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State water trust: Aquifer recharge projects a priority

The “top priority” for the Washington Water Trust, the organization that manages the Dungeness Water Exchange, is to get aquifer recharge projects not only under way, but operational by next spring or early summer, said Amanda Cronin, Washington Water Trust project manager.

“It’s very important (to get aquifer recharge projects established) because right now we have mitigation credits in the Dungeness River, but not in any of the small streams,” Cronin announced at the annual Dungeness Water Exchange Advisory Council meeting, held in mid-June.

The why and the how

What would aquifer recharge projects in the small streams do? From an ecological perspective, the recharge projects would add to the ground water table that supports surface flow during the low flow season — August-October.

And, from a planning perspective, the recharge projects would generate more mitigation credits for the Dungeness Water Exchange, which equates to additional mitigation certificates available for purchase. Both functions of the aquifer recharge projects are obtained by taking water during high stream flows and diverting it in order to allow the water to infiltrate back into the ground, Cronin said.

“Washington Water Trust expects to be hiring a contractor to help with design, engineering and construction of two sites this summer, hopefully July,” Cronin said.

Following a feasibility survey completed fall 2013, 71 parcels grouped into 31 potential sites for recharge projects are in evaluation. However, the Washington Water Trust has only one final design for a site in Carlsborg and the preliminary designs for two additional sites.

Although an infiltration system may not look like much to a casual observer, a lot of planning, engineering and funding (supported by the Department of Ecology) must go into each project for proper function.

“An aquifer recharge site can look like a variety of things,” Cronin said. “It could be a ditch, specially designed piping or a shallow pond.”

Economic viability vs. legal available water

Although the Dungeness Water Exchange has variety of mitigation packages available for purchase, until additional mitigation credits are gained the exchange is somewhat limited; thus the exchange has created different options based on the desired water use to combat the lack of aquifer recharge sites.

For example, for those that own a bare lot within the Dungeness Water Rule area, the available option is to buy future mitigation from the exchange to use after two years, but before seven years. The certificate costs $250 initially, followed by a $50 annual charge. The payments made do however roll over into the total price of the mitigation certificate. Though this option exists, ideally these types of option won’t be needed within a year or two, Cronin said.

“In the longterm we would like to see anyone able to buy a mitigation certificate if they would like,” said Mike Gallagher, Water Resources Section head for Department of Ecology Southwest Regional. “But, in the short-term we need to get the aquifer recharge programs on the ground first.”

However well those programs are getting on the ground in order to provide additional mitigation credits, the “segment of the market that is interested in buying and selling land is (within the Dungeness Water Rule area) being missed,” Jim McEntire, county commissioner said.

McEntire encouraged to the Dungeness Water Exchange and those managing it not to miss important “market signals” and reiterated the impact of the Dungeness Water Rule on the real estate market emphasizes the urgency of getting additional water available.

 

Reach Alana Linderoth at alinderoth@sequimgazette.com.

 

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