Opinion | North Bend / Sallal Water Agreement Proposal

[Letter by Chris Lodahl– North Bend, WA. Views expressed are those of the author, not the Living Snoqualmie website. You may submit letters to the editor or opinion posts to info@livingsnoqualmie.com]

This week’s water contract/agreement offer from Sallal Water Association — a non-profit, consumer-owned corporation — to the City of North Bend should be accepted by the City Council. Sallal has taken the high road with a win/win approach to water stability for both parties. 

What does this agreement provide the City:

  1.  Water and water lines/mains are provided to the City’s Urban Growth Area (UGA) to Truck Town via Sallal. This water can be a mix of City water and Sallal water as needed — as an Intertie will be installed at the end of the City water main to the Sallal water line on North Bend Way.
  2. The Intertie guarantees water by Sallal and the City with a “wholesale agreement” on both parties with “scheduled accounting,” as meters will be placed by both parties at the Intertie.
  3. The City (and us ratepayers) will not need to pay the 17 million dollars to install a city water line to the National Guard Site next to Truck Town.
  4. Developments currently in the review process and future developments to come in the UGA are assured that water is now available with no possibility of court/legal ramifications between the parties continuing for years.
  5. The State Legislature has guaranteed 2 million dollars or 1 million to each party to pay for the Interties.    
  6. Mitigation water is purchased as provided by Sallal for the fall dry periods — untreated groundwater from Rattlesnake Lake Wellfield to the City through the Boxley Creek Intertie to the river to satisfy requirements by the Department of Ecology. The City is to purchase the mitigation water. It can also replace the mitigation water later in the year with city water, therefore no charge to either party for water supplied and if replenished.
  7. The City avoids the millions of dollars to pay Sallal shareholders in a commendation takeover/sale, as well as legal costs.

What does the agreement provide Sallal:

  1. Sallal is able to remain whole and operate as a non-profit entity.
  2. No commendation takeover by the City and associated costs.
  3. Guarantee to ratepayers on rates and governance with an Elected Board.
  4. Using Sallal by “third parties” as a weapon to stop North Bend development in the UGA is ended as the Mitigation issue is resolved per the Department of Ecology guideline. Sallal sells water, not growth.
  5. The agreement prevents the State Legislature from changing state law to benefit the City for a condemnation take over as the National Guard Site will have water for current use.
  6. The State Legislature will pay 2 million dollars for the Interties.
  7. The City will sell Sallal water at wholesale as needed for the City’s Urban Growth Area. The Interties will have meters for both parties for accounting.
  8. The City will purchase Sallal mitigation water for the river during dry summer/fall times if needed and purchase or replace the water later in the year back to Sallal.
  9. The City has enough water rights for future water where Sallal may be lacking in the future. This agreement will sustain Sallal, its operations and its customers into the future if need be.

As I said at the beginning, this is a win/win. All of us North Bend ratepayers were saved from a multi-million dollar City condemnation/takeover and probably a huge water rate hike. The Sallal Water Association began as a grassroots effort by local residents in the spring of 1967 and is a non-profit, consumer-owned corporation that is administered by an elected seven-member Board of Trustees with a staff of professional engineers and hydrogeologists.

Sallal is our neighbor – and deserved better treatment than what it received over the years, in my opinion. Please thank the Sallal Board for their efforts to go above and beyond. Submit your thoughts — below are Web Links/Email Addresses to the Sallal Agreement Proposal, Sallal Board, North Bend Mayor and Council.

Chris Lodahl, NB Mayor 92-95 and Councilmember 90-91

Sallal Board Email: admin@sallal.com
North Bend City Council Email: council@northbendwa.gov
North Bend City Mayor Email: mayor@northbendwa.gov

Comments are closed.


  • Thank you Chris Lodahl for taking the time and effort to read the contract.

  • I think it is a bad idea for the Sallal Customers. The city of North Bend is running short of water due to the increasing developement & they need to find their own source of water. It will only mean that our rates will increase. Poor planning on the part of the City of North Bend & they expect
    Sallal to bail them out.
    David L Kelley

    1. Contrary to widely accepted public opinion, North Bend does have enough water. Here’s an article that explains the situation in more detail. https://livingsnoqualmie.com/water-woes-wage-on-in-the-snoqualmie-valley-as-the-city-of-north-bend-offers-to-purchase-sallal-water-association/

      1. North Bend has a large water right. The problem is that it must have another mitigation source other than Hobo Springs to comply with its water rights permit. And after 14 years, North Bend has not fulfilled that requirement.. Without mitigation water the City is out of compliance with thier water right permit.

