Naiads

Water: law/policy/politics/ethics/art/science


Leave a comment

Grand Coulee Fish Passage Getting Attention

Salmon Chief Spokane Falls (Luke Wiley photo)The idea of salmon above Grand Coulee dam is getting a lot of attention these days, both artistic and scientific.  Naiads readers are encouraged take two actions:  (1) view the movie and (2) comment on the proposal.  Details below.

Naiads has previously reported on the intrepid Columbia River paddlers who traveled from Astoria, Oregon to Canal Flats, B.C. in the summer and fall of 2014.  They have just released a new film that examines the potential for salmon restoration through the lens of their journey.  The 35-minute movie, Treaty Talks: Paddling Up the Columbia River for People and Salmon, takes the viewer up the river and into the lives of the Spokane and Colville Tribes kids who carved the dugout canoes, along with many others who dream about and are dedicated to salmon restoration.

The Columbia Canoe Journey was undertaken by Voyages of Rediscovery, aka Adam Wicks-Arshack, Xander Demetrios, John Malik, and Jay Callahan.  It’s an inspiring and beautiful film.

The film was sponsored by Upper Columbia United Tribes or UCUT, a consortium of five tribes in the Upper Columbia basin that serves to protect and restore the natural resources of those tribes – covering 2 million acres and lands and waters located within the states of Washington and Idaho.

UCUT has been instrumental in promoting a serious policy discussion about salmon reintroduction above Grand Coulee dam.  See related posts on this blog discussing the Columbia River Treaty recommendations and other documents.

UCUT has now released for public comment the Phase 1 Plan for the Upper Columbia Basin Fish Passage and Reintroduction Project.  Comments on the plan are welcome and due to UCUT on February 27, 2015.   It’s a well-constructed plan that will

UCUT’s Phase 1 Plan follows on the NW Power & Conservation Council’s October 2014 adoption of the Columbia Basin Fish & Wildlife Program. The program plan calls for a phased approach to study and implement reintroduction of anadromous fish (salmon, steelhead, eels and other species) to areas where fish migrated historically, but which are now blocked due to dams and etc.

 

 


Leave a comment

Bambi in the Crosshairs

Deer in Park

Hunting in Washington state parks? You’re kidding, right?

The Washington Legislature will hold a hearing on Monday, January 26 on House Bill 1346, which would open Washington State Parks up to hunting.

This is a bad idea.  Washington state parks are havens for people and wildlife, providing important habitat and opportunities for passive wildlife enjoyment and nature recreation.

Beyond the recreational impact, Washington state parks are THE POSTER CHILD for agency budget cuts.  How the Parks & Rec Commission would be able to implement, regulate and protect public safety is a complete unknown.  HB 1356 has no fiscal note – apparently the proponents don’t understand the status of the agency’s cannibalized budget.

Readers are encouraged to comment to the House Committee on the Environment and their own state representatives.   The HB 1346 website has a link for easy submittal of comment.


Leave a comment

Part 4: New Diversions & Dams in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness?

Part 4:  The Alpine Lakes Automation-Storage Project

Enchantment Zone Icicle ID Instream Flow Options Report (7-25-14)

Alpine Lakes Wilderness region where automation and new storage is proposed.

This is the fourth of a four-part series regarding proposals to re-build a dam and increase water diversions from as many as seven lakes in the Enchantment Lakes region of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.  Part 1 describes the genesis and functioning of the Icicle Work Group, the entity which is proposing the water projects. Part 2 examines the Eightmile Lake Restoration-storage project, and Part 3 examines the Upper Klonaqua Lake Pipeline proposal.

In a nutshell, the Department of Ecology’s Office of the Columbia River has funded Chelan County to investigate how to solve water problems in the Wenatchee River watershed.  The primary focus of the effort is to increase water storage and diversions from seven lakes in the Enchantment Lakes region of the Alpines Lakes Wilderness.

This article discusses the proposal to automate existing diversions from the Alpine Lakes to increase efficiency and potentially drain the lakes.

The IPID and Hatchery diversion methods are primitive:  drain holes and gates at the lakes are manually opened and closed at the beginning and end of the irrigation season by IPID and Hatchery staff who hike into the Wilderness.

