Group to sue state over Dungeness water rule

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM –– The Olympic Resource Protection Council has decided it will sue the state over a rule that governs water use in the Dungeness Valley.

In a meeting Thursday night at the Sequim library, the group membership agreed to pursue a lawsuit against the state Department of Ecology in an effort to force the agency to review the Dungeness Water Rule.

They have enlisted Seattle attorney Sarah Mack, according to council president Greg McCarry.

“This is something that's probably going to be watched throughout the state,” McCarry said.

Cost of the case, likely to be filed in Thurston County Superior Court, is estimated to be $100,000 to $150,000, McCarry said.

The council will begin raising funds for the case immediately.

Mack worked with the council on assembling a petition to have Ecology negotiate changes to the rule earlier this year.

Ecology rejected the March 18.

Water use in the basin was restricted by the Dungeness Water Rule, a measure instituted January 2013 by Ecology with the aim of preserving water in the Dungeness River for both human use and for aquatic species when its flow diminishes in dry summer months.

The rule requires water users to offset water they draw from the basin for new uses.

The rule covers the eastern half of Water Resource Inventory Area 18, from Bagley Creek to Sequim Bay.

Members of the council, formed last October, say the rule negatively impacts property values by unnecessarily limiting landowners' water use.

The council argued that Ecology misused a statutory justification known as “overriding consideration of public interest” when it set a minimum flow level for the Dungeness River.

In dismissing the petition, Ecology director Maia Bellon said her agents could address many of the council's concerns administratively.

Several local agencies wrote letters to Ecology in support of the council's request, including Clallam County commissioners,
Clallam County Community Development Director Sheila Roark Miller, Port of Port Angeles commissioners, the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Clallam County Economic Development Council, the Port Angeles Business Association and the Sequim Association of Realtors.

Though the council could have asked Gov. Jay Inslee's office to reverse Ecology's rejection of the petition, McCarry said they believed Inslee would reject their appeal.
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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: April 03. 2014 4:14PM
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