        1. So wouldn’t this fix that very problem, and since it will why are you opposed to it?

          1. No, it would worsen the problem as all the wells are in the Snoqualmie Watershed and so there is no real water mitigation. This contract would represent paper water, as desctibed in the recent whitepaper When Water Is’nt Wet – see link here: https://digitalcommons.law.seattleu.edu/sjteil/vol10/iss1/7/ We are also going to ask Living Snoqualmie to post a letter to the editor.from the Friends of the Snoqualmie Valley Trail and River.

  • Mr. Kelly,
    North Bend has five times more water than Sallal (3,430 acre feet vs. 696 acre feet). North Bend needing water is a myth started on social media — the issue for North Bend was “Mitigation Water” as the Living Snoqualmie article above reference in part………. “Other cities in the Snoqualmie Valley do not have to mitigate, even if those water sources impact the river because their older water rights permits were issued before water rights laws changed. So, while North Bend has plenty of potable water, the requirement of “mitigation water” complicates an already complicated issue”…….. Now conversely Sallal has an issue of obtaining more water while working on obtaining more Water Rights from DOE. Currently obtaining more water for Sallal’s expanding customer base is sensible and putting in for Water Rights is fine but takes a very long time for DOE to move. Hence the Sallal Proposed Agreement to the City of North Bend is a win/win for all.

    Otherwise, North Bend would take over Sallal and will win the court battle. It can be a battle all the way to the State Supreme Court – but it is a stacked deck as first, the State Legislature was ready to modify state water rights law to favor the City take over and second, the 1990 Growth Management Act expressly states all growth goes into cities for infrastructure to stop county sprawl – water, sewer, roads etc. Currently the density and/or zoning laws are being change in other cities as the State is pushing for more and more housing to be built. Within a few years there will be no such zoning for single family homes – it will all be mixed zoning – houses, duplexes, condos. And to solve the density issue – build up higher.

    The Sallal Board did a smart move – they looked at the risk – then they looked at the right way to mediate ALL the issues and were successful. The Sallal Board and their attorney stood back and looked at the issue as a 3rd party selling water, not with tunnel vision. Then with the State paying the 2 million dollars for the Interties, neither party is out any capital monies to speak of. Us ratepayers in North Bend area spared multi millions for a buy out. Another hard lesson – we are neighbors – North Bend and Sallal – both with elected governing bodies – third party meddling (the myths, no facts) needs to stop. We are a community of elected officials; laws; and rights. Win/Win on the Sallal Proposal.
    Best Regards,
    Chris Lodahl NB Mayor 92-95

  • The Sallal water contract offer to the City of North Bend is a very reasonable, workable and equitable proposal. The State of Washington has even guaranteed two million dollars to help pay for the interties between the two water systems. We need to move forward with this equitable contract before our situation drags on and we become involved in a long and costly litigation.

  • Hey city of North Bend how about applying some common sense and slowing down or actually stopping city growth and to match sustainability. If you cannot sustain then growth needs to stop.

    1. Sustain means to endure; withstand – this agreement does this for North Bend and Sallal. The infrastructure (water, sewer, roads) for the Urban Growth Area (UGA) are there – both sides are “stake holders” and just needed an “agreement” on how to govern or administer the “use” dealing with water in the UGA. They now have that governing piece with the Sallal Proposed Agreement.

  • In the opinion of the Friends of the Snoqualmie Valley Trail and River, we beleive there are several inaccurate or misleading statements in Chirs L’s statements above. We will outline our concerns soon, but have not decided where or how we will post them.
    Jean Buckner, President – Friends of the Snoqualmie Valley Trail and River

    1. Jean,
      I lost the bet to the wife that you would have something posted by noon – lost it by 33 minutes, so I have to take her to dinner. You persist in myths, misinformation and alternative facts to weaponize this water issue. Every article you post has “in our opinion” and “we believe” and “inaccurate” and “misleading” or some other nonsense – but never any facts – yes facts. I know “facts” is a big word, so please let the two elected bodies finish the agreement – yes that nasty word “agreement”. Of course, an “agreement” puts you out of business – as you can no longer pit one against the other. But then every state and county agency already refuses to meet or talk with you. As for your so called legal objections to these government commissions – I gave up counting after you lost six hearings in a row. The law is the law and only facts count. Let the two “elected bodies” do their job for the people they represent.
      As I said before – we are neighbors – North Bend and Sallal – both with elected governing bodies – third party meddling (the myths, no facts) needs to stop. We are a community of elected officials and laws.
      It is a Win/Win on the Sallal Proposal.
      P.S. As I have told you and Mike – you’re the cause on why MY water rates in town are going to go Up and Up if the two parties do not agree – that’s my bone to pick in this matter.

      1. We believe your post is full of erroneous and misinformation. We will reply in time. As our followers know, we take our time to respond carefully and accurately, and we will do so in this instance as well.

