From snowpack to salmon to stormwater, from water rights to water conservation and irrigation, the issues surrounding the Dungeness Watershed are abundant — and a fertile field for study.
“It’s all really connected … like a jigsaw puzzle,” Sequim resident Carrol Hull said.
Looking to help locals connect the pieces of this puzzle as they help address concerns about decreasing ground water, the effects of climate change and the Olympic Peninsula’s diminishing snowpack, the League of Women Voters of Clallam County (LWVCLA) and other advocates are offering a series of lectures and presentations about how Clallam County can achieve a sustainable water future.
The league’s research — a brainchild of Hull, chair of the LWVCLA’s Water Committee — indicated that each watershed on the peninsula presents its own unique challenges, and gave birth to an educational series that will center on one watershed at a time.
Divided into two parts, the league developed “Part 1: The Story of Water” with a focus on the Dungeness Watershed, with Hull and others screening the “From Source to Sea: Dungeness Watershed” film to various community groups.
The film, to be shown at 4 p.m. on Nov. 9 at the Dungeness River Audubon Center and noon on Nov. 12 at the Sequim-Dungeness Chamber of Commerce’s regular meeting (see box), was developed to “inform viewers to the uniqueness and issues facing the Dungeness Watershed” and to raise questions, league members said.
At each showing there is a brief introduction to the film, and questions are welcomed afterward.
The second part of the program, “Part 2: The Story of Water: In-Depth,” is a series of lectures that started Oct. 23 with “How Our Water System Works: The Hydrology of the Dungeness Watershed” — more than 90 people attended, league Hull said — and continues through June of 2020.
This monthly series of presentations by water experts explores the myriad complexities of area watersheds, and actions Clallam County stakeholders can take.
The two remaining presentations in 2019 are set for 6:30 p.m. at the Sequim Civic Center’s council chambers, 152 W. Cedar St. All lectures are free and open to the public.
• Nov. 13, “Olympic Mountain Glaciers and Snowpack: Changes and Future Challenges” with Bill Baccus, Olympic National Park
• Dec. 11, “Tribal Treaty Rights and Water: From Time Immemorial” with Hansi Hals, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe Natural Resources
Other presentations in 2020 (times, locations to be announced) include:
• January 2020 — “Water Law in Washington: Who Owns the Water and What Are Our Rights?” by Washington Department of Ecology and Shearwater Law PLLC, Port Angeles
• February 2020 — “Irrigators and Protectors: Rights and Conservation Actions Exercised by Our Farmers” by Clallam Conservation District
• March 2020 — “Storm Water and Water Quality: What Steps Are Being Taken to Guarantee Safe, Usable Water?” by City of Sequim, Clallam County Environmental Health
• April 2020 — “Safeguarding Our Natural Resources: What Is Endangering the Future of Salmon?” by Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe
• May 2020 — “Conserving and Storing Water: What Are Our Choices?” by local water managers
• June 2020 — “Our Water Future in Clallam County” by panel of experts, stakeholders
See the schedule of presentations at lwvcla.org/story-water.
Personal interest in water
Hull, a former high school government and economics teacher who taught in several California communities, said her interest in local water issues was sparked when she moved into the Dungeness Heights neighborhood in 2012.
She saw the neighborhood’s aging water system of about 30 or 40 years change ownership and, with the Dungeness Water Management Rule going into effect in late 2012, a metering system was required. Local homeowners were being asked at one point to pay $750 to meet the metering requirement by the system owner, and up to $1,700 by Clallam County Public Utility District (PUD) to take over the system, she said.
“No one in the neighborhood wanted to pay,” Hull noted.
In the end the water system owner found a funding source and put in the meters, but the issue stuck with Hull.
Over the past 40 to 50 years the number of wells across the Dungeness Watershed have increased dramatically, notes representatives from the Washington Water Trust. Because of the connectivity between ground and surface water, these wells have had impacts on stream flow.
That stream flow hit record lows in the summer of 2015. Despite near-normal precipitation for the winter season, warm temperatures caused a disproportionate amount of precipitation to fall as rain instead of snow in the mountains throughout the season, and there was no snow in the mountains to feed the Dungeness.
“That was the canary in the mine,” Hull said.
In recent years LWVCLA members started talking about creating an educational series to describe the impact of changes in the area to the Dungeness and other watersheds, Hull said. That led to conversations with a number of area hydrologists and other water advocates, from Olympic National Park’s Bill Baccus to the Clallam Conservation District’s Joe Holtrop, Clallam County hydrologist Carol Creasey and others.
Studying the watershed was made easier, Hull said, with the existence of the Dungeness Water Management Team, a partnership of individuals, entities and other stakeholders seeking long-term solutions to Dungeness Watershed management issues.
The conversations sparked the drive to study and explain the peninsula’s watersheds, starting with the Dungeness. It also led to the creation of the film “From Source to Sea: Dungeness Watershed.” Silas Crews, a filmmaker who moved to Sequim in late 2018, donated much time and effort — about three months — to produce the 20-minute piece, Hull said.
“He got really caught up in it,” she said.
Now program presenters are looking to show the film at the end of lectures when they can, she said.
At the end of the first lecture presented by Creasey and hydrologists Ann Soule (City of Sequim) and John Stednick (retired Colorado State University professor), about 65 of the 90 attendees stayed to watch the film, Hull noted.
“People are coming to the talks because they’ve seen the film,” she said.
Addressing the interests of environmentalists to farmers, newcomers and longtime Sequim residents alike, “From Source to Sea” details the Dungeness Watershed’s geographic migration from the snowfall and snowpack in the Olympics, the resources the Dungeness provided in the prairie, the history of irrigation and agricultural uses, current-day uses and studies by the Dungeness Audubon River Center and Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, restoration in the 3 Crabs estuary, Dungeness River dike removals and more.
“(The film helps build) a sense of place and how things are connected, and the responsibilities we have; it captures why people want to live here,” Hull said. “It ties all of (these efforts) together.”
Joining the LWVCLA in this educational outreach program were a number of local entities and partners, including Clallam County, cities of Sequim and Port Angeles, Clallam Conservation District, Clallam County PUD, North Olympic Land Trust, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, Dungeness River Audubon Center and Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society.
The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization, whose purpose is to promote the informed and active participation of citizens in government. For more information about “The Story of Water” program and the League of Women Voters, go to www.lwvcla.org.
To schedule a viewing of the film “From Source to Sea” for a community organization, contact Hull at firstname.lastname@example.org.