Washington State Department of Ecology - July 1, 2013

13-167

Water purchase to supply new homes, protect stream flows in Skagit watershed

OLYMPIA – The Department of Ecology (Ecology) is acquiring water rights from the Big Lake Water Association, a public water system near Mount Vernon, which will provide water for new homes in a water-short subbasin of the Skagit River watershed.

Ecology has approved the transfer of 33.56 acre-feet of water to the state’s Trust Water Program as part of the water rights acquisition from Big Lake. This water supply will provide mitigation water for as many as 77 new homes and  protect stream flows in the Nookachamps Creek subbasin. An acre-foot equals 325,851 gallons.

The Big Lake purchase is the first water rights acquisition using funds authorized by the 2012 Legislature to provide a new water supply for new homes in Skagit subbasins that have depleted or nearly depleted water reserves. A water reserve is a limited amount of water set aside for domestic use including household drinking water, sewage and cleaning needs, and watering small gardens. 

Ecology Director Maia Bellon said: “Ecology has been working diligently under the Legislature’s directive to find new water supplies to benefit property owners with building plans that may have been stalled by the closure or impending closure of Skagit subbasins to new groundwater withdrawals. The Big Lake water rights purchase is a big first step. We also are exploring alternatives for new water supplies such as surface and groundwater storage projects, public water systems that could take on new customers and a rainwater collection demonstration project.”

The reservation for domestic water use in the Carpenter-Fisher subbasin of the Skagit has been depleted, prompting Ecology to close the subbasin to new groundwater withdrawals in June 2011. Currently in the Nookachamps, more than 75 percent of the water reserve has been allocated and reserve is expected to be depleted within the next two years.

Ecology will work with local governments and stakeholders to develop a program to allocate the mitigation water from the Big Lake purchase. Transferring existing water rights into the state’s Trust Water Program is subject to a 30-day public comment period before completion.

In April 2012, the Legislature provided $2.25 million to Ecology to find new water supplies to meet the needs of property owners and  preserve stream flows in the Skagit subbasins. The Big Lake Water Association, a water system that serves 118 people, will receive $138,598 from Ecology for three water rights. As a result, the association will shut down water wells and hook up to the Skagit Public Utility District for a water supply.

###

Media Contacts:

Dan Partridge, Water Resources communications manager, 360-480-5722, dan.partridge@ecy.wa.gov

Jacque Klug, Northwest Water Resources section manager, 425-649-7270, jklu461@ecy.wa.gov

For more information:

Nookachamps water project (www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wr/nwro/skagit-nookachamps.html)

Water Resources Program (www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wr/wrhome.html)

Ecology’s social media (www.ecy.wa.gov/about/newmedia.html)