Icicle Subbasin Vicinity Plan (Aspect Consulting Nov. 2012)

Icicle Creek Subbasin Vicinity Map (Aspect Consulting Nov. 2012). This map shows lakes proposed for storage and added diversions, and existing diversion points on Icicle Creek.

The Alpine Lakes Automation/Optimization Appraisal Study (A/O Study) evaluates the potential to install telemetry equipment at each of the seven lakes to allow IPID and the Hatchery to remotely control the water release structures from their offices.  Rather than uncontrolled drainage, automation would allow the water users to fine tune the quantities of water they remove from the lakes to meet both consumptive use and instream flow requirements.

The original concept for the study was to evaluate more efficient use of water and refill rates.

However, the scope of the A/O Study has expanded to include analysis of increasing storage at Snow and Eightmile Lakes.   The study evaluates increasing storage at Upper & Lower Snow Lakes by 5 feet and drawing down Lower Snow by an additional 3 feet.  The study also evaluates two options at Eightmile Lake.  The first involves rebuilding the dam to its original height (adding 4 feet to current pool); the second adds another 1 foot above that.  Both options also evaluate lowering the Eightmile Lake outlet by 19 to 22 feet below current drawdown levels.

The A/O Study then evaluates the water supply opportunities should six of the seven IPID/LNFH lakes be fully drained each year. (At present, IPID diverts from the four lakes to which it holds rights on a rotating basis.)

The proposals to install automation equipment, manipulate lake levels, and increase diversions from the lakes seem likely to require approvals from the U.S. Forest Service (which manages the Alpine Lakes Wilderness) and the Department of Ecology (which manages water rights).  To date neither agency has indicated their positions regarding these proposals, although as discussed in Part 1 of this series, Ecology’s Office of the Columbia River has provided substantial funding to study new dams and diversions from the Enchantment Lakes.

 


Leave a comment

Part 3: New Dams & Diversions in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness?

Part 3:  The Upper Klonaqua Lake Pipeline Proposal

Upper Klonaqua Lake (Aspect Nov. 2014)

Upper Klonaqua Lake (Aspect Consulting, Nov. 2014)

This is the third of a four-part series regarding proposals to re-build a dam and increase water diversions from as many as seven lakes in the Enchantment Lakes region of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.  Part 1 describes the genesis and functioning of the Icicle Work Group, the entity which is proposing the water projects. Part 2 examines the Eightmile Lake Restoration-Storage project, and Part 4 examines the Alpine Lakes Automation-Storage project.

In a nutshell, the Department of Ecology’s Office of the Columbia River has funded Chelan County to investigate how to solve water problems in the Wenatchee River watershed.  The primary focus of the effort is to increase water storage and diversions from seven lakes in the Enchantment Lakes region of the Alpines Lakes Wilderness.

This article discusses the preliminary proposal to divert water out of Upper Klonaqua Lake.  The only study for this project released to date is the draft Bathymetry and Topographic Survey of Upper Klonaqua Lake and Conceptual Release Options (Aspect Consulting, Nov. 2014).

Topo map of Klonaqua Lakes

As with all of the Alpine Lakes proposals, the search is on for new water to supply downstream uses in the Icicle Creek and Wenatchee Valley.

The Upper Klonaqua Lake concept involves installing a siphon or pump or blasting a tunnel  from Lower Klonaqua into Upper Klonaqua Lake, draining it into Lower Klonaqua Lake, and then allocating that water for uses further down in the watershed.

 Upper-Klonaqua-Lake-Conceptual-Review Graphics (Nov. 2014)

Upper Klonaqua Lake Bathymetry Synopsis (Aspect Consulting, Nov. 2014) Draft

In September 2014, Gravity Consulting LLC conducted a study of the depth and contours of Upper Klonaqua Lake.

As discussed in Parts 1 and 2 of this series, the Icicle and Peshastin Irrigation Districts (IPID) hold some form of water rights and easements for several Alpine Lakes, including the Upper and Lower Klonaqua Lakes.  IPID has never accessed water from Upper Klonaqua, and according to the report, has used only 1,600 acre-feet of its 1926 2500 acre-foot water right from Lower Klonaqua Lake.

