The city of White Salmon appears to be nearing the end game for obtaining new water rights that would finally bring a formal end to the moratorium on new water hookups.
On April 21, White Salmon officials met with representatives of the Washington Department of Ecology and the Washington Department of Health in Yakima.
"It's a meeting we requested," said Mayor David Poucher. "We've got an outline of a way to go that the Department of Ecology totally agrees with."
According to Poucher, the state agency is ready to agree that the city can use a new water right that was recently conveyed from the Klickitat Public Utility District. The PUD had extra water rights obtained after the aluminum plant near Goldendale closed.
The deal with the PUD will increase the city's water rights by an additional 500 acre feet, boosting the city's water capability from the current 688 acre feet to roughly 1,188 acre feet.
"We want enough water to lift the water moratorium -- 500 acre feet," Poucher said. "And DOE said OK, this is how you can get there."
To make everything official, the state has requested that the city amend its water rights application dating from 1999.
"The bottom line out of the meeting is that the Department of Ecology has asked us to amend the 1999 application and ask for an additional 500 acre feet," explained Poucher. "It has to go through the SEPA (State Environmental Policy Act) process, but we'll be able to totally lift the moratorium after that. We're looking at 90-120 days, then the Department of Ecology will issue its certificate."
Poucher said he was gratified at the assistance the state agencies are providing to make sure White Salmon gets the water it needs to grow.
"The state has agreed to fast track everything. That's tremendous. They're fast tracking it for us," he said. "This was all made possible because of the PUD's water rights. They are the knight in shining armor allowing this to happen."
Poucher also pointed out that the partial lifting of the water meter moratorium -- which will allow the city to allocate approximately 18 water meters immediately -- will continue in effect until the moratorium is lifted fully.
"We've been getting lots of phone calls about the meters at City Hall," Poucher said.
Poucher noted that as of April 30, three citizens had already paid their $3,000 deposit for new water meters.
Poucher added that he was hopeful the city would soon be able to supply meters without unnecessary restrictions.
"We see the finish line, which we've never seen before," Poucher said. "We have the finish line -- we have the PUD water. It's taken a long time, but we fully anticipate lifting the moratorium in the near future."
With the city now being able to offer some water connections, Poucher announced that Innovative Composites Engineering (ICE), which is building a new facility just outside the city limits off Main Street and Loop Road and had planned to drill a well, is going to be a customer of the city's water system. On Monday, ICE paid for a 3/4-inch water meter.
Previously, ICE CEO Steven Maier had advised the city he would have a well drilled because the business could not continue to wait indefinitely for water as the new building neared completion.
"They are trying to be really good neighbors by seeing what's the smallest meter that can work," Poucher said. "They are willing to go with a 3/4-inch meter rather than a two-inch meter, so if people want to build homes, ICE is not taking that opportunity away from them by requiring extra water for their building. That's a good neighbor, and they deserve a pat on the back for that."