The City of North Bend and Sallal Water Association Sign a Water Service Agreement

After MUCH negotiation spanning a decade and a half and two Mayors, the Sallal Water Association and the City of North Bend finally signed a Water Service Agreement at the June 6th Council meeting.

If you’ve been living under a rock for the past several years, here is a short wrap-up of what’s been going on:

In 1999, during North Bend’s development of its Comprehensive Water Plan, the city found water demand had exceeded rights for withdrawal at Mt. Si Springs.

The issue was North Bend needed to pump more water from ground wells to meet that demand, but doing so would take water from the Snoqualmie River through a common water table. The State Department of Ecology (DOE) refused to grant additional water rights to North Bend out of concern that pumping more water would lower the river’s flow and affect fish and wildlife.

At this point, the city voluntarily entered a development moratorium. North Bend looked for different places and ways to obtain additional water for the next seven years.

In 2006, Centennial Well, located near the city’s public works site, was added as a second primary water source, increasing the city’s daily water pumping by 3,094-acre feet per year. Also in 2006, Hobo Springs, in the Cedar River Watershed owned by Seattle Public Utilities, was suggested as a mitigation water source for the city. After an agreement was reached, the city could move out of the building moratorium in April of 2009.

However, the Centennial Water right required a backup mitigation source for Hobo Springs, and the City of North Bend has been actively looking for a second source ever since.

Sallal, on the other hand, was potentially nearing the end of its allotted water rights and entered its own moratorium in June of 2022.

Even though Sallal came out of its moratorium in December of 2022, the threat of another was looming, and the Water Association faced many revenue, legal and insurance issues if it turned down available water and could not serve new connections.

North Bend needed a mitigation water source, and Sallal needed more potable water. These needs started a 14-year conversation that finally ended with the mutual signing of the Agreement for the Wholesale Supply of Water.

The June 6th city council meeting was sparsely attended, with the gallery populated mostly by Sallal Board Members and city staff. According to city staff, approximately seven attendees were attempting to attend virtually, but unfortunately, due to an audio issue, those attendees did not have sound.

Before the final reading of AB23-071 (page 121), a resolution authorizing Mayor McFarland to sign an Agreement for the Wholesale Supply of Water with Sallal Water Association, the Mayor asked of the council had clarifying questions, they did not, and for comments from those present in the council chambers.

Former Mayor Ken Hearing (2004-2020) stepped to the podium to speak briefly, expressing his gratitude to see the agreement happen after years of work. When asked later to give a lengthier statement about the past 20 years of work, Hearing said in part, “This is a huge win for both entities. North Bend water customers will save money on mitigation water originally purchased from Seattle, and Sallal has new water for commercial development on the east side of the city and other places. While there are still people spreading hate, discontent and pure lies surrounding this agreement, I personally thank the North Bend Mayor and administration, as well as the Sallal board, for being willing to work through the negativity to find a positive answer that benefits all.”

Audio issues persisted, but the one online attendee with a comment was told (via Zoom chat) they could be heard if they would like to give their statement. However, the commenter did not reply in the time allotted, and the meeting moved on. [1]

Councilmember Loudenback introduced the motion to approve the resolution, and the council was given the opportunity to comment briefly. All seven members were united in the opinion that the agreement was a long time in coming and was good for the City of North Bend, good for Sallal and good for the river.

Councilmember Rosen acknowledged what a difficult time Sallal Board members had and noted that the opposition seemed to be driven by anti-growth factions saying there are better ways to address such concerns through zoning and city policies.

Sallal Vice-President Daylin Baker seemed to agree, commenting the next day to Living Snoqualmie, “After assaults from all sides, even from within, I’m relieved that our fight to save Sallal has finally succeeded. Despite the fake news campaign driven by a few people that have never put Sallal’s best interests first, we have avoided the imminent moratorium that would have significantly raised rates for Sallal members and could have led to the end of Sallal.”

Following the council’s comments, the Mayor thanked the many people who helped along the way, speaking directly to Sallal board members Joyce Hibma and Daylin Baker, who were present, saying, “We would not be here today without you standing up for your association.”

When asked how she feels about the contract being signed after all these years, Hibma said, “I am feeling confident about Sallal’s future, more than I have in the three years I have served on the board. It has been exhausting jumping the hurdles various groups and individuals have placed in the path of Sallal’s success. Sallal just wants to serve its members. The fact that this contract received Sallal staff and City staff blessing with enthusiasm and the amount of respect these individuals have for each other helps me to believe that the reconciliation between Sallal and the City is here to stay. And why wouldn’t we want it that way?”

The resolution was put to a vote and passed unanimously to a round of applause from those in attendance. When asked how he felt to see the agreement finally in place, Public Work Director Mark Rigos said it felt great and that Sallal and the city agreeing to share the resource is a win for the environment, ratepayers, and property rights advocates.

Still, not everyone thinks the agreement is the end of North Bend’s water issues. Jean Buckner, President of Friends of The Snoqualmie Valley Trail and River, said “According to our attorney, Patrick Williams, The water supply document North Bend and Sallal signed is not a contract. 

Water supply contracts must, among other things, describe how the contract attains the goals of the parties; explain how and why the agreement will work and how performance of the parties will be determined and enforced. 

This document does none of these things. This document represents a memorandum of understanding, not a contract.

Furthermore, it is important to note that the primary intention behind this proposed agreement was to establish an additional mitigation source for the Snoqualmie River. Even if the document were deemed a contract, it does not contribute to the mitigation of the Snoqualmie River, which has always been the original and primary purpose of the proposed agreement.”

North Bend’s Mayor McFarland sees this agreement as a momentous and historical one saying, “This Water Supply Agreement, this partnership, between the Sallal Water Association and the City of North Bend ensures that every property owner, every resident, every business in our joint service areas have access to water. Access to water is an essential right and expectation we jointly have a responsibility to deliver. This agreement is good from economic, environmental, and legal rights perspectives. The Water Supply Agreement (WSA) is a good solution that maintains Sallal as an independent business while both of us meet our obligations as public water purveyors.

Working with our experts we showed, in no uncertain terms, that the combined water resources at no time, even at the highest need for water supply and the highest need for mitigation water, were we even close to exhausting the combined capacity of the systems. This fact led to our recognizing that, with our professionals managing the resources, the goals and needs of both entities can be met. With the agreement now fully executed, those professionals are engaged to carry it out.”

[1] The online attendee was asked to participate in this article but did not reply to our inquiry. Sallal board members Formisano and Costello were also asked to comment but did not reply

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