Nonetheless, the Upper Klonaqua Study evaluates the natural storage capacity of Upper Klonaqua, including how much water could be obtained by drawing down the lake.

Issues with this proposal include that any new water project in a wilderness area would require approval of the U.S. Forest Service (and, according to the Wilderness Act of 1964,  possibly the U.S. President).

And, because this proposal  would involve diverting increased quantities of water from the Klonaqua Lakes, the Department of Ecology would have to evaluate relinquishment, and issue new water rights to accomplish the goal.

To date, neither the Forest Service nor the Department of Ecology have expressed opinions about the viability of these proposals.


Leave a comment

Part 2: New Dams & Diversions in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness?

Part 2:  The Eightmile Lake Storage Proposal

This is the second of a four-part series regarding proposals to re-build a dam and increase water diversions from as many as seven lakes in the Enchantment Lakes region of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.  Part 1 describes the genesis and functioning of the Icicle Work Group, the entity which is proposing the water projects. Part 3 examines the Upper Klonaqua Lake Pipeline proposal, and Part 4 examines the Alpine Lakes Automation-Storage project.

In a nutshell, the Department of Ecology’s Office of the Columbia River has funded Chelan County to investigate how to solve water problems in the Wenatchee River watershed.  The primary focus of the effort is to increase water storage and diversions from seven lakes in the Enchantment Lakes region of the Alpines Lakes Wilderness.

This article discusses the proposal to rebuild a dam at Eightmile Lake and make more water available for the City of Leavenworth and other downstream uses.

Eightmile Lake nonfunctioning dam Sept 15 2013 by Karl Forsgaard

Nonfunctional dam at Eightmile Lake in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness (Photo: Karl Forsgaard)

The Eightmile Lake Restoration-Storage proposal evaluates the ability to increase water storage in Eightmile Lake by increasing the pool level and/or drawing the lake down further.

The original dam and control works for the lake have collapsed and current usable capacity is 1,375 acre-feet of water.

The Eightmile Lake Restoration Draft Appraisal Study (Nov. 2014) evaluates four options for increasing storage capacity: 2,000, 2,500 (2 options), and 3,500 acre-feet.  All four options include re-building the dam to its original height, or higher, as well as drawing down Eightmile Lake pool below its current, semi-natural outlet.  The Eightmile Lake proposal is based on assumptions about water rights and easements held by the Icicle and Peshastin Irrigation Districts (IPID), which actively manage four of the Alpine Lakes to serve water to about 7,000 acres of orchards and converted lands in the Wenatchee Valley.

IPID holds water rights dating from 1926 that allow the district to store water in and divert from the lakes.  The Eightmile Lake water right was adjudicated in 1929 at 2500 acre-feet annual volume, and 25 cfs rate of diversion.   However, the Eightmile dam collapsed at some point in the past and IPID has not used the full (artificial) storage capacity for many years.  There are questions about relinquishment of water rights over and above what IPID needs and has used in the past.  At a minimum, the Department of Ecology would have to issue water rights for new and increased uses.

Eightmile Lake Easements (Aspect Nov. 2014)

Eightmile Lake easements held by IPID are shown in blue (Aspect Consulting, Nov. 2014)

IPID holds easements that allow it to “store” water in several of the Alpine Lakes, although the scope of the easement for Eightmile Lake does not cover the entire lake.  As described in a Review of Eight Mile Lake Storage Authority (Aspect Consulting, 3-5-14), IPID’s easements cover only  a portion of the lake.

Any increase in storage capacity would require, at a minimum, U.S. Forest Service approvals.  Section 4(d)(4) of the Wilderness Act of 1964 requires Presidential approval to establish and maintain reservoirs within wilderness areas.

The appraisal study hypothesizes that the easement language will allow and perhaps even require the Forest Service to approve an expansion of the reservoir:  “In performing maintenance, repair, operation, modification, upgrading and replacement of [Eightmile Lake] facilities, [IPID] will not without prior written consent of the Forest Service, which consent shall not unreasonably be withheld, materially increase the size or scope of the facilities.”