      2. Chris:

        As mayor from 1992 to 1995 do you take no responsibility for the 1993 water system plan developed during your administration that failed to identify that the city was approaching the limits of its water rights? Do you need to look in the mirror as to your administrations role in not identifying the issue in 1993 and the linkage to exhorbitant water rates? That the city has to pay $100ks a year to SPU for the right to purchase mitigation water, thousands for new connections, and pay SPU for consumptive charges for
        mitigation water? That the city missed a decade of development and infrastructure improvements, simpler regulations, and lower costs?

        Pulling from the state’s digital archives the city mayor’s State of the City speech delivered 3-21-2000 explaining the last major water moratorium: “Over the years since 1965 the City has prepared several Water System Plans that estimated the amount of future growth the city could accommodate with its present water supply. Unfortunately the last two plans, 1985 and 1993 failed to examine the original water certificate. Instead of basing supply and demand growth on the annual amount the State certificate allowed to be used (the 336 acre/foot amount), the previous water plans based our water supply on the instantaneous demand amount of about 2300 pm or 3.3 million gallons per day. The City’s water use records indicate that even with the City’s growth over the last decade the maximum amount of water used by the City’s water customers is approximately 1,000,000 gallons per day in the high demand days of July, August, September. So for several years the city made its growth decisions based on an assumption that we had more water than we could possibly use.”

        1. Michael Thomas, I fail to see how your projected opinion of an event from 30 years ago changes the actual verbiage of the draft contract in front of us today. You’re deflecting from the matter at hand.

          1. Excellent point. Living in the distant past does nothing useful. Cooperation between utilities is a good thing if both benefit from it.

        2. Hi Mike,

          I won the bet this time – wife said no way since you sent her a Facebook message and I bet her 30 minutes, so she gets to take me to dinner tomorrow – I am planning on Outback for ribs. As usual you’re out in the trees. First, you need to realize who wrote and spoke at the 3-21-2000 as part of her State of the City speech — yes that was Mayor Joan Simpson – and her excuse for a “building” moratorium was disguised as a water moratorium (which did turn out to be true). So, she stopped all building. Remember I did not run for reelection in 1995. Twice was enough for me.

          Second, myself and the city administrator were working on water rights for the city and finally were able to get access to DOE during the 1995 Legislative Session. Yes Mike we knew. Myself and Mayor Hanson of Snoqualmie had come to an agreement that neither city would obstruct the other city for water rights. Remember the Growth Management Act was just taking off and both cities had just completed their Urban Growth Areas before their councils for a final vote for King County Planning, so the County could send it to the State per the new law. Now, Mayor Hanson was in big trouble — Weyerhaeuser had screwed up the water rights to the new Ridge project – they put the water rights in the name of Weyerhaeuser, not the City of Snoqualmie. Weyerhaeuser told Mayor Hanson (she was the HR director at the Mill) to fix it – at that time DOE only took about six cases a year – so Hanson had to go to the State Legislature. This opened a direct door to fixing North Bend’s issue at the same time and the deal was both cities would go to Olympia to lobby. My City Administrator and Mayor Hanson had to lobby everyone over four weeks. Weyerhaeuser was also behind the scenes and Snoqualmie had their request into DOE first that winter and North Bend was agreed upon for the spring to DOE. Everybody was happy.

          Now as you should recall I did not run for reelection at the end of 1995, but the water rights issue was all taken care of for the new Mayor Simpson. The next issue before I left office was the sewer plant – we knew Simpson would screw it up as well – so I entered into a Consent Agreement — as long as North Bend kept on the building schedule for the sewer plant – the City would not get fined for spills. You should remember those spills were around $5,000 each. So, Simpson was forced to keep on schedule for the plant upgrades. Both of these issues were taken care of when I left on January 1st.

          What happened to the water rights you ask – the answer Mayor Simpson. Within a year of her term there were problems with the water rights – but she misled everyone – even you Mike. Remember there is not a Internet like today as it was just starting, nor was there a lot of electronic storage, just expensive micro fish in those days, so the cities used paper files. Simpson was in office for 8 or 12 years and no building in town thanks to her so called water moratorium (which was true). Then Ken Hearing is elected mayor and the water moratorium was still in place. I waited several months, maybe a year, and I requested public disclosure on the water rights to review the file. Well, a few days later Mayor Hearing, who I was not a fan of, nor was he of me, came over and asked if he could sit with me as I reviewed the water rights file. I asked why and he said two things – one he wanted to fix the problem – and two no one at city hall knew what happened or would not tell him. He was looking for answers just like I was to help the town – I asked when and I also said I wanted ALL of Mayor Joan Simpson’s emails printed off the server, he replied whenever I wanted. Two days later in the conference room was all these boxes from every department the city had. The first box gave no clues, I asked where were the emails. Sure enough 20 minutes later we found it. Simpson had sent this lady XXX she hired to meet with DOE in Olympia over the water rights that spring. This lady XXX had no technical or professional staff experience and she muffed it up in the meeting and DOE ran her over with a bus. Her words on the email were HELP Joan, I do not know what to do. This is over my head and I did not understand them (DOE). We need someone else, what should I do. Mayor Hearing read the email and said he had specifically asked if she XXX had been part of the water rights and he was told no. DOE went onto another city on their long list and never looked back. There were a few more emails over the years from Simpson to the Councilmembers every time a deal with DOE fell through. Well, the water rights issue was all Ken’s now and to his credit he did solve it.

