After four years of negotiations, on Nov. 22 the Washington Water Trust purchased 175 acre feet of water rights from the Dungeness Water Users Association.
The purchase price was $350,000.
The water rights will “hydrate the Dungeness Water Exchange,” a program of the trust, to provide mitigation credits for new water withdrawals.
Under the Department of Ecology’s Dungeness Water Rule, in place since January, new uses of water must be offset by the purchase of “mitigation credits.”
The Dungeness Water Rule covers much of eastern Clallam County.
Since the Dungeness rule became effective, Ecology has approved 15 mitigation certificates, with the credits drawn from a “reserve” created by Ecology in the rule.
Most of these have been for indoor water use for new home construction or home remodeling in the Dungeness watershed.
The newly purchased water rights will be used to deliver water to the aquifer recharge projects that will produce additional mitigation credits.
Amanda Cronin, who manages the Water Exchange for the Water Trust, said her organization is now working with a number of partners toward the first projects, which likely will include shallow aquifer recharge projects on both the east and the west side of the Dungeness River.
Ecology spokesman Dan Partridge explained the purchase, saying the agreement is divided into two parts, with 45 acre-feet staying in the Dungeness River each year between Aug. 15 and Sept. 15. Another 130 acre-feet will be available for the shallow aquifer recharge projects between May 15 and July 15.
One acre foot is 325,851 gallons of water.
Ben Smith, president of the Dungeness Water Users, said, “As farmers, we have a long-term interest in the ecological and economic health of the Dungeness Valley. We were happy to work with trust to shape this agreement and seed the Dungeness Water Exchange with mitigation that will support economic and environmental sustainability for many years into the future.”
The Dungeness Water Users Association is the umbrella organization for the irrigation companies and districts in the Dungeness Valley near Sequim. Washington Water Trust is a nonprofit based in Seattle.
For more on the Dungeness Water Exchange, see www.washingtonwatertrust.org/water-exchange.