The three Public Utility District commissioners say they’ll pay $53,370 to “mitigate” for water drawn by its planned two new wells.
The new wells will replace a current well that is near the Strait of Juan de Fuca shoreline. Because of its proximity to the strait, the “Bluffs” well is subject to saltwater intrusion.
The new wells won’t withdraw more water than the existing well. “We’re just changing the point of withdrawal,” said PUD engineer Tom Martin.
He explained that via the underlying aquifers the new wells will affect the flow in local streams in a different pattern from the current well.
Under the new Dungeness Water Management Rule, put in place in January, PUD is required to purchase new mitigation credits.
PUD will buy the mitigation credits and receive a certificate from the Dungeness Water Exchange, established by the Department of Ecology to broker the credits.
According to Ecology’s mitigation calculator, which is an extension of its groundwater model, the change in well location will have 2.57 acre feet of impact on the eight affected streams per year.
The calculator includes withdrawals from all streams in the area affected by the rule, which covers much of eastern Clallam County.
While the calculator shows that most of the impact of the change would be felt by the Dungeness River, the impact would extend as far east as Bell Creek, which would lose a little more than six gallons a day.
“It’s like a guy with a bucket,” Martin told the commissioners.
“It’s hard to believe,” he said. “But all models are wrong. Some are more wrong than others. And this is one of the better models in the state.”
Amanda Cronin, who runs the Dungeness Water Exchange, calculated the fee by noting that the new wells will result in 2,283 gallons per day of impact — that is, she said, the reduction in surface water in the streams due to pumping groundwater from the aquifers.
That’s the equivalent of 26 new homes, she said. The Exchange currently is selling mitigation credits for a new home with indoor and outdoor water for about $2,040 per household, plus a transaction fee.
Multiply the two, add in one transaction fee of about $960 for the Exchange, and the total is $53,370.
Martin told the commissioners the next step is to write a check, wait for Ecology to publish a “draft report of examination,” followed up by a 30-day review period.
Martin said the utility district may be able to put out a bid on construction in mid-January.