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Whither the water fund?
Those hoping to build a new home on land within the area affected by the Dungeness Rule must first purchase “mitigation water.”
These water rights are available through the Dungeness Water Exchange, with a number of packages available.
Through June, a package for indoor water use is available for $1,000, with the state picking up the tab through a grant provided by the Department of Ecology.
What happens after that?
That will be decided in the Legislature, which is now considering the question. State Sen. Jim Hargrove is sponsoring a bill, SB 5035, that calls for $2.05 million to be spent on mitigation in the Dungeness.
Specifically, the bill says, “The appropriation in this section is provided solely for the department to (1) acquire water rights sufficient to mitigate for groundwater withdrawals for indoor and outdoor use for no less than the next 20 years of estimated development, and (2) for projects to provide for such mitigation as that term is defined in (law) within the Dungeness River basin and sub-basins ….”
State Rep. Steve Tharinger said he believes the funding would be used solely for mitigation projects, including storage impoundments, and is not intended for use in purchasing mitigation rights for individual landowners.
Tharinger said Ecology’s proposed budget includes funding that would continue to purchase water rights for in-home use through the next two years.
Clallam County Commissioner Jim McEntire, who worked with Hargrove on the language in the bill, said he believes Hargrove’s bill is intended to purchase mitigation water for individual landowners.
He also has written to the powers-that-be on the House Budget Committee, asking that they include the language in their own budget bill.
McEntire noted that both Gov. Jay Inslee and his predecessor Gov. Christine Gregoire had proposed the funding in their budget requests.
State Rep. Kevin Van De Wege said he supports the use of state monies for purchasing mitigation water rights for individuals — to a point.
“Right now, with what’s going on in my district, I do support that. I don’t know what the future holds, but if that (model) becomes more widespread … at some point it won’t be cost-effective.”