From the desk of Councilmember Amy Cruver…
Land and ownership is something we must all pay close attention to—who owns it, who controls it, who is selling it, who is buying it, who is regulating it, and who is collecting it.
The subject and request today has to do with our state’s Department of Ecology (DOE) making a ruling on an aspect of a federal program (Clean Water Act). This 1989 document shares some interesting historical information on the subject.
The State DOE is pursuing Rulemaking to designate four water sources in Washington as Tier III -Outstanding Resource Waters (ORW). This initial action addresses the Green River- Skamania & Cowlitz Counties; the Cascade in Skagit County (Cascade already has the restrictive Wild and Scenic designation); the Napeequa in Chelan County and Soap Lake in Grant County. The designation applies across the State and I believe it can and will have significant impacts on Forest, Timber, Mineral and Agricultural Management. I anticipate the Mashel, Nisqually and Carbon Rivers to be nominated for this designation at some point in time.
It appears that 144 organizations (groups) in Washington and across the country, including PEW, American Rivers, Cascade Forest Conservancy (includes talking points), Wild Salmon Center, American Whitewater, Washington Wild and Trout Unlimited support this rulemaking.
We don’t know what the rules will be…no one does. Anyone/organization may nominate a water body and there is no guidance as to future restrictions on these waters except to say the water body (including any tributaries) will be maintained and protected from all degradation. It is their most restrictive designation. The WAC includes this clause: (2) Surface waters of the state include lakes, rivers, ponds, streams, inland waters, saltwaters, wetlands, and all other surface waters and water courses within the jurisdiction of the state of Washington.
I just learned of this issue late last week from another county official who had recently been informed of the pending ruling which affects his county. Now that I know about it, I found an article in the Seattle Times. DOE is in the process of holding the final round of public input sessions for the affected counties. Public Comment ends on Sept. 27th – next Wednesday.
This reminds me of the process used to site an airport. Most of us were surprised to learn that a greenfield site for an airport in our district was chosen because it had open space. There were no considerations made for the layout of the land, its inhabitants and unintended consequences prior to its designation, causing a lot of people to expend their time and financial resources for something that couldn’t be built.
We all need reasonable notice before laws that impact our lives and livelihoods are created. Many family wage jobs are connected to forestry and its products. I will be asking Ecology to extend their deadline for comments on the ruling and am asking that you do the same. If you are willing to take some time to be involved with your government, below are 24 questions that may guide you to make additional comments.
1. Why does the DOE not have a GIS map for our consideration versus a pdf file?
2. How accurate can the DOE map be, especially at the scale provided to the public?
3. How can the DOE state they have done “extensive research” on these designations when they don’t have an adequate map, don’t know the number of acres within the designated boundary, and don’t know the number of miles of tributaries?
4. Have private landowners within the designated boundary been contacted?
5. With the “research” done, what is the baseline for evaluation?
6. Why does the DOE want an added layer of protection?
7. What specific activities would be exempt from environmental review or existing regulations that could potentially impact the water quality?
8. Can a natural disaster affect how the DOE will interpret the antidegradation policy?
9. Can this Antidegradation Policy change?
10. What is the problem this designation is fixing?
11. Is there research and data indicating a fix needs to occur?
12. Can you measure the fix you are attempting to provide if there is one?
13. Has the DOE considered the future potential need for energy efficient resources potentially present?
14. Has the DOE considered that there may be future threatened habitat that might require a strategy that this would prohibit?
15. What is the definition of “relatively pristine”? As state in WAC 173-220A
16. How many rivers and associated tributaries would the DOE consider to be ‘unique” What constitutes “unique” as stated in WAC 173-220A?
17. How would this designation potentially affect downstream waters? Would this allow the DOE to make policy and/or decisions on downstream waters?
18. Can the DOE tell us what rivers would not be considered, giving examples, based on the current WAC 173-220A criteria?
19. Does the DOE know the impacts of future recreational uses?
20. Has the DOE considered the costs of maintenance, parking, and toilet facilities as recreational uses increase? Who would be responsible for these costs? Is the DOE aware of what the DNR is going through due to increases in recreational uses? Are they willing to do the same to offset any impacts from their decision to designate the Cascade as a Tier III water for its recreational uses?
21. Does the DOE understand the research that goes into a Forest Practice Application? Can they explain it?
22. How does fire management, including roads, get built without additional regulatory layering?
23. Who is responsible for overseeing this designation when permitting any activity?
24. Why does the current Wild and Scenic designation not provide enough protection?
Comments are due Sept. 27, 2023 Ecology will review all comments received and plans for decision on adoption Dec. 2023. You can submit comments through one of the following ways:
Submit comments online
Mail to: (must be postmarked on or before September 27)
Department of Ecology
P.O. Box 47696
Olympia, WA 98504-7696
If you would like further information, please let me know or email Marla Koberstein at [email protected].
Grateful for you!