Drought relief preparations are moving along in the city of White Salmon.
City government is seeking federal and state grant funding to pay for the cost of re-establishing a diversion dam on the currently untapped Jewett Springs (see location on map at right). The city holds a surface water right to the springs, a tributary of Jewett Creek, but has not had to use it for many years. The project would construct a collection system on the springs that diverts water into the city’s collection system. The spring water may have to be chlorinated or sand-filtered before release into the distribution system.
The City Council approved a WaterSmart Drought Resiliency Project application to the federal Bureau of Land Management in June that would provide a 50/50 grant. The request is for $287,000.
City staff recently completed and submitted a $500,000 grant request to the state Department of Ecology (DOE) to cover the remaining cost of the project. DOE recently received a $16 million appropriation from the Legislature to help impacted communities across the state deal with water supply issues.
“Public entities can apply for grants to do a variety of drought relief projects, including emergency wells, water right leasing, and more,” said Chase Gallagher, communication manager for DOE’s Southwest Region.
Pat Munyan Jr., White Salmon’s city administrator and public works director, said the city’s intention is to use the DOE grant as a match for the BLM grant, if both are approved for funding. He said implementation of the Jewett Springs project would take about 30 days, which is in line with the intention of DOE’s grant program: allocate money to shovel-ready projects.
“With both grants, we’ve got to be able to put something into place quickly, and the Jewett Springs diversion is one of those projects,” Munyan said.
White Salmon Mayor David Poucher wrote to Gov. Jay Inslee on March 23 requesting that the city and the Buck Creek watershed be added to the list of areas the governor had included in a drought declaration the week before.
Poucher told Inslee, “Without access to drought relief, we expect to face diminished water supply, and potentially a shortage that will affect the cities of White Salmon and Bingen, and the Port of Klickitat.”
“We were an early player in the game as a result of that letter, which has gotten us the attention of the governor’s office,” Munyan said. “It doesn’t guarantee us money, but it helps us because White Salmon is on people’s minds.”
A key factor in favor of getting funded is the City of White Salmon is a regional water department, he added.
White Salmon received letters of support for the BLM and Ecology grants from Bingen, the Port, the Klickitat County Natural Resources and Economic Development Department, and the regional offices of the DOE and the state Department of Health.
“It’s called ‘grant politics,’” Munyan said of the concerted effort being undertaken to secure funding for the proposed restoration of the Jewett Springs diversion.
According to a report prepared for the city last spring by Aspect Consulting, “The city originally developed the Jewett Spring diversion in the late 1960s and currently holds a water right authorizing diversion of 1 cubic foot per second (cfs), equivalent to about 450 gallons per minute (gpm), with an annual quantity of 688 acre-feet per year (afy). The spring diversion has not recently been used to supply the City, but is listed by Department of Health (DOH) as an active, emergency source of supply. Under this option the Jewett Springs diversion would be reactivated, tied-in to the City’s conveyance and distribution system, and the DOH source status changed from an emergency source to a permanent source.”
The current drought status in Washington in general, and Klickitat County in particular, is severe, as defined by the U.S. Drought Monitor, DOE’s Gallagher said.
“That’s almost 99 percent of the state in a federal category of ‘severe drought,’” he noted. “What began as a ‘snowpack’ drought has continued to worsen with no rain, and an unbelievable streak of hotter and drier weather.”
Between July 7 and July 14, the amount of the state’s total area considered in severe drought increased by 12.5%, according to U.S. Drought Monitor statistics contained in a report released July 16. A year ago, only 18.3% of the state fell into the severe drought category.
Only the tip of southwest Washington (from southwestern Skamania County, across much of Clark County, and into southwestern Cowlitz County) falls outside the severe drought category. That area is listed as being in moderate drought by the U.S. Drought Monitor.