Dungeness Water Management Rule Background

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Ann Wessel
Instream Flow Rule Lead

Department of Ecology
1440 10th St., Suite 102
Bellingham  WA 98225
Phone: 360 715-5215
E-mail: ann.wessel@ecy.wa.gov


This page is being maintained as an archive of past information and will not be updated.

Dungeness Rule Update – March 2016

The Dungeness water management rule, adopted in January 2013, requires mitigation of any new groundwater withdrawals.  Since the rule’s adoption three years ago, more than 100 (101 as of March 2016) water mitigation certificates have been issued, allowing new construction and remodeling to continue and move forward in the areas under the jurisdiction of this water management rule.

On November 16, 2012 Washington Department of Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant signed a new water management rule for the Dungeness watershed that secures water supplies for current and future uses in the Sequim area for the benefit of people, community development, agriculture and fish.  The rule goes into effect January 02, 2013.

Proposed Rule Background 2007 to Present

Work on a water management rule for the Dungeness watershed resumed in late Fall 2011.  Adoption of a rule is an important part of water resource planning, to protect stream flows and water for domestic (household) needs.

Work on a water management rule began in 2006, as Ecology joined with local governments, Tribes, business owners, environmental and civic organizations, residents and others in eastern Clallam County to draft rule language.  Rule development was put on hold in late 2010, while local water resource managers focused on some key issues outside the scope of a rule: water supplies for development, resource protection, and flow restoration.  The delay in rulemaking also lined up with Governor Gregoire’s November 2010 executive order to suspend most rulemaking for one year unless critical.

In February 2011, an Agreement in Principle (AIP) was created, outlining water management areas for work while rulemaking is on hold.  The AIP was signed by Clallam County, the Sequim-Dungeness Water Users Association and Ecology.  The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe conveyed their support via a letter from Tribal Chairman Ron Allen.  Signers of the AIP agreed that within 18 months a Dungeness water management rule would be in place (August 2012).

To keep the issues listed in the AIP moving forward, the Local Leaders Water Management Work Group (LLWG) was formed and meets regularly.  In addition to AIP signers, their discussions include the City of Sequim, Clallam County PUD, and the Clallam Conservation District as well as some members of the public.  Building on the work done by the LLWG, community outreach efforts have now resumed.

On May 9, 2012, Ecology filed the proposed Water Resources Management Program for the Dungeness portion of the Elwha-Dungeness Water Resource Inventory Area (WRIA ) 18, Chapter 173-518 WAC.   Two open houses were held in Sequim, on January 30 and 31, 2012 that featured information stations where citizens got answers to questions about water management issues in the basin and the proposed rule.  A public hearing was held on June 28, 2012.  The comment period ended at 5:00pm on July 9, 2012.  All of the comments received will become part of the official record.  The proposed rule documents are currently available along with the supporting environmental and economic analyses.

Decision on proposed Dungeness rule is planned for the second half of November 2012 - Final consideration on adoption of the proposed Dungeness water management rule is planned for the second half of November 2012.  Public comments on the proposed rule and our responses to them will be published in a Concise Explanatory Statement in conjunction with adoption of the rule.  In addition, documents published in draft form at the time of rule filing in May 2012 will be issued in final form.

Memorandum of Agreement between the Washington State Department of Ecology and Members of the Dungeness River Agricultural Water Association

The Washington Department of Ecology signed an agreement with irrigators in the Dungeness watershed that will help protect future water supplies for agriculture.  The agreement will also help ensure there is adequate water in the Sequim area for economic development and fish habitat.

Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant signed the agreement with representatives of seven irrigation companies. The agreement is considered a key part of a water management rule Ecology has proposed for the Dungeness. The rule is designed to protect water supplies for current and future uses in the watershed.

Additional Information

In the news

Open Houses held in January

Two open houses were held in Sequim, on January 30 and 31, 2012 that featured information stations where citizens got answers to questions about water management issues in the basin and the proposed rule. 

Includes other small streams and tributaries

Dungeness River
Gray Wolf River
Cameron Creek
Grand Creek
Canyon Creek
Silver Creek
Royal Creek
Heather Creek
Matriotti Creek
Bagley Creek
Bell Creek
Cassalery Creek
Cooper Creek
Gierin Creek
McDonald Creek
Meadowbrook Creek
  Siebert Creek
Buckhorn Lake
Cedar Lake
Gladys Lake
Grand Lake
Home Lake
Moose Lake
Royal Lake
Silver Lake
Solmar Lake
Rex Aldrich Reservoir
Winters Pond

What is the purpose of the rule?

