Addressing Mitigation, Defining Wasteful Usage: North Bend proposes new Water Conservation Law

The City of North Bend will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, April 2nd, 7PM at the Mt. Si Senior Center, 411 Main Ave S. to solicit public input on a draft Water Conservation Ordinance (WCO). The WCO would apply to homes and businesses within the city limits who receive water service from the City of North Bend and Sallal Water Association.

The potential ordinance authorizes the Public Works Director to develop best management practices for water usage and oversee the implementation of the new law and resident compliance. The potential ordinance outlines a lengthy list of practices considered wasteful water usage that pertain to outdoor landscaping. The new ordinance also charges the public works director with monitoring and establishing various water restriction stages when such ‘wasteful water’ usage is prohibited.

The draft ordinance has faced criticism from some citizens on neighborhood social media groups. One wasteful water use listed in the ordinance – irrigating lawns from August 15th – October 15th – faced especially harsh criticism from some residents who see the conservation ordinance as a work-around to help the city meet the mitigation requirements outlined in its 2008 Water Permit that allowed development to restart in the city. One resident has proposed suing the city over landscape restrictions contained in the ordinance. [That resident was contacted for a comment. If/when a response is received it will be added to article.]

North Bend Communication Manager Jill Green explained the city is unique in that it is legally required to mitigate water used from its Centennial well back to the Snoqualmie River due to the well’s location in the Snoqualmie River watershed. She said most cities don’t have to worry about this.

Mayor Hearing said in a recent State of the City address, “We are working on a water conservation program that will extend our current mitigation source needs out for 20 years. In addition to pushing the timeline for new mitigation sources, it leaves more water in the river for fish, orcas and recreation. Although it may seem heavy handed, it is the right thing to do for future generations of our citizens, too. Centennial Well, our water right, has the capacity to provide drinking water well past this time, but there may need to be other mitigation sources identified and planned for further into the future.”

Councilmember Chris Garcia explained that the council doesn’t want the ordinance – which went through committee and a council work study – to be about saving mitigation dollars, but be about having a conservation plan in place.

The city’s DOE water permit requires it to mitigate water used by its Centennial Well back to the Snoqualmie River to keep river levels at a required input level. Usually mitigation water is only needed during warm summer months. Currently the city purchases mitigation water from Seattle Public Utilities Hobo Springs – spending several hundred thousand dollars annually – but is also required to pursue a back up mitigation source, which the city has been working on, but hasn’t finalized.

There were a few days in the drought summer of 2015 when North Bend needed that back up mitigation source, but according to Former Public Works Director and Interim City Administrator Mark Rigos, that need was the result of a threefold mistake that he is confident will not recur: SPU had drawn down Hobo Springs water levels for a construction projected which reduced the flow from Hobo Springs and an employee error failed to mitigate water.

In response the the mistake city hired a full-time Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) employee to monitor the water systems; installed a new radar sensor gauge at Hobo Springs to provide advance notice of future projects; and new pumps were added at Mt. Si Springs to increase its efficiency and get more water from this source.

The Department of Ecology said it is confident North Bend is pursuing the terms of the permit. DOE Communications Manager Larry Altose said, “North Bend has shown due diligence toward meeting the requirements of its 2008 mitigated water right permit and is adhering to the mitigation requirements during times when in-stream flows are not met. At this time, Ecology is confident that the City of North Bend is diligently pursuing permit compliance. We understand that North Bend continues to pursue an intertie with Sallal Water System, as called out in the 2008 mitigated water right permit, and is pursuing alternative mitigation sources and water supply solutions.”

According to the DOE, the permit does not specify a date by which North Bend must acquire a back up source. Altose explained, “The permit specifies that Hobo Springs is the preferred mitigation source and lists several other secondary mitigation sources, including Sallal. In addition, the permit outlines the approach for adding alternative mitigation sources, were North Bend to pursue options beyond what was considered in 2008.”

The water contract with SPU allows North Bend to purchase the entire quantity of mitigation water from SPU under a worst case mitigation scenario at the maximum projected 50-year growth demand.

Sallal is designated as a back up for ‘seasonal supply limitations’ to make up a potential mitigation shortfall from Hobo Springs. The permit takes into account a needed water agreement between Sallal and North Bend, which still hasn’t been reached and so the city has been pursuing other mitigation sources including the purchase of the water right for a well on the former Cascade Golf Course.

Sallal currently does not have enough water to supply new growth in its service area. Without a water agreement with North Bend, Sallal risks a possible takeover by the city due to part of its service area being located within the city limits. The city has stated it will supply water to upcoming development projects in this area if Sallal Water Association does not.

An advisory vote by Sallal members last summer – where approximately 20% of the membership voted – overwhelmingly was opposed to a water agreement with the city. The Sallal Board has warned without the agreement, rates could rise as there will be no new connection fees – $19,000 per connection – to pay for infrastructure upgrades/maintenance and they will be risk of the city using eminent domain to take over its service area.

Water purveyors are legally required to provide service if they have water. North Bend has stated it has plenty of water, but that it continues to work on mitigation options beyond the primary Seattle Public Utilities Hobo Springs source.

If you’d like to comment on the proposed water conservation ordinance, comments may be presented orally at the public hearing or submitted in writing to City Clerk Susie Oppedal at P.O. Box 896, North Bend, WA, 98045, or by e-mail to: soppedal@northbendwa.gov prior to 5PM, Monday, April 1, 2019. Additional information about the ordinance can be acquired by contacting Community Development Director David Miller at (425) 888-7640 or dmiller@northbendwa.gov.

After initial public comment regarding the ordinance is considered, a second public hearing on the ordinance will be held at the April 16th council meeting – which could see revisions based on feedback. According to Communications Manager Jill Green, public comment for the 2nd reading of the ordinance will extend until May 7th.

Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River. PC: Don Detrick

Comments

  1. Chris Anderson says

    ‘Mayor Hearing said… Although it may seem heavy handed, it is the right thing to do for future generations of our citizens, too.’
    No, the right thing to do would have been to limit growth.

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