Recently, Tacoma has been receiving national and international attention for its approach to storm water pollution. One of the many ways the City has been tackling this issue is through the use of rain gardens, landscaped catchment basins designed to intercept and filter storm water prior to discharging to Puget Sound.
Mike Krautkramer and Jim Hay cleaning one of the two adopted rain gardens (photo credit: Joe Becker)
In May, Robinson Noble officially adopted two of the City’s rain gardens, located at 15th Street and Pacific Avenue in front of the DaVita Building and the Aviateur French Restaurant. We maintain the gardens to keep them clean and monitor them to verify that they function as intended. Robinson Noble is also sponsoring Wellspring 2014, a two-day conference focused on clean water issues and technologies held at the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center on October 14th and 15th. Come join us!
This past October, Mike Krautkramer posted about a State Supreme Court ruling impacting water rights in Washington State (State Supreme Court Rules on Skagit River Case). The case, Swinomish Indian Tribal Community v. Department of Ecology, challenged Ecology’s authority to use the “Overriding Consideration of the Public Interest” (OCPI) clause to set aside water for future allocation after an instream flow has been established, in this case for the Skagit River. Mike noted at the time that this decision would likely further complicate surface-water/groundwater management and the water rights process.
Chelan Falls Test Well (Photo credit: Scott Malone)
People often ask us what is involved in the proper planning and execution of a water well drilling project. The correct answer, of course, is that it depends mightily upon a number of factors, including the drilling location, the drilling method, the desired production volume, and the purpose of the well. But while the specifics may differ, in most cases there is a common set of critical path decisions to be made to keep such a project on track.
I just recently had this discussion again with a new client, and it seemed a worthwhile topic to post about here. As it happens, my colleague Mike Krautkramer toured the country in 2008 as the National Ground Water Association’s McEllhiney Distinguished Lecturer with a presentation entitled, “How Much Is Enough? Making Decisions in the Water Well Industry” that explores many of these aspects of a drilling project. You can head over to our website to view or download the slides from his presentation or follow a link to watch Mike’s inaugural presentation to the 2007 NGWA Groundwater Expo on YouTube. (Fair notice, the video is slightly north of an hour long, so you might want to get comfortable….)
Prairie Line Trail (UWT) (Photo credit: Dave Laush)
On October 24 and 25, 2013, the University of Washington, Tacoma (UWT) held the 2013 Wellspring Conference, their second annual event highlighting stormwater management and clean water technologies. The conference covered such topics as remediation and filtration systems, the effects of pollutants on biological systems, and regulatory trends. The conference also included a guided tour of three Tacoma locations using current stormwater management techniques: the Prairie Line Trail (UWT), the Pacific Avenue Streetscape Project stormwater filtration improvements, and the Point Ruston Development, where the ASARCO Smelter once stood.
Chuck Couvrette and Dave Laush of Robinson Noble attended the conference and found it very informative, illustrating the many engineering and consulting opportunities to keep our local waters clean. A number of new stormwater cleanup standards are proposed for 2015, and while it is not clear how much retrofitting of older systems will be needed, it does appear that existing systems will be included in the standards.
On October 3, 2013 the Washington State Supreme Court handed down its long-awaited decision on the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community v. Department of Ecology case (No. 87672-0). This case challenged the authority of Ecology to use the “Overriding Consideration of the Public Interest” (OCPI) clause to set aside water (for future allocation) after an instream flow has been established for a given stream or river. At issue was the use of that clause to amend the Skagit Basin Instream Flow Rule (WAC 173-503) to add reservations of water to the rule in order to facilitate some rural growth within specified sub basins. The court ruled that Ecology erred in several ways in its application of OCPI and clarified that reduction of an established instream flow could only be justified in “extraordinary” circumstances. Continue reading →
3:45 p.m. – 4:45 p.m. Ecology Tools to Improve Water Rights Processing Victoria Leuba, WA State Department of Ecology Burt Clothier, Robinson Noble The WA ST DOE has established several programs to enhance the processing of water rights requests. The cost-reimbursement program has been in place for many years and gives water rights applicants the opportunity to hire private consultants from an Ecology-approved list to perform the majority of the processing before Ecology renders a decision. This can greatly shorten the time necessary to complete an application or change request. At the other end of the process, Ecology has just established a certified water rights examiner (CWRE) program. Here, Ecology registers private groundwater professionals to perform the proof-of-appropriation examination needed by a water rights permit holder wishing to finalize their water right into a full certificate. Both programs will be discussed in a joint presentation by water rights professionals.
