PORT ANGELES — With Elwha River flows running well below average, the city of Port Angeles has taken steps to prepare for anticipated heightened water restrictions.
The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to authorize City Manager Nathan West to implement a Stage 3 voluntary water shortage restriction when the Stage 3 threshold has been met.
“We believe that prior to the next council meeting, we will have reached that Stage 3 point,” Public Works and Utilities Director Thomas Hunter told the council Tuesday.
“We don’t want to have a special meeting to get the authorization granted for the city manager, or potentially have to wait when the forecast calls that we’re going to hit this stage.”
Under the city’s water shortage response plan, Stage 3 means that outdoor watering is permitted every other day.
The city is now in a Stage 2 water alert, which calls for voluntary conservation.
A Stage 3 declaration can be made when flows in the Elwha River, the city’s primary source of water, drop below 300 cubic feet per second, or CFS.
Elwha River flows had dropped to 298 CFS by Wednesday and to 293 CFS as of 4 p.m. Thursday, according to U.S. Geological Survey data.
The long-term average flow for the Elwha River on Thursday was 517 CFS.
While the threshold for a Stage 3 declaration had been reached, city officials had not yet made a Stage 3 declaration.
“We are discussing when we are going to make that declaration,” Hunter said Thursday.
“We could get a little bit of rain, which might bump us back up, so we’re kind of watching it. We’ve got a meeting coming up [today] to discuss it internally and make sure that we’re all on the same page.”
The National Weather Service was calling for showers in the North Olympic Peninsula lowlands Sunday and Monday.
If and when the city declares a Stage 3 water alert, officials will post information at www.cityofpa.us and on social media, Hunter said.
A Stage 4 water emergency and mandatory outdoor water restrictions are triggered when Elwha River flows drop below 200 CFS, according to the city’s water shortage plan.
A Stage 5 regional disaster or infrastructure failure could result in water rationing.
The Clallam County Public Utility District has several water restrictions in effect.
Stage 2 water alerts have been declared for the Gales Addition, Mount Angeles, Monroe and Fairview water systems near Port Angeles.
Clallam County PUD purchases city water for its Port Angeles-area districts and is coordinating its drought response with the city, PUD spokeswoman Nicole Clark said.
The Clallam Bay/Sekiu water system is under a Stage 3 alert. That system, which collects water from a well field near the Hoko River, serves 351 PUD customers.
A Stage 4 water alert — and mandatory outdoor restrictions — remained in effect Thursday for 33 PUD customers in the Island View water system about 10 miles west of Sekiu, Clark said.
On the east side of the county, Agnew Irrigation District officials have been asking residents to [voluntarily] cut back their water use because of low flows in the Dungeness River.
The U.S. Geological Survey recorded a stream flow of 96.4 CFS in the lower Dungeness on Thursday.
The average stream flow for the river that day is 168 CFS.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected] dailynews.com.