The city of White Salmon plans to be a major player in the local water market.
Last Wednesday, Sept. 21, the City Council approved an ordinance that establishes a water rights acquisition fund and funds it through charges on certain Water Department revenues.
According to the ordinance, 1.28 percent of each water hook-up fee collected and 2 percent of all impact and connection fees will be allocated to the water rights acquisition fund.
After acting on the acquisition fund, councilors Adrian Bradford, Mark Peppel, Bob Landgren and Clyde Knowles repealed water hook-up requirements established under a previous water connection moratorium, then approved an ordinance that increases impact, connection and installation fees by 1.28 percent and allocates portions thereof to the acquistion fund.
The ordinances establishing the water rights acquisition fund and revising water hook-up fees will take effect 30 days after today's publication in The Enterprise.
City Attorney Ken Woodrich reviewed for the City Council and Mayor David Poucher the need for the ordinances.
"A few years ago we met with the Department of Health and the Department of Ecology to figure out a direction for the city so it wouldn't be stuck in need of more water rights, but no money to pay for them," Woodrich recounted. "We have the [Klickitat County] PUD lease for consumptible water, but we have to pay for it if we tap into that source. This gives the city a way to pay for that without going into the General Fund."
In January of this year, the Department of Ecology authorized Klickitat County PUD to transfer a portion of an unused water right from the former Columbia Aluminum plant on the Columbia River to White Salmon. That lease between the city and the PUD added 780 acre-feet to the city's water rights portfolio, which includes water drawn from Buck Creek.
The PUD acquired the aluminum plant's water right and placed it into trust after the plant closed in 2003.
City Administrator/Public Works Director Pat Munyan advised the council, in response to a question about the need for a public hearing on the revised rate, that it did not have to hold a public hearing because the effective date is more than five days after adoption.
"We are not required by state statute" to conduct a public hearing, Munyan noted. "And this increase will not affect the rates people pay for basic water consumption at this time. In other words, no one will be paying additional monies" because of this ordinance's enactment.
Currently the city is preparing a new 20-year water comprehensive plan that will include a thorough rate study.