 years.”
Those who had drilled a well and were putting the water to use are unaffected by the rule unless they change their use.
A big deal
Marguerite Glover, a Realtor who has been active in water discussions for a number of years, disagreed, saying it’s a big, expensive issue.
“Why do they keep saying this is a small area?” she asked.
She said it’s going to surprise a lot of the landowners. “There are still a bunch of them thinking they’re going to live their dream. We’re talking to people who want greenhouses. Who’s going to tell them to take them down?”
She added: “It’s going to severely impact the value of the land.”
Glover added that the geology of the area also is not well understood. “The wells there may not affect anything,” she said. “Where’s the science?”
Joe Holtrop, district manager of the Clallam Conservation District, described another issue that will arise under the new rule.
“Drought-resistant” trees and other vegetation provide an excellent alternative for those living in the rain shadow, he said, but require several years of regular watering to thrive.
“The more watering at first, the more drought-resistant they are,” Holtrop said.
Even within the area where outdoor water can be purchased, landowners will be buying rights in perpetuity for what may be a few years of required irrigation. Holtrop suggested they may balk at doing so.
Impact on values
Danni Breen, a Realtor with John L. Scott, said those in her office are taking great care to let potential buyers know the rules regarding the new Dungeness Water Rule.
“I have to be very straightforward to tell them there are issues,” she said. “We have to be very careful because we don’t know what it’s going to cost. We have to spell out the worst possible scenario so we don’t get sued later.”
Breen’s colleague, David Spencer, said, “What do you do with all that property if you don’t have water?”
Glover expanded on that notion, saying, “Most of the people in the ‘no outside water available’ areas own five, 10, 20 acres, or more. I know of no one on parcels that large who have no interest in gardening or forestry or livestock.”
“Not one person.”
“When real estate professionals from the Olympic Peninsula go to show people who are looking to garden or have livestock, greenhouses, orchards, and the like, they will have the (Ecology) map with them and they will show nothing that does not have outside watering ability.”
Reach Mark Couhig at firstname.lastname@example.org.