Min & Max Inundation for Option 2 (Aspect Nov. 2014)-2

Minimum and Maximum Inundation Levels for Eightmile Lake Restoration, Option 2 (Aspect Consulting, Nov. 2014)

The Eightmile Lake proposal raises questions about the scope of impacts on riparian zones and wilderness surrounding the lake, including trails, campsites and other public amenities.

Trout Unlimited has published a study evaluating increase in storage at Eightmile Lake to provide water to improve instream flows in Icicle Creek.  That study includes a brief review of impacts to campsites and trails around the lake.

Eightmile Lake is one of the most popular trails and destinations in the Icicle Creek region of the Alpine Lake Wilderness, partly because of its easy accessibility.  To date, however, the U.S. Forest Service has not provided a public position regarding proposals to expand or draw down Eightmile Lake.

 

Enchantment Zone Icicle ID Instream Flow Options Report (7-25-14)


Leave a comment

New Dams & Diversions in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness?

PART 1:  Genesis of the Icicle Work Group

Enchantment Zone Icicle ID Instream Flow Improvement Options Analysis (7-22-14)

Enchantment Lakes targeted for new dams and water diversions (Graphic from Icicle Irrigation District Instream Flow Improvement Project (Forsgren Assoc. & Trout Unlimited, 7-22-14)

The Department of Ecology’s Office of the Columbia River is funding and sponsoring proposals to increase water diversions from seven lakes in the Enchantment Lakes region of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness that flow into Icicle Creek:  Colchuck, Eightmile, Upper and Lower Snow, Nada, Upper Klonaqua and Square Lakes.

This post is Part 1 of a 4-part Naiads series describing the Alpine Lakes proposed projects.  Part 2 discusses the Eightmile Lake Restoration-Storage project.  Part 3 discusses the Upper Klonaqua Lake pipeline proposal.  Part 4 discusses the Alpine Lakes Automation-Storage project.

In 2012, the Office of the Columbia River funded Chelan County to form a “collaborative work group” to address Icicle Creek water quantity issues.  Ostensibly the purpose of the Icicle Work Group (IWG) is to solve instream flow problems in Icicle Creek while obtaining more water from the system for out-of-stream uses.

The impetus for creating the work group comes from a lawsuit filed by the City of Leavenworth against the Department of Ecology regarding its quantification of the city’s water rights.  The Chelan County Court decision was issued in 2011.  The case is on hold in the Court of Appeals while Ecology uses the IWG process to attempt to find water for Leavenworth (see Settlement Position Paper, Initial Status Report, 2nd status report and 3rd status report).  If the effort fails and the lawsuit moves forward, a court decision could undermine Ecology’s authority to quantify water rights that pre-date the 1917 water code.  The statewide implications are substantial; presumably Ecology would prefer to settle and vacate the lower court orders.

Funding the IWG

To implement the Leavenworth settlement efforts, the Office of the Columbia River entered into a $700,000 contract with Chelan County Natural Resources Department to run the IWG and pursue water development projects.

Chelan County subcontracted with Aspect Consulting (Dan Haller, principal) for $506,000 of investigations and Dally Environmental Service (Lisa Dally Wilson, principal) for  $16,000 of meeting facilitation.   Also subcontracted is Cascadia Law Group (Jay Manning, principal) ($$ unknown) and the Icicle Peshastin Irrigation District ($25,000 per year for two years).

The Office of the Columbia River is now seeking another $3.5 million to continue the IWG work into the 2015-17 biennium.  (Gov. Inslee has proposed a smaller budget for the OCR, but details relating to the IWG are not available.)

Icicle Work Group Goals

In addition to finding water for Leavenworth, the IWG process has several goals embodied in its Operating Procedures.  These include improving instream flows in Icicle Creek, helping create a sustainable Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery, protecting tribal rights to fish at the hatchery, improving water reliability for agriculture, and improving ecosystem health.

All this must occur while achieving compliance with state and federal laws, including the Wilderness Act  –  no small feat.

