The long-awaited water resources study for the Husum-BZ Corner area has been completed, but community leaders say the highly technical study is difficult to understand.
Early in 2009, the Klickitat County Commissioners approved a $38,000 water study contract with Aspect Consulting LLC, a Seattle-based geo-technical engineering services firm. Aspect was paid to provide an in-depth study of potential impacts to water resources associated with proposed zoning alternatives in the Husum-BZ area.
However, Jim Tindall, chair of the Husum-BZ Corner Community Council, characterized the finished study -- released to the public last week -- as "somewhere between nebulous and confusing."
"The council would dearly love to have the hydrologists be present at a public meaning to explain this technical report to our constituents," Tindall said. "Residents and taxpayers deserve an adequate explanation of the research that will have impacts upon lifestyles, open space, taxation, and real estate prices."
During public hearings on possible zoning changes, the availability of water and how additional residential development could impact local water resources was one of the primary concerns expressed by residents.
"Mainly what people were saying at those hearings was water, water, water," said Klickitat County Commissioner Rex Johnston. "We figured we'd better check it out to see exactly where we stood."
To respond to the public's concerns over the impacts of rezoning on water resources, Aspect reviewed surface water quantity and quality, as well as groundwater quantity and quality.
Now that the study is out, Husum-BZ Corner Community Council member Lea Rachford said the council has requested more information on what it means.
"We -- the Husum/BZ Corner Community Council -- have been asking the Klickitat County Planning Department to have Aspect Consulting give a presentation explaining the results to our community," Rachford explained. "So far, we have been told that such a presentation would not fit in the budget, and a presentation to the community is not confirmed."
Johnston said a public hearing would be scheduled soon.
"There will be a hearing on the comprehensive plan and zoning update for the Husum-BZ area, and we will introduce the new information from the hydrological study at that point," Johnston explained. "The hearing isn't lined up yet, but hopefully it will be early next year."
Johnston added that he and the other commissioners needed time to review the completed water study in depth.
"Until I've had time to do that, I wouldn't want to comment on what it means. I simply don't know at this time," Johnston said. "It will take a lot of study by all three commissioners."
Representatives from Aspect are expected to come to Goldendale and give the County Commissioners an analysis of the study "in terms a layman can understand," Johnston said.
"We're not rushing to judgment on anything. After the public hearings, we said this (water) study was what we wanted to do before we went further. That's what we're in the process of doing right now," Johnston explained.
In the introduction to the study, Aspect explained the reason for the water study as follows: "The Husum/BZ Corner sub-area in western Klickitat County has experienced accelerated growth in recent years, which led to the 2007 update of the Husum/BZ Corner Sub-area Plan and associated zoning. The entire sub-area is located within the White Salmon River watershed ... The update includes a proposed reduction in rural center (RC) zoning, an increase in rural residential one-acre minimum (RR-1) zoning, and an increase in rural residential two-acre minimum (RR-2) zoning. To accommodate the changes in zoning, resource lands (RL) will decrease."
A proposed zoning plan would result in an increase in the amount of residential land available from 1,142 acres to 2,242 acres, with a corresponding decrease in RL zoning. The new residential lands primarily come from the reduction of resource land zoning (one dwelling per 20 acres overall density) by 1,099 acres. A proposed change in the Husum vicinity recommends an increase from 243 acres to 1,102 acres of RR-2 zoning.
The county has identified two overall land use alternatives:
Alternative 1 considers the zoning designations set forth in an update recommended by the Husum/BZ Corner Community Council in 2007, while Alternative 2 considers zoning designations set forth in existing Klickitat County Zoning Ordinance maps.
Each of the main alternatives has three "build-out" scenarios, as follows:
A) A maximum density build-out scenario where every acre of land within the sub-area is developed to the density allowed;
B) A more reasonable full build-out scenario that is limited by known factors such as steep slopes and lack of community sewer in the sub-area; and
C) A 20-year build-out scenario with a moderate (three percent annual) population growth rate.
The study focuses on two areas within the sub-area that include all of the proposed zoning changes. The Husum area includes 1,523 acres around Husum zoned RC, RR-1, RR-2 (in Alternative 1). The BZ Corner area includes 719 acres around BZ Corner zoned RC and RR-2 in Alternative 1.
Under the "water quantity" section, Aspect reported that "no unmitigatable impacts were identified for water quantity."
"The city of White Salmon has water supply wells completed within distinct aquifer blocks and have experienced water level declines since 2003," read an excerpt of the report. "No water level data is available for the other fault/structural bounded aquifer blocks in the Husum/BZ Corner area, but the water level decline, particularly in the city of White Salmon's Well No. 2, indicates that additional groundwater development of the aquifer should proceed with caution."
The study also noted that groundwater withdrawals from wells "in hydraulic continuity with the tributaries could have a potential significant impact on stream base flows."
Aspect suggested that this impact "may be mitigated by locating wells in areas that are not in continuity with the White Salmon tributaries."
The report noted that the most significant risk to surface water quality is the introduction of storm water pollutants to surface waters or groundwater through infiltration.
"These impacts are most likely to occur in the area of most intense development, in the Husum and BZ Corner rural centers," read an excerpt. "These impacts could be mitigated effectively and reasonably by implementing runoff treatment prior to discharge or infiltration consistent with state and county regulations. Other possible impacts to surface water quality include elevated water temperatures and sediment in streams near development. These impacts could be mitigated effectively and reasonably by compliance with the Klickitat County Critical Areas Ordinance, which establishes protective buffers of natural vegetation around streams."
According to Johnston, a final decision on rezoning plans for the Husum-BZ Corner area are on hold until all the relevant information -- and Aspect's water study in particular -- can be fully interpreted.
"We're not going to be rushed by either side. We should be working together to have a comprehensive plan and zoning update that will work for everybody," Johnston explained. "That's what we're trying to do."
Aspect Consulting's report has been posted to the Husum-BZ Corner Community Council's Web site, and can be accessed at: