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New water rules set to take effect next week

December 27th, 2012 - 5:46am

(Sequim) -- New rules governing water use in the Dungeness Valley go into effect next week.

After more than 20 years in the works, the Department of Ecology will implement sweeping changes to permitting of new water uses in the east end of the county starting January 2nd.

Clallam County and the state have come to an agreement on a memorandum of understanding on how the county will handle implementing the rules.

County commissioner Jim McEntire represents east Clallam county. He says he's confident the new rule will lift uncertainty in the region and will allow new water rights to move ahead.

The biggest change under the rule is the establishment of a water bank. Under the plan, those who change their water use or drill a new well will have to purchase mitigation water from a "bank". Those mitigation water credits would come from senior water right holders. DOE officials say it will ensure adequate stream flows in the Dungeness River. He says the county is getting $105,000 in state money to cover domestic water mitigation purchases for next year. McEntire says that should be enough to cover building permit activity next year. The governor's proposed budget includes two million dollars McEntire hopes would cover mitigation and other related projects for the next twenty years.

Meantime, the future of the rule could hinge on a state Supreme Court ruling expected soon. The ruling in a Skagit County case could upend most of the DOE's water rules established across the state.

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