          Mike, we are out of the trees now and there is light. Also, thank you for the Outback ribs.

          Best Regards, Chris

  • No, it would worsen the problem as all the wells are in the Snoqualmie Watershed and so there is no real water mitigation. This contract would represent paper water, as desctibed in the recent whitepaper When Water Is’nt Wet – see link here: https://digitalcommons.law.seattleu.edu/sjteil/vol10/iss1/7/ We are also going to ask Living Snoqualmie to post a letter to the editor.from the Friends of the Snoqualmie Valley Trail and River.

  • Except all of our present-day problems are rooted in the past. The city made very serious errors as did the Department of Ecology in their protested approval of salal as a potential mitigation source in the first place. Technical staff took issue with the choice of salal because all salal Wells are in the same watershed. We will be writing a letter to the editor and likely not responding specifically to responses in this thread until that time.

  • This is primarily a mitigation contract. The reason Washington State requires mitigation on certain rivers in the first place is to protect fish, wildlife and our water supply. Fish need cold clean water to survive. We all do.
    The water in this contract is water on paper only. The agreement would pull water from one well in the Snoqualmie Watershed to “mitigate” another well in the Snoqualmie Watershed – essentially borrowing from Peter to pay Peter. This “paper water” adds no actual new water to the River.
    If this “Mitigation contract” moves forward, fish will be further harmed as the agreement would enable more development. More development translates into more water and sewer connections. Water connections will pull cold clean water from the River/watershed. Sewer connections will dump more warm and polluted water back into the River. How does this protect Fish?
    Contrary to the opinion of some, FRIENDS is not anti-development. We believe that development should occur when and where resources and infrastructure exist to support it.
    Due to North Bend’s inability to secure new mitigation water (which we believe should come from outside the Snoqualmie watershed) and the City’s current problems with the sewer treatment plant (more on this in upcoming posts) we don’t believe North Bend is currently a good candidate to absorb new growth.
    How is the agreement a win/win for current Sallal member-owners? It is our understanding that Sallal member-owners are not facing a water shortage. Sallal doesn’t need this contract unless they want to support additional growth beyond the growth that can be sustained with the amount of water they currently have left.
    This agreement would greenlight additional development for both Sallal and North Bend. And, yes, both Sallal and North Bend would receive short-term developer fees, but this revenue is likely off-set by longer term maintenance costs for more infrastructure.
    The “growth pays for growth” argument begins to wear thin when we are told we must grow more to pay off debt. As an example, in the following February 9th 2021 City Council Work-study meeting, North Bend set a new residential growth target of 1,748 units (almost twice the 832 units King County originally set) and instructed staff to secure the additional 916 units via a bartering process with other towns and cities so that the North Bend would have sufficient development fees to pay off, among other things, sewer debt. The bartering process allows cities who want more growth to negotiate with cities wanting less growth so there is no county wide change in growth targets. (Was the environmental impact to the city accepting more growth considered?) You can link to an audio and an imperfect transcript of the Work-Study here: https://otter.ai/u/CfCJYEU2UxiGVXQFpgCImzHlC5A The audio is available at the bottom of the screen so that the accuracy of the transcript can be checked. A link to a shorter slide presentation can be found on the City’s website here: https://northbendwa.gov/DocumentCenter/View/7950/02-09-21-Special-Council-Workstudy-Packet?bidId= (Slides start on page 3) There is also a video of the meeting – if anyone knows where it is on-line, please post a link?
    You can read a similar critique in a 67-page whitepaper “The Cost of Growth in Washington State” funded by King County in 2000 which states that for every $1.00 residential development generates in revenue, the longer-term cost to provide services for that development is $1.15. This is not to say that we should not build residential development – just that there is an overall cost to it.
    The contract does nothing to reach the overall goal of protecting fish. What it does do is greenlight development so that debt can be paid. WIthout the contract, North Bend may well have to stop or slow growth until another mitigation source can be found.
    Regarding our differences of opinion on many of the thoughts we share above, how about we hold a meeting at the Library to discuss them? If folks are interested, I am game.

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