First permit issued under Dungeness water rule
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Joe Smillie/Peninsula Daily News
Rick Gross of Estes Builders stands at the construction site of a home on Old Town Road in Dungeness. The home is the first to have a building permit issued under the Dungeness River water rule, which went into effect Jan. 2.

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM –– Estes Builders began building a home at Dungeness last week, the first under a state-imposed water rule to control flows in the Dungeness River basin.

Clallam County issued the building permit with the caveat that the home won't be finished until the owners get a certificate to prove they are mitigating the water they are using from the Washington Water Trust.

However, the certificate — a requirement of the Dungeness water rule implemented Jan. 2 — does not yet exist.

“It would make sense to have everything required by the rule in place before making the rule,” said Rick Gross of Estes Builders.

Estes is building a home, accessory dwelling unit and garage for Peter and Heidi J. Harrington in Dungeness.

It is the first building permit issued since the water rule went into effect in the Dungeness River basin that comprises the eastern half of Water Resource Inventory Area 18 under state Department of Ecology regulations.

Water credits

The rule requires new homeowners to control domestic water use by purchasing credits through the nonprofit Washington Water Trust for new water uses.

Once those credits are purchased, the owners receive mitigation certificates.

Clallam County's Department of Community Development issued the building permit Feb. 15 with the stipulation that the owners cannot receive a final certificate of occupancy until they obtain and file a mitigation certificate.

“But there is no certificate,” Gross said.

“And nobody's been able to tell us what the certificate might say when it is finally finished.”

Why no certificates?

Sheila Roark Miller, Clallam community development director, said the county is still negotiating with Ecology and the Washington Water Trust on what conditions will be spelled out in the certificate.

“I missed on that guess once before,” Roark Miller said when asked when the certificates will be ready.

Roark Miller told the PDN on Feb. 5 the certificates would ready Feb. 15.

In a meeting at John Wayne Marina on Jan. 17, Amanda Cronin, project manager for the trust, said the certificates would be ready “in two weeks.”

Roark Miller said Friday that the county is trying to eliminate language in the certificate that states how much water new homeowners would be able to use.

That wording might be presented to county commissioners in a work session March 4, she said.

Certificates from the trust for indoor use were based on an average per home consumption of 150 gallons per day.

But that was not expressed as a limit on use, Roark Miller said. She said the understanding has been that those who exceed the 150-gallon-a-day limit would not be penalized unless they are using water for an unauthorized use — if they are irrigating without having purchased that right.

“So we're working on language to express that a little better,” she said.

Cronin did not return requests for an interview Friday.

The certificates cost $1,000 and up.

A $100,000 grant from Ecology covers cost of certificates purchased through the end of June.

If not now, when?

Gross estimated that his firm would have the house built in six months and said he hoped the certificate would be ready when it's completed.

“If we don't have it by then, we've got more serious issues to deal with,” said Tom Shindler, permit center manager for Clallam.

Shindler said more applications for building permits in the water-rule area have been filed with the county.

“We'll see if we have the certificates available by the time those go through the application process,” he said.

The water rule covers the eastern half of WRIA 18 between Bagley Creek and Sequim Bay. It covers more than 17,700 parcels in the unincorporated area outside the Sequim city limit.

Revenue from the mitigation certificates will be traded for water rights in the Dungeness Water Exchange. It also will be used to fund projects to enhance water levels within the watershed.

The newly formed Olympic Resource Protection Council, funded by the North Peninsula Building Association, mailed 2,800 postcards Wednesday to Clallam County residents to solicit donations to hire an attorney to challenge Ecology to change the rule.

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: February 23. 2013 5:41PM
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