South Puget Sound diversion dam (Photo credit: Burt Clothier)
Back in February, we posted about the Washington State Department of Ecology’s upcoming Certified Water Rights Examiner (CWRE) program. Designed to help water rights holders streamline the process of moving a water right permit to certificate status, the program is now active. Following the initial round of examinations in late May and early June, Ecology has published a list of certified examiners here.
Robinson Noble has two CWREs on staff: Burt Clothier, LHG, in our Tacoma office and Max Wills, LHG, in our Woodinville office. Our services now support water users through all phases of the water rights process from application, source development, and mitigation analysis through permit approval and proof of appropriation certification by a CWRE.
When ASARCO’s historic Tacoma Smelter closed in 1986, it left behind arsenic and lead pollution spread across more than 1,000 square miles of south Puget Sound. Numerous studies have since been accomplished to evaluate the so-called Commencement Bay Superfund site, and in 2009, the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) received a $94M bankruptcy settlement from ASARCO for cleanup activities. Ecology has now finalized its Final Interim Action Plan, which lays out what Ecology will do to manage risk and clean up some areas of the Tacoma Smelter Plume. The plan includes several options, including excavation and offsite disposal of contaminated material, onsite blending with clean soil materials, and in-place capping and containment.
Management and cleanup of this contamination is challenging for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the plume impacts reach far beyond the boundaries of the former smelter property. Ecology, in recognizing the challenge of cleaning up widespread contamination across thousands of properties, has chosen a multi-pronged suite of solutions. Settlement funds will be used to cleanup parks, schools, and childcare facility play areas, along with a variety of development-oriented options for properties undergoing redevelopment.
The model remedies provide proscribed methods for assessment and cleanup that can easily be incorporated by cities and counties into their permit processes. Property owners have the option of performing independent assessment and remediation or participating in Ecology’s Voluntary Cleanup Program. Unlike other types of sites, smelter plume sites can participate in this program free-of-charge.
Sewer and water pipes circa 1956 (Photo credit: Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection)
The Washington State Legislature has been directed by the State Supreme Court to properly fund public schools, and Robinson Noble fully supports this action. The proper funding of public schools in the State is crucial to maintaining the local economy and the standard of living all Washingtonians enjoy. However, the State Senate is currently looking at funding schools by taking money from the Public Works Trust Fund (PWTF). Senate Bill 5985 would permanently redirect 67% of the allocated Real Estate Excise Tax funds and 100% of the allocated Public Utility and Solid Waste Taxes funds away from the PWTF and to the Education Legacy Trust Account created in 2010. If passed, the action will become effective in July 2013 and greatly reduce funding for the PWTF.
Improving the infrastructure of Washington State is critical to our economy, including the health of our public schools. It is widely acknowledged among the engineering community that we have a huge problem in the United States with funding infrastructure. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gives the country an overall grade of D+ on infrastructure (an individual grade for Washington State is not yet available – both Oregon and Idaho earned C- grades for 2010 and 2012, respectively). This is not the time for Washington State to be cutting funding for the PWTF. The PWTF provides grants and low-interest loans to local utilities for water, wastewater, solid-waste, bridge, and road projects. The Daily Journal of Business reports that “every dollar invested by the PWTF in basic infrastructure yields an additional $3.60 in statewide economic activity.” So, not only is the PWTF important to improving failing infrastructure, it also helps spur economic growth (which, in turn, provides needed tax dollars for schools!).
Certainly the Legislature can do better for schools than by crippling the PWTF. I encourage you to write your legislators today in support of both schools and the Public Works Trust Fund.
The Washington State Supreme Court issued a ruling in March that is believed to represent the last “brick” in the very lengthy water right adjudication process started in 1977. The ruling addresses several thorny issues in the Ahtanum Creek Sub-basin west of the City of Yakima. This sub-basin has the most complex legal history in the entire Yakima Basin and was left until last for that reason.
The significance of the ruling is not so much in its findings as in the fact that this ruling essentially clears the way for the longest-term and most expensive adjudication in State history to be completed. The results can then be used as a basis for water resource management in the Yakima Basin. This is likely to facilitate implementation of several projects intended to enhance the seasonal availability of water throughout the basin and could lead to economically and environmentally advantageous active management efforts.
Ecology’s Water Right General Adjudications webpage provides a good summary of the process, and includes a link to a Yakima Herald newspaper article about the ruling for those who are not inclined to read Supreme Court rulings in their entirety. For those with judicio-masochistic tendencies, the full text of the ruling can be accessed here.