A grant agreement between Ecology and the Upper Skagit Tribe will fund the costs of the technical and legal analysis to determine if managed groundwater recharge can provide effective and sustainable stream flow enhancement and mitigation for new groundwater uses.
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The Department of Ecology (Ecology) is pleased to partner with the Upper Skagit Tribe on proposal to develop a stream flow enhancement/groundwater mitigation program (“Program”) for the Skagit River Basin. The proposed Program plan will include two components: 1) a managed groundwater recharge project to enhance current stream flows and offset flow-related impacts from new groundwater uses in each subbasin; and 2) a fee-based mitigation program to assign “mitigation credits” to individual property owners and to recover the costs of the groundwater recharge project. The Upper Skagit Tribe will focus initially in the Fisher Creek subbasin. Since 2011, the Fisher Creek subbasin has been closed to new uses of groundwater. The Tribe may expand the program to provide appropriate enhancement/mitigation in other subbasins.
In 2001, Ecology adopted its Skagit River Instream Flow Rule, which established minimum stream flows for the mainstem Skagit River. In 2006, Ecology amended the Skagit River Instream Flow Rule. The 2006 amendments 1) established a water budget for each major Skagit River subbasin, to serve new development in the subbasin; and 2) established a mitigation approval process to ensure that new groundwater users would mitigate their impacts on stream flows during the low-flow period. In 2011, after Ecology determined the water budgets had been exhausted, the agency closed the Carpenter and Fisher subbasins of the Skagit River Basin to new uses of water.
On October 3, 2013, the Washington Supreme Court invalidated the 2006 amendments to the Skagit Instream Flow Rule, due to the potential adverse impact of the water budgets on established instream flows. This means that new water uses throughout the Skagit Basin must be fully mitigated for their impacts on mainstem Skagit River stream flows during low flow periods.
The 2001 Skagit Instream Flow Rule does not establish specific flow limitations for Skagit River tributaries. Nevertheless, the Upper Skagit Tribe remains concerned about the effects of new groundwater uses in those tributaries supporting anadromous fish. Like most basins in Western Washington, the Skagit River’s tributaries have adequate flows during most of the year, and on an average annual basis, but in many years flows are not adequate during the late part of the summer and early fall. Consequently, an appropriate enhancement/mitigation plan for the Fisher Creek subbasin – and for other Skagit River subbasins – may include “retiming” groundwater discharges into the stream to increase surface flows during low flow periods.
The Upper Skagit Tribe proposes to develop a groundwater recharge project to enhance stream flows and mitigate for new groundwater uses in the Fisher Creek subbasin. The goal of the project is to demonstrate that “retiming” stormwater runoff through managed groundwater infiltration can provide enhanced stream flows and be an effective mitigation tool for new groundwater development. To recover the costs for the groundwater recharge project, the Upper Skagit Tribe proposes to develop a fee-based mitigation program. If the mitigation program is approved by Ecology, individual property owners will contract to receive “mitigation credits,” representing proportionate benefits from the groundwater recharge project. The Upper Skagit Tribe’s stream flow enhancement/groundwater mitigation program will incorporate rigorous adaptive-management protocols and extensive monitoring and evaluation. The adaptive management protocols will ensure that future development is aligned with proven and sustainable mitigation benefits and that project facilities are managed appropriately.
A grant agreement between Ecology and the Upper Skagit Tribe will fund the costs of the technical and legal analysis to determine if managed groundwater recharge can provide effective and sustainable stream flow enhancement and mitigation for new groundwater uses. Specifically, the grant agreement provides funding to facilitate a public review process, technical analysis considering the feasibility and preliminary design of a groundwater recharge project, and the creation of the enhancement/mitigation program conceptual framework. Funding for construction of the groundwater recharge project will come from the sale of mitigation credits to property owners who will benefit from the project.
Develop Public Involvement and Review Process
The Washington Department of Ecology convened an interagency review team (IRT) to advise the Upper Skagit Tribe on project development and to guide Ecology’s decision making for the project. An Ecology representative will chair the IRT. The following agencies, tribes and other stakeholders will be invited to participate on an interagency review team:
The Upper Skagit Tribe and Ecology held the first IRT meeting about the proposed mitigation program in Fisher Creek on January 23, 2014. The second meeting was held on March 27, 2014. The final meeting was held on June 23, 2014. A draft mitigation plan and concept project plan is available.
The Upper Skagit Tribe is currently working to develop a recharge suitability assessment for potential project sites in Fisher Creek Basin, and a conceptual plan for the groundwater recharge project. The suitability assessment will be based a review of available technical information and on-site investigations. Also, the suitability assessment will estimate the build-out potential for the Fisher Creek Subbasin based on existing zoning. This work will inform an initial determination of the size of and potential future need for the groundwater recharge project. Work associated with this task includes:
The Upper Skagit Tribe has retained a qualified consultant to conduct the technical review for the project. The consultant will produce a technical memorandum summarizing results of the data review, methodology and assumptions and preliminary recommendations for groundwater recharge in the Fisher Creek subbasin. This report will be available for public and agency review.
If recharge sites are identified in the suitability assessment, the consultant will prepare a preliminary design and cost estimate for the Project. The project design will include sufficient capacity to enhance flows above the levels needed to mitigate for new development in the Fisher Creek subbasin. The preliminary design and cost estimate will describe a project that is appropriately located and sized to mitigate for an identified number of new groundwater users in the Fisher Creek subbasin. Rigorous site review will identify groundwater recharge site opportunity areas. The concept design report will consider the aquifer recharge and discharge at a site, groundwater surface water interaction, groundwater flow direction and velocity and groundwater modeling. The conceptual design report may also include subsurface testing at each potential site and preliminary civil engineering for the proposed groundwater recharge facility.
The preliminary technical reports are expected in April 2014. The reports will be submitted to the IRT for review, available for public comment and presented to Ecology for final approval in May 2014.
The Upper Skagit Tribe currently is working to develop an enhancement/mitigation Program framework to provide details on how the groundwater recharge project will be used and managed to provide stream flow enhancement and mitigation for new uses of water in the Skagit Basin. The Program framework will include the following elements:
The Upper Skagit Tribe will serve as cooperating agency for purposes of SEPA compliance for the project. The Tribe will prepare appropriate SEPA compliance documentation for the groundwater recharge project and mitigation program. The Upper Skagit Tribe expects to complete a draft enhancement/mitigation program plan by April 2014. The plan will be submitted to the IRT for review, available for public comment, and presented to Ecology for final approval in May 2014.
Mentor Law Group
Skagit County & North Snohomish County Water Mitigation - Mentor Law Group
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