The IWG is a “quid pro quo” process.  This raises the question whether ecosystem benefits, including water quality improvements and restoration of instream flows for endangered species, may only be achieved if new water supply is provided for Leavenworth (along with other IWG goals).  This in turn raises questions about whether and to what extent state and federal laws (for example, Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act permits) may be superceded by a stakeholder-based collaborative process.  What is the role of the Department of Ecology and NOAA Fisheries, agencies who are tasked with issuing permits for the Leavenworth Fish Hatchery, for example?

Overview of the Alpine Lakes Water Projects

According to IWG studies, the primary source of water supply for new municipal/domestic/agricultural uses will come from the seven lakes in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

Eightmile Lake forest at west end Sept 15 2013 by Karl Forsgaard

Forested west end of Eightmile Lake. Proposals for raising the lake pool have not studied the impacts on riparian and wilderness resources. (Photo: Karl Forsgaard)

At present, three proposals relate to the Alpine Lakes:  (1) the Eightmile Lake Restoration-Storage project; (2) the Upper Klonaqua Lake pipeline proposal; and (3) the Alpine Lakes Automation-Storage project.  These projects are discussed in Parts 2, 3, and 4 of this series.  The latest studies can also be found on the Chelan County NRD website.

The Icicle-Peshastin Irrigation District (IPID) holds grandfathered easements and water rights that allow it to store and divert water from the Alpine Lakes. Leavenworth Fish Hatchery (owned by US Bureau of Reclamation, operated by US Fish & Wildlife Service) also holds a water right for Snow & Nada Lakes.  The scope of these interests is a matter for evaluation as well.

The Alternative Conservation Proposal

Rather than divert additional water from the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, water solutions for Icicle Creek could be found through more sustainable approaches.  Approximately 117 cfs of new instream flow could be added to a 6-mile length of Icicle Creek (downstream of Snow Creek) by moving the Icicle Peshastin Irrigation District’s take-out point downstream to the Wenatchee River.

Water conservation opportunities are substantial.  Rather than looking to the Alpine Lakes as the first option, the City of Leavenworth should adopt an aggressive water conservation plan, as should other users in the valley.  These actions, combined with promoting water markets that facilitate selling and trading water rights, could supply future water uses.  However, these approaches have received minimal consideration to date.

Public Outreach & Environmental Study Processes

Manipulating lake levels and allocating new water rights from the Alpine Lakes is likely to impact the public’s interest in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, and could be controversial.  Although the IWG was asked to create a Wilderness Advisory Group to solicit immediate input on these proposals, that idea was eliminated without discussion at the Dec. 2014 IWG meeting.

Chelan County did hold a public meeting in Seattle in 2012, from which the perception arose that the environmental community is not concerned about the Alpine Lakes water storage and diversion proposals.  A similar meeting may be held in January 2015.  Meanwhile, scoping under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) will be scheduled for spring or summer 2015.  National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) processes are unknown at this time.

In addition to the Alpine Lakes storage and water right proposals, the Icicle Work Group is evaluating several other projects to improve instream flow and habitat in Icicle Creek.  There is also movement afoot by other water users in the Wenatchee Valley to capture Icicle Creek (including Alpine Lakes) water for downstream uses.

The ultimate “package” of projects will involve trade-offs that require public scrutiny and input.

For more information about the Icicle Work Group, see the Chelan County website, and read Parts 2, 3 and 4 of this series.

 

 

 

 


Leave a comment

New Eastern Washington Water Projects Simply Not Affordable

Aerial view of Grand Coulee Dam, Washington.  Columbia Basin Project, WA.

Grand Coulee Dam and the Columbia Basin Project beyond (USBR)

The following guest editorial was printed in the Spokesman-Review on Sunday, January 4, 2015, discussing conclusions from two recent reports evaluating the economics of the Columbia Basin and Yakima irrigation projects.

The bottom line:  eastern Washington farmers have not repaid even 10% of the portion of these projects that are allocated to agriculture (notwithstanding huge public subsidies).  Future, concrete-intensive projects will fare no better.

For more information about the questionable economics of eastern Washington irrigation projects, visit the CELP website and Naiads.  And taxpayers, keep an eye  on your wallet.

January 4, 2015

Guest opinion: Public can’t afford to subsidize new water projects

John Osborn and Ken Hammond
Special to The Spokesman-Review
Water is political currency. Politicians hold hostage worthy public programs in exchange for public funding of money-losing water supply projects.  A case in point is the Central Arizona Project or CAP – the largest, most expensive aqueduct in the United States.

In the 1960s, President Lyndon B. Johnson horse-traded approval of CAP in exchange for votes to enact civil rights legislation. While LBJ’s goals were worthy, it is a fact that taxpayers got stuck with most of the bill for CAP.

Similar subsidies apply to federal projects all over the West, including Eastern Washington.

To protect the public purse, objective economic analysis of water projects is a powerful tool. Two recent studies shine light on Eastern Washington’s two major federal irrigation projects: the Columbia Basin Project and the Yakima Project. Productive irrigated agriculture and local economies depend on these federal mega-projects. But the two projects have not paid for themselves – far from it. State and federal budget leaders should take heed.

A 2014 study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (“Availability of Information on Repayment of Water Project Costs Could Be Better Promoted”) evaluated irrigation district repayment for 130 federal water projects in the Western U.S.

At Grand Coulee Dam, the Columbia Basin Project pumps uphill 3.3 million acre-feet of river water for delivery to 670,000 acres across the Columbia Plateau.  This massive project cost $2.4 billion to construct. (In today’s dollars, the cost would be enormously higher.) Of that, $685 million was allocated to irrigated agriculture. But $495 million – nearly 75 percent – has been written off for payment by Bonneville Power Administration ratepayers, socializing the costs to millions of people paying their utility bills.

As reported by the GAO, of the $190 million left to be repaid by the irrigators, only $60 million has been paid, with payments stretched over 50 years at zero interest. On balance, irrigators have paid less than 5 percent of their share.

The Yakima Project stores and diverts 1.2 million acre-feet of water from five reservoirs in the Cascade Mountains, serving irrigation districts in Kittitas, Yakima and Benton counties. Here, construction costs total $286 million, with $149 million allocated to irrigators. The GAO reports slightly better repayment. Still, Yakima Valley irrigators have paid less than 10 percent of the total costs.

Crops grown in these federal projects don’t pay for the existing water supply infrastructure, loudly signaling that expanding these irrigation projects won’t cover costs either. Nonetheless, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has partnered with Washington’s Office of the Columbia River to pursue multibillion dollar expansions of both the Columbia Basin and Yakima projects.

Fortunately for taxpayers, federal guidelines now prohibit federal funding for water projects when costs exceed benefits. A recent economic study of expanding the Columbia Basin Project into the Odessa Subarea forced the bureau to decline funding that project.

Instead, the Office of the Columbia River has stepped into the gap to assess whether, and how much, Odessa Subarea farmers can pay to pump and deliver water to their farms. Depending on size, state subsidies of several hundred million or a few billion dollars would be needed to replace groundwater with river water for this small group of potato farmers.

The proposed Yakima water projects are similar. To expand in the Yakima, large state subsidies will be required to replace traditional federal subsidies to pay for the excess of costs over benefits.

In 2013, the cash-strapped Washington Legislature wisely tasked independent economists to study the latest Yakima Basin proposal.  In December, a team of Washington State Water Resource Center economists concluded that costs of water supply projects in the Yakima Basin – including new dams – outweigh benefits by 90 percent or more. In contrast, proposed fisheries enhancement projects of importance to tribes and the general public are cost effective. (Read: “Benefit-Cost Analysis of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan Projects.”)

Public subsidy for new irrigation projects needs to end. Dust Bowl-era justifications no longer apply to an increasingly corporate agricultural sector. Governments struggle to pay for public necessities such as education, health care and even maintenance backlogs for existing dams and water projects. New and expanded water projects are simply not affordable.

We are at the end of the water frontier. Water-project proponents in Washington, D.C., and Olympia must acknowledge that federal irrigation projects in Eastern Washington don’t pencil out. It is time to end wasteful feasibility studies, close the chapter and move on. There are more affordable means of sustaining profitable agriculture in Eastern Washington.

John Osborn is a Spokane physician and conservationist with the Center for Environmental Law & Policy and the Sierra Club. See celp.org.  Ken Hammond is retired professor and chairman of the department of geography at Central Washington University and has been active for decades in water planning.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 45 other followers