More money sought to continue water study in Port Angeles

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — The city's Ranney well, historically the main source of city water and built just off the Elwha River, is capable of producing about 3.2 million gallons less per day then it could 19 years ago, according to the results of a recent well performance test.

City public works officials need more information, however, to determine if the well's reduced capacity is due directly to the increased sediment flowing down the Elwha.

Some millions of cubic yards of sediment have been freed into the river as a result of the $325 million Elwha River dam-removal project, expected to be wrapped by September.

Maher Abed, the city's deputy director of operations, said Wednesday the city has not used the Ranney well to provide city water since October.

Meeting needs

The city has been pulling enough water to meet resident needs from the Elwha Water Treatment Plant, run by the National Park Service, after upgrades were made to the plant to combat sediment clogging its inner workings.

City Utility Advisory Committee members voted 5-0 Tuesday, with member Paul Elliot absent, to recommend to the City Council that $21,130 be added to the city's $50,000 contract with Layne Christensen Co.

The additional money to the consultant based in Woodlands, Texas, will fund tests on the city's Ranney well in March and August to provide more data about the impact of sediment on the well.

The National Park Service agreed last September to reimburse the city for the original contract that council members approved with Layne Christensen in July, City Manager Dan McKeen said.

“I can pretty much guarantee at this point, it would be very difficult based on previous negotiations to add an additional amount on top of that,” McKeen told committee members Tuesday when asked whether the Park Service would pay the proposed $21,130 addition.

City budget

City Engineer Mike Puntenney said the additional city funds would come from $25,000 in the 2014 water utility budget set aside for Ranney well testing.

Layne Christensen's recent evaluation of the Ranney well, buried 60 feet in an underground aquifer near where Elwha River Road crosses the river, found that the river's course has shifted, city Assistant Civil Engineer James Burke told committee members, moving the well's recharge source, an aquifer the well taps, farther from the well.

This has caused the aquifer to refill more slowly, Burke explained, and has decreased water yields.

“Even with the Elwha River migrating away, it still is providing recharge. It's just not as much recharge,” Puntenney said.

The study also found that accumulated sediment has prevented water from flowing through the river's side channels next to the well, Burke said, and changed the makeup of the river bottom.

This is also likely resulting in slower aquifer refilling and reduced well capacity, Burke added.

The evaluation found that the well is able to produce about 6.7 millions gallons per day, Puntenney said.

That's down from about 9.9 million gallons per day when the well was last performance-tested in 1994.

Puntenney said, however, the city does not have enough historical data to show whether the sediment released into the Elwha through dam removal has directly reduced the Ranney well's capabilities.

“We're a little inconclusive because there's a lot of time between [the 1994 test] and the time dam deconstruction started,” Puntenney said.

Additional monitoring by Layne Christensen will give the city more information from which to draw firmer conclusions on how sediment may be impacting the well, Puntenney added.

“We have a data point now based on [the] performance test, and [we plan to] continue the performance testing so we can get a proper trend going on as far as the Ranney well,” Puntenney said.

Councilwoman Sissi Bruch, also a Utility Advisory Committee member, asked Tuesday whether Layne Christensen could teach city staff how to analyze the well-monitoring results to reduce costs.

Hydrologist requested

Burke said a hydrologist would be needed for that work, a position the city does not have in-house.

“We're using as much internal staff as we can to keep costs down,” Burke said.

“It's typically standard not to have hydrologists on staff to do this review.”

The city last pulled about 2.6 million gallons per day from the Ranney well in October, Abed said, and now relies solely on the Park Service's treatment plant, from which the city gets an average of 2 million gallons per day.

For the future, Abed said, the city plans to continue taking water from the treatment plant and use the Ranney well only as a backup water source.

“But we want to maintain the Ranney [well] on an as-needed basis if we need to switch back to that,” Abed added.

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Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: February 13. 2014 7:41PM
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