Sumner looks at future of water use

Sumner’s search for water to accommodate future needs continued at a study session last week.

Water rights and access to water is an ongoing issue for city officials

Sumner’s search for water to accommodate future needs continued at a study session last week.

City Council members heard from Thomas Pors, their water rights attorney who has years of experience in the subject. Pors described the procedure to the council and mentioned more than once council should prepare for a lengthy process.

“I’ve had applications that have taken more than 10 years from start to finish,” Pors said.

Specific potential sources of water were mentioned a few times, but most of the conversation focused on the legal process leading up to gaining water rights and extracting the water.

Sumner’s water supply options are to develop a new source of its own or to buy water from someone. Purchasing water from an outside source is a costly endeavor, sometimes requiring millions of dollars up front and council stated a preference to finding the city’s own water source.

The city recently drilled a well which came up dry and it’s likely another well will be installed in the future. Doan said there are areas of water where the city has physical access, but no legal right, but if the city can convert that source into a municipal right, the water could be used.

One method to acquire water is through eminent domain. This process may involve a court case to determine whether the city has the right to claim the water.

Doan stated the most important decisions the court would make regarding eminent domain is whether there is a “public necessity” and whether a “fair price” is offered for the use.

One potential outside water source, Lake Tapps, is still undergoing a State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review. The Cascade Water Alliance owns the lake and once the review is complete and the right to use the water is obtained, water could be used from the lake.

In a packet provided to council, the steps required for water rights acquisition were laid out and specific case law was included so council could be aware of potential obstacles to the process.

Pors and Sumner Public Works Director Bill Pugh said the city must adhere to the Department of Ecology’s guidelines, emphasized the importance of anticipating how and why an application could be delayed and planning ahead to avoid the problem.

An appeal process could cause a lengthy delay of the application process and cost millions of dollars, Pors said.

The council heard ways the application may be denied.

For example, minimum water flows are established for sources such as the Puyallup River, so any work done to obtain water must not produce a lower flow. Doan said the minimum flow requirement refers to the level of water in a river during the summer, when the available surface water to feed an aquifer is less plentiful due to a lack of rainfall.

Hydraulic continuity is a term used to describe how easily water flows between ground water and surface water. The surface water is water above ground, which could either feed into an aquifer, which stores the water, or could flow into streams, rivers, and to the ocean. The Department of Ecology could deny an application if the hydraulic continuity would be negatively affected.

Another reason an application may be denied is if there is a negative impact to the surrounding environment. Obtaining water must not impact protected wildlife, fish or the scenic quality of an area under regulation.

The Department of Ecology evaluates this and other impacts of the water application and makes a decision on whether an application for water rights is approved.

Doan said the city’s application could also be challenged by an organization other than the Department of Ecology.

City council and staff will continue the process once the new year begins.

Reach Chaz Holmes at cholmes@courierherald.com or 360-802-8208.

More in News

Citizen group urges council to start pool planning

With the Sumner High School pool closing at the end of the 2018-2019 swim season, residents are asking the City of Bonney Lake to build a city pool to house the Panther and Spartan swim teams. A presentation on why the council should start planning a pool as quickly as possible is being held Tuesday, Jan. 23.

Teacher, student reconnect at living center after 66 years

A person can change in 66 years. At the very least, they’re going to look pretty different. So when Robert Terrell, 96, and Margaret (Peggy) Burley, 75, ran into each other at Bonney Lake’s Cedar Ridge assisted living facility last August, neither of them realized they had met before — at an elementary school, where he was a fourth-grade teacher, and she was a part of his first ever class.

Library’s art and writing contest returns to Pierce County | Pierce County Library System

Pierce County teens are encouraged to express themselves through writing, painting, drawing and more for the annual Our Own Expressions competition, hosted by the Pierce County Library System.

Sumner School District seeks name ideas for new elementary school

Want to name your new local school? Just fill out a short form by Jan. 26

Black Diamond hits the reset button

The new Black Diamond City Council wasted no time on settling in and testing the political waters. On their first meeting of the year, new Councilwomen Melissa Oglesbee and Erin Stout and returning Councilwomen Tamie Deady and Janie Edelman marched through a long list of agenda items, many of which reversed council policies and goals set over the last two years.

Judge reproaches Black Diamond mayor, former city council majority

In a summary judgement hearing, King County Superior Court Judge Janet Helson said she was troubled by both the actions of Black Diamond Mayor Carol Benson and former City Council majority Pat Pepper, Brian Weber, and Erika Morgan over the last two years concerning potential Open Public Meetings Act violations.

Man shot in Burnett; suspect turns himself in

According to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, the victim was driven to the Burnett Store in order to report he was shot by his brother. The suspect turned himself in approximately three hours later.

Garbage, water, sewer rates increase in Enumclaw

Having made the leap into a new year, Enumclaw property owners are now seeing increases to nearly all their utility rates. Here’s a look at the 2018 increases for city services, along with the financial impact on customers.

WA infant mortality rate below U.S. rate, disparities still remain | Department of Health

Washington ranks eighth in the nation for the lowest infant deaths, yet African-American and American Indian families still experience disproportionate rates of infant mortality.

Most Read