Clallam County Public Utility District #1 would like to respond to the January 26 article on Sequim Valley Airport’s water and wastewater needs Sequim Gazette (“Owners and district commissioners push for water and sewage connections,” page A-1).
Mr. Andy Sallee and several other members of the airport’s ownership group have contacted the district on a number of occasions since 2019. They expressed interest in having the district supply water to the airport. The last time the District contacted Mr. Sallee was in June 2021 in response to his request for the District to provide fire power to the airport.
The district is ready to provide domestic, commercial, and fire water services once new water rights and funds for necessary infrastructure improvements are secured.
The article suggests that the district could take over the sewers. Clallam County – not the District – owns and operates the sewage system in Carlsborg. The airport owners’ association has not asked the district to provide the sewerage system.
The article points out that the expansion of the Carlsborg Urban Growth Area (UGA) to include the airport is necessary for the district to provide water services. While this may be required for the county to provide sewerage, it is not required for the district to provide water service.
The county commissioners sent a letter dated November 9, 2021 to the district general manager. The letter showed support for the airport’s inclusion in the UGA and expressed hope that a way could be forged to allow for water hookup (by the district). As discussed above, this path must include securing new water rights and funding for infrastructure improvements.
District commissioners were previously brought into the discussion that new water rights are needed to allow the district to expand its water service area. The district has made clear its long-standing policy of dedicating existing water rights to the expansion of its existing retail water service area. This area includes parts of the UGA and some adjoining neighborhoods.
The pioneers of Carlsborg’s water system – those who paid for water rights and infrastructure – should be assured that those water rights are always available to them and not given away elsewhere (e.g. at the airport). In cooperation with the district, the district commissioners officially adopted this guideline by resolution in 2017.
Water rights are very difficult and expensive to acquire. The county and district reached a water rights agreement for the UGA in 2013. The agreement essentially gave the county responsibility for acquiring new water rights for the county for the expansion of the existing Carlsborg UGA. The county has been working on it since 2013 without obtaining approval from the Department of Ecology — the state agency that administers water rights. This was a major challenge for both the county and the county.
The article included a quote from the district commissioners’ letter to the district, which states: “We are not sure why this facility was not included in the Carlsborg UGA boundary when it was originally created.”
Counties have land use jurisdiction. Under the Growth Management Act (GMA), the county was responsible for UGA designation. Their records were intended to show the public process of establishing Carlsborg’s UGA limits. These records can help clarify why certain properties were included in the UGA and others, like the airport, were not.
The district has been working with the airport ownership group to plan the airport expansion, noting that the ownership group needs to address water rights and funding issues. The community of owners provided information about their wells and their water rights. They also provided preliminary construction drawings for a commercial and residential area around the airport. They have yet to provide how much water they would need for their proposed development.
For the past 12 months, discussion has centered on the provision of Firestreams. The district fire chief establishes the fire flow requirements, which depend on the size of the buildings and their construction. Without knowing these details, the firefighter assumed a high fire flow of 3,000 gallons per minute for 60 minutes.
In the past, the district has been able to provide a stream of fire to a few businesses that are outside of, but adjacent to, our retail services area, albeit on a much smaller scale. The district and owners’ association have discussed a similar regulation for the airport. This was last discussed in June 2021.
The article states, “Access to large volumes of water would benefit emergency vehicles during a disaster event such as a major forest fire at the Olympics.” Adding this fire flow to the fire flow required for future buildings in and around the airport would require even more water rights and funding for infrastructure improvements. District politics come into play again. Should the extinguishing water capacity of the existing water system be used for the airport and/or forest fires that would leave no capacity to fight fires in the existing retail service area, e.g. B. A fire at Greywolf Elementary School?
The district would need to work with Clallam County, the state Departments of Environment and Health, and local water managers to develop a plan for the airport’s water service development. Pumping water from wells affects stream flow and fish habitat. A plan to mitigate these impacts must be approved by the Department of Ecology before it would make a decision on a new water law.
Ecology must also ensure that water is physically and legally available, legacy water rights are not compromised (e.g. tributaries in the Dungeness River), water is used wisely, and water use is in the public interest. The Department of Health would only approve (and provide credit for) infrastructure improvements if the ecology first approves water rights.
The county should lead a public process supporting the purchase of water for the district to provide water for the airport – a process involving local water managers such as the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, the Dungeness Water Users Association and the Dungeness Water Exchange are involved.
For more information on Public Utility District No. 1 of Clallam County, see clallampud.net.