>Why Attend Tuesday’s Meeting? – 6/28/09

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Interest in Tuesday’s Meeting. There have been questions about, and interest shown, concerning Tuesday’s meeting at the Norm Dick’s Center (a presentation by hydrologist Dr. Joel Massmann beginning at 6:30 pm on 6/30/09). Some very busy people wanted more information and have asked us some blunt questions about attending.
Why should I attend Tuesday’s meeting? We were asked the following question “Can you give me a good reason why I should take the time to attend Tuesday’s aquifer meeting?” When we started to respond with a detailed explanation we were asked for the short version. Our responses are therefore a short version and a longer more detailed version.
THE SHORT VERSION. The aquifers that supply our drinking water and the water to Illahee Creek may be over allocated. According to the numbers, If everyone used their water right allocations our aquifer levels and the low flow in Illahee Creek would steadily decrease. We need to understand what is happening and what we can do to help make sure critical water resources are sustained into the future.

THE LONG VERSION. Rainfall A Problem? Water is a key ingredient to life and in Illahee all our water comes from aquifers that are recharged by local rains. At one time experts thought our water came from the Olympic Mountain area and only relatively recently discovered that it is the infiltration of our own rainfall into our aquifers that supplies our drinking water. When we thought there was an over abundance of water, we and the county treated our rainwater (stormwater) as a problem rather than a resource. The state and county developed regulations to dump our rainwater (stormwater) from our roofs, driveways and roads through drains and pipes into nearby creeks and into Puget Sound, with little thought of infiltrating it back into the ground.

Aquifer Issues Not Getting Attention. While things are beginning to change with a new emphasis on controlling stormwater and Low Impact Development (LID) applications (primarily because the stormwater is polluting Puget Sound), the importance of infiltration to replenish our aquifers hasn’t gotten the commensurate attention by the public or the press.

Illahee Studies Conducted. What got the attention of many Illahee folks on this subject, was a concern of the low flows (or baseflows) in Illahee Creek, along with high flows (storm surges), both of which are damaging to fish in the stream. Years ago the Port of Illahee was concerned enough to begin discussions with Kitsap County on how to control the surges that sent brown silt laden sediment flows for miles into Puget Sound, which led to the Port applying for grants to study the problem. When a new development planned to install large concrete detention vaults on the steep and unstable slopes of Illahee Creek, the Port and the Community hired experts to study the impacts to the creek (which eventually resulted in a change to some of their plans).

Aquifer Importance Identified. Those studies documented that Illahee Creek was entirely fed by shallow aquifers during non-precipitation periods and concluded that high density development in the area will decrease the baseflows in Illahee Creek. We learned the area is designated as a critical aquifer recharge area by Kitsap County. The studies were also instrumental in the area being down-zoned in 2006.

Why Attend – Replenishment Rate Unsustainable? So why attend? According to the Illahee Creek Aquifer Protection Plan (part of the recent Parametrix “Illahee Creek Watershed Surface Water Management Plan”) as we read it, the water rights exceed the replenishment rate for the Manette Peninsula and within the Illahee Creek watershed. In other words, if each holder of water rights fully utilized those rights, the aquifers and creek levels could not be sustained.

Why Attend – Illahee Creek Aquifer Not Being Replenished? Secondly, those residents watching and monitoring Illahee Creek are alarmed at the current low flows and wonder if there are areas around the creek where the aquifer is not being replenished. They are concerned that this lack of replenishment could spell the end of Illahee Creek as a fish bearing stream. In this day and age we should not be destroying a stream’s ability to support fish.

Why Attend – To Understand and Act? Finally, we need to understand what is happening with our drinking water and stream flows, and what we can do to help make sure our critical water resources are sustainable.

Answers on Tuesday. Dr. Massmann should be able to explain our situation and give us some answers.
Other Responses Later. We have received other responses regarding this meeting and will publish them later.
Jim Aho