The proposed rule would guide water use planning and decision-making for new water users, and set policies to help protect the availability of water supplies for current and future needs of people and the environment.

The Elwha-Dungeness Watershed Plan obligated Ecology to develop a water management rule, and many sections of the existing draft rule are based on its recommendations.  The Plan included a number of recommendations for management of new water supplies and water rights, water quality, instream flows and fish habitat.

For more information on the history of Dungeness rule development, click here.

Why is a rule needed?  Pressures on Dungeness water supply

Ecology has a legal obligation to both provide for reliable supplies of drinking water and to protect fish, wildlife and other “instream resources” that depend on adequate amounts of water in streams.  That’s a delicate balance but one that can be achieved with smart, cooperative water management.

The Dungeness watershed has many water challenges.  The amount of water available for use varies greatly across the watershed and throughout the year.  In the mountains, precipitation averages 80 inches a year, compared to Sequim which gets only about 16 inches a year.

In addition to the naturally limited water supply in many areas, there is also the problem of high demand at the very time water supplies are naturally lowest: the summer and early fall.  Farm irrigation and lawn-watering are at their peaks, at the same time spawning fish and the natural environment also need water in streams.

Significant effort and expense has already gone to restoring flows in the Dungeness River, and protection is needed for these investments.

Population growth in the Dungeness is among the highest in the state, and is only expected to increase.  It is already difficult to get water for new projects since most water is already legally spoken for, especially in the late summer.

The Dungeness watershed is one of 16 in our state that is considered “water-critical:” basins with a shortage of water for existing needs.  Four fish species dependent on the Dungeness River have come under the protection of the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), due to human-induced factors such as . insufficient streamflows from water diversions, unstable shifting channels from logging practices, too much salmon harvest and and genetic effects from too many artificial hatchery salmon.  Other species are being considered for listing.  And there are several Dungeness fish species listed as “critical” by the state.

For all these reasons and more, careful water management is needed for the Dungeness.  A water management rule is one important tool.

Photo of Dungeness River
Dungeness River from Route 101

Additional resources on water management

The Dungeness River Management Team (DRMT) is a partnership of individuals, stakeholders and governments in the Dungeness watershed.  They have worked together for years to develop and implement locally based, long-term solutions to watershed management issues.  The public is invited to attend their monthly meetings.

Informational materials from the rulemaking effort prior to 2010

Ecology has been working with interested local community groups and members for many years on developing a water management rule.  This included extensive education and outreach efforts in the community, such as public workshops held in February 2009, March 2008 and November 2007.  Some of the workshop materials are linked to below:

Sequim Gazette 2007-2009 news article series on water issues and planning

During 2007 - 2009, the Sequim Gazette published a series of articles to inform the public on the complex water management issues in the Dungeness watershed.  The articles provide a good overview on the many water and water planning issues in the watershed. Articles with no link have been removed at the source.

Photo of Dungeness River in August
Dungeness River in August

Scientific data for the Dungeness

There is data on the Dungeness watershed going back many years.  Some of the more current data available is linked to below.

Groundwater and Aquifer Recharge

Threatened and Endangered Fish

One of the drivers behind developing a water management rule for the Dungeness is the presence of threatened and endangered fish.  The Dungeness River Chinook, Hood Canal and East Juan de Fuca Straits summer chum, steelhead, and bull trout are listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).  Two of the primary efforts on fish protection and recovery are:

Additional fish related resources:

The Watershed Plan

The final Elwha-Dungeness Watershed Plan was developed and approved under the Watershed Planning Act, Ch.90.82 RCW

An extended Clallam County review of the Plan included several meetings with stakeholders, public meetings, and hearings.  Members of the planning teams reviewed public comment and amended plan recommendations where consensus could be reached.  The Clallam County Board of Commissioners unanimously adopted the plan on June 7, 2005. 

Some Plan recommendations related to rule development include:

Elwha-Dungeness Watershed Planning Website

Other Resources


Ann Wessel
Instream Flow Rule Lead

Department of Ecology
1440 10th St., Suite 102
Bellingham  WA 98225
Phone: 360 715-5215
E-mail: ann.wessel@ecy.wa.gov