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….)
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.
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.
Central WA surface water diversion gate (Photo credit: Mike Brady)
As directed by the Washington State legislature, the Department of Ecology has established a new program to speed the processing of water rights by certifying qualified professionals as Certified Water Rights Examiners (CWRE). Under this program, a CWRE will accomplish the final site inspection and review required to move a water right permit to certificate status, a function previously completed by Ecology staff.
Ecology finalized its rule making process in November 2011, creating Chapter 173-165 WAC, as authorized by the new law RCW 90.03.655. The program is expected to begin in 2013 after the first round of CWRE examinations have been completed (likely in the spring). Ecology’s news release provides an overview of the program and additional information is available on Ecology’s website.
In short, the program will work like this: When a water right application is approved, Ecology issues a permit with a timeline for the user to put the full appropriation to use. Once the user determines that their use fully meets the limits of the permit, they apply to Ecology to move the permit to certificate status by submitting a Proof of Appropriation form. This proof request must be confirmed through a field visit and examination before the certificate can be issued. The permit holder will hire a CWRE, have them complete the final examination process, and submit their findings to Ecology. Ecology will then issue the certificate based on those findings.
From our perspective as one of Ecology’s approved cost-reimbursement contractors, we view the CWRE program as a useful expansion of the cooperation between Ecology and the private sector. Robinson Noble will have CWREs on staff and will offer these services as soon as Ecology’s examination process is completed. Our services will then support water users from start to finish in a water rights process, from application, through permit approval, and ending with proof of appropriation certification by a CWRE.
I had seen a presentation at the 2011 NGWA Expo by Mr. Reinhard Klause of Sigmund Lindner, a German manufacturer of precision glass bead products, on an innovative well-design technology—the use of glass beads as filter pack material. I thought the idea merited further discussion, so when I heard that Reinhard was going to visit the Pacific Northwest, my colleagues and I scrambled to organize a seminar.
To maximize the value of the seminar, we invited a broad cross-section of the groundwater community, including drilling contractors, water utilities, well design consultants, the regulatory community, and materials suppliers. We were only able to provide a few days’ notice, but people responded quickly to our invitation. Thank you to all who dropped everything to “come to the party.” I would also like to thank Burt Clothier (RN) and Bill Lum (Ecology) for working to qualify the event for continuing education credits for our driller guests and to Stan French and John Bowman (Lakehaven Utility District) for providing access to the Lakehaven Center meeting facility in Federal Way. Continue reading →
Noble’s Notes: “A quarterly recollection from 40 years of service to the groundwater community.”
By John Noble
[Ed. Note: The following article originally appeared in our first newsletter edition, published in October 1999.]
Some things that are so obvious turn out to be not true at all. One of these is predicting the presence of iron in ground water – perhaps the most common and pervasive water quality problem with wells in much of the country. Ground water with dissolved iron commonly looks as pure and pristine as a mountain stream. However, it tastes like rusty pipes. The taste is bad enough, but let the water stand in air overnight and the iron will precipitate out into a red floc which is truly ugly. When I used to canvass domestic wells in Western Washington, under negative comments of quality, the commonest was “red water” or “too much iron”. Many drillers I have known have bypassed zones of red sands and gravels that are obviously rich in iron. They wanted a satisfied customer for their finished well. Unhappily, they were often dead wrong. The obvious problem was not really there at all. Continue reading →