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Special Report: Yelm’s water allocation is almost fully used –
How does Yelm move to the future to develop revenue if unable to
issue more residential/business permits because they lack water?

City of Yelm’s $5 million unused well project at end of Tahoma Blvd.
Yelm does not have enough water rights to use this well.
Ominous storm clouds a pretext to Yelm’s water problems.
Photo taken with zoom lens June 21, 2010,
Copyright © 2010 Yelm Community Blog.

Story highlights
Yelm is close to using all of Dept. of Ecology granted water allocation,
Using residential building permits as a city cash register is about to soon end,
Complicit councilors voted lockstep for the policies of the former mayor, including Foster!
Businesses are water restricted now, their water savings used to issue new permits,
How can this city attract economic development without water?
The city will be out of water for permits during the new mayor-elect’s term.
Yelm is on the threshold of a crossroads about the city’s future!
How does Yelm develop revenue to move forward into the future with limited water?
Where’s the plan?
This can NOT be resolved with the same mindset that created this situation!
On Nov. 8, I call on the mayor-elect to convene an emergency committee on this issue!

The decade-plus policy of Yelm using residential building permits as a cash register/”kicking-the-can down the road” until this city has their back against the wall is at hand, with complicit councilors voting in lockstep to the mayor.
This situation can NOT be resolved with the same mindset with which this was created!
Fortunately change will be coming to the Yelm City Council in January 2017.

– The business of the City of Yelm has been previously mishandled and indications are this will cost Yelm residents dearly, as Public Works infrastructure issues will be the responsibility of the rate payer according to Interim Mayor Foster at last week’s debate. The city has nearly reached the Dept. of Ecology’s water allocation that will cease any further permits as more water is unable to be pumped. These two issues will saddle city constituents with more taxes/fees, plus restricting growth as Yelm’s pumped water allocation is topped. Comm. Dev. Dir. Beck previously told council the coming limit on permits remaining with Yelm’s allocation almost used, so not a surprise. Yet no one has publicly explained the urgency to address what occurs when the permits revenue source ceases.

– As candidates speak on economic development, how can Yelm attract new businesses without water? On Tuesday, October 17, Interim Mayor Foster and the Yelm City Council held a public workshop including presentations from the Buxton Company about business retention and recruitment. Only councilor DePinto stood for investigating using money for this project in another manner. However, the ability of this city to support any further economic recruitment depends on water, for which the city cannot promise availability. Yelm has been through this previously in committing plat approval to Tahoma Terra and Thurston Highlands developers without first proving water availability, which led to a hundreds-of-thousands-dollars case the city lost in our state’s Supreme Court. Has the Community Development Staff, Interim Mayor Foster and many councilors not learned anything about promising permits without first proving they will have water?

– According to my study of record from the Thurston County Superior Court case of JZ Knight vs. the city of Yelm, et al, and affirmed in the opinion of the Supreme Court of the State of Washington dated December 2011, I derived 796.66 afy (acre feet per year) to be the official water rights allocated to Yelm by the Dept. of Ecology. Through a public documents request submitted to Yelm and a verification from City Administrator Grayum, there were no documents located about Yelm receiving any additional water rights since the Knight case, of which Grayum confirmed to be fact (the 796.66 afy stands as Yelm’s current water rights allocation). The Dept of Ecology sent this public document of what amount of water Yelm has reported the city pumped in 2014-2016 inclusive:
2014 = 641.9 afy,
2015 = 687.8 afy,
2016 = 669.9 afy.
Annual water pumping statistics vary based on how much water is conserved and/or used in summer.
An acre foot per year of water is equal to 3.5 ERU (Equivalent Residential Unit = homes). Of course commercial business and restaurants generally use use more water than do residences. And businesses already face intense annual water restrictions. The water saved on the backs of businesses allowed Yelm to continue issuing permits. Was that fair to our businesses already here?

– So how much water does Yelm have for using permits?
Doing the math:
Yelm water rights portfolio affirmed by 2 courts = 796.66 afy,
Yelm water pumped in 2016 = 669.91 afy,
Balance remaining = 126.75 afy.
With 108.8, 126.7 afy unused in 2015 & 2016, Yelm has under under 400 permits remaining.
With 2016 permits issued and the city issuing 100 a year, Yelm’s ability to grow is questionable.
Yelm currently has no water rights acquisitions pending.
The mayor-elect and council-elect will face being out of water during their coming term.
Therefore, Yelm is on the threshold of a crossroads about the city’s future!

– Bottom line:
Where is Yelm heading, does anyone have a plan?
What do we want the city to be?
How can the city develop an economy when up against a wall of no more water allocation?
The council is to enact major water/sewer fee increases on residents-is this sustainable?
Brick and mortar retail is retracting nationwide,
Yelm has become too costly for new business, and is no longer attractive to new restaurants.

How do we move the future of this town in developing revenue to move forward?
Attracting tourists and visitors is the best way, as the UFO Fest and Jazz Festival verified. Yelm needs more of these events and city government could do much more to promote our local assets, the businesses who have invested here.

I am not a combatant, rather have been saying for over 12 years this situation was coming!

On November 8th, the day after the election, I call on the mayor-elect and councilors-elect to sit down together, move beyond this contentious race, and form a committee of the best minds in the South Sound to immediately deal maturely with developing a revenue stream impacted and limited by water availability. This is of vital importance!

Blogger Klein was employed by JZK, Inc. during the JZ Knight vs City of Yelm, et al cases.

Posted by Steve on October 23, 2017 at 12:01 am | Permalink

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