SPECIAL IN-DEPTH REPORT
The following letter by this writer was submitted to the Nisqually Valley News for publication:
“The City of Yelm requested Ecology “fast-track” a pending water rights application for an additional 942 acre feet of water per year, which if approved, would more than double Yelm’s current annual water allocation withdrawn from our local aquifer.
In 2009, the city presented similar plans and almost 100 comments were filed to Ecology in protest, as property owners saw how this water volume could deplete their own wells, requiring them to drill deeper at their own expense. With the public shining the light on the deficiencies of Yelm’s 2009 Mitigated Determination of Non-significance [MDNS] to Ecology for additional water rights, the city withdrew the MDNS in August, 2009. Now, the city is back again with a similar request.
Since 2009, the Yelm City Council used eminent domain to seize a citizen’s water rights and recently approved seizure of bank-owned property acquired through the developer’s bankruptcy, land where the council authorized spending 2/3 of million dollars for a test well AFTER the deed was transferred to the bank. These actions are very disturbing and should raise any citizen’s eyebrow. The key question is why does Yelm want to more-the-double their water supply if not to double the size of this town’s development?
However, before development can occur, the city must insure there is no harm to current water users, as the WA. Supreme Court ruled in Kittitas County vs. EWGHMB, July 28, 2011. The Court recognized that water is a finite resource which must be carefully considered and protected by all jurisdictions. For example, Yelm has not addressed our water resources adequately in their application, particularly affects from damage that surface waters or the aquifer would incur. And, Thurston County needs to protect their property owners’ water downstream of Yelm’s well, outside of city limits.
Lest government officials proceed thinking public silence is acquiescence, property owners, especially outside of the city, should immediately go to any search engine, type in “Draft Report of Exam, City of Yelm” for more information and a comment form. The deadline is September 28th to respond.”
SEVERAL QUESTIONS STAND-OUT FROM THE DRAFT REPORT:
1. When does drilling a test well equate appropriation of water rights?
2. The City of Yelm is now engaged in seizing the test well property from the bank owners, using eminent domain. How can Ecology even consider granting Yelm water rights for a test well located on property the city does not own, nor even has access to the land?
3. The Draft describes the minimal effect pumping from Yelm’s well will have on surrounding water rights (page 5, third paragraph). Yet on page 6, the Draft clearly states there must be no impairment of existing rights, according to the law. On page 22, the Draft states that the aquifer is confined, yet there will be impacts to flow in the Nisqually, Deschutes, Woodland Creek, and the Tri-Lakes.
If it is truly confined, then is the Draft accurate to say with certainty that there will be no impairment to flow or other water right users?
Especially when the Draft states there will be some impairment, albeit “minimal”?
4. The Draft mentions no considerations of the case of JZ Knight vs. City of Yelm about water issues, now in the hands of the WA. Supreme Court. How will this decision affect the Yelm area in the Draft?
5. On page 18 of the Draft in Public Water Supply Benefits is a statement that the package of mitigation benefits will result in ecological benefits for water resources specifically and natural resources generally.
Really? Not in Yelm, for everyone knows that the City of Yelm intends to use every single acre foot of water for issuing building permits for the tax revenue, as demonstrated by City Council actions approving vast development over the last decade. Is Yelm really concerned about “ecological benefits for water resource”?
6. Yelms 2009 Mitigation Plan did not take into account ground water effects from an increased withdrawal. That Plan was only directed at surface waters, a plan which the city finally withdrew in August, 2009. Shouldn’t a thorough examination be conducted on how the entire area is seriously impacted by groundwater effects?
7. RCW 90.03.290 states the following four criteria must be adhered to for an application for water rights to be approved:
* water must be available
* there must be no impairment of existing rights
* the water use must not be detrimental to the public interest
The city’s expansion in the last decade has brought a major increase in development, crime and traffic. Is continued massive development in Yelm in the public’s interest, if the water rights are granted?
What about the detriment to area local well owners, especially in Thurston County?
And, where is Thurston County in all of this?
8. Are budget cuts to large state agencies having an effect on Ecology doing their proper job in protecting the public’s interests?
9. What about the public’s right of due-process?
Read more of Ecology’s “Proposed water supply decision for Lacey, Olympia, Yelm out for comment”
Read more from John Dodge’s report in The Olympian.
THE PUBLIC IS ENCOURAGED TO WRITE THEIR COMMENTS, ESPECIALLY THOSE PROPERTY OWNERS IN THURSTON COUNTY OUTSIDE OF YELM’S CITY LIMITS WHO WOULD BE AFFECTED!
CLICK HERE for the comment form.