City Error causes under mitigation of Snoqualmie River for six weeks

Via news release the City of North Bend announced that in mid-August, staff discovered an error in a critical new mitigation flow meter for its Centennial Water Well. 

Interim City Administrator Mark Rigos explained that wiring for the new mitigation water meter was performed incorrectly in early July. The installation wiring was performed by city staff per a report filed with the DOE.

The error caused the meter to only record 50% of the water flow running through it and led to 11 missed mitigation days and 29 insufficient mitigation days of the Snoqualmie River between July 3, 2019 and August 15, 2019

The news release said the difference in rise in the South Fork of the Snoqualmie River from the under mitigation was approximately 1/16 of an inch, which it stated is “well within the range of variation in the river due to climate.”

According to Rigos, the wiring issue was resolved and river flows were remedied by fully opening the valves at Hobo Springs – where the city purchases mitigation water – last week. The city said there was sufficient mitigation water available from Hobo Springs to rectify the meter error.

North Bend’s DOE water right requires mitigation of the Snoqualmie River for water used from its Centennial Well during low flow times, which are monitored by stream gages

Critics contend this latest issue is another example of the city’s water mismanagement. In 2015 a city employee error, combined with a Seattle Public Utilities construction project that drew down Hobo Springs water levels, also led to under mitigation of the Snoqualmie River.

Per the press release, once this new error was discovered in mid August, city staff “immediately notified the WA State Department of Ecology (DOE) and worked with DOE staff to provide compensatory mitigation to the river as quickly as possible.”

Rigos said the city worked closely with DOE during the last 10 days and as required by the Centennial Well water permit, submitted an official report about the error to DOE and alerted the Snoqualmie and Tualip Tribes on Thursday, August 22, 2019.

Included in the report are new steps the City will take to prevent this type of error in the future:

  • The City will use contractors experienced in work of this type and magnitude in the future, rather than using internal staff.
  • During the repair or replacement of any critical flow meters, the City will have a second instrument on-site to confirm accuracy prior to placing the new or replaced meter into service.
  • The City will only perform work of this type at times of the year that mitigation has not historically been required, whenever possible.
  • The City will include a section on metering in an update to the Operations & Maintenance Plan. This will include discussion of Ecology’s metering rule, how it applies to this system, and how the City will comply with the requirements of the rule.
  • The City will include a section strictly focused on mitigation water in the Emergency Response Plan required to be developed in accordance with the Water Infrastructure Act of 2018.
  • Finally, the City will formalize a request to Ecology to permanently convert the Cascade Golf Course water right from an irrigation water right to a mitigation water right. Upon successful conversion, the City will acquire all rights to, and construct the necessary infrastructure to make the Cascade Golf Course water right a viable mitigation source.

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