Washington Water Trust

Working to restore our state's rivers and streams.

Mar. 15, 2017

Dungeness River Coalition Releases Film on Proposed Off-Channel Reservoir

Benefits Include 40 Percent Improvement in River Flows

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Sequim, WA (March 15, 2017)— A coalition of Dungeness River stakeholders recently released a short film illustrating the benefits and operations of its proposed Dungeness Off-Channel Reservoir.  Benefits include as much as 40 percent improvement in stream flows for ESA-Listed salmon and steelhead, while securing late season irrigation water for area farmers in low water years and groundwater aquifer recharge. The coalition recently delivered the seven-minute film to state in Olympia, where lawmakers are considering a transfer of state owned lands and grant funding to support the project.  The engaging video introduces coalition members, outlines the problems the Off-Channel Reservoir would address and demonstrates how the reservoir would benefit the local farm economy, the tribal community and residents of and visitors to the Sequim area.

Coalition members include: the Dungeness Water Users Association of irrigators, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, Washington Water Trust, Clallam Conservation District, City of Sequim, Clallam County and Washington Department of Ecology.  For more than 20 years these partners have invested considerable resources to conserve and restore flow in the Dungeness River, including: a dry year leasing program with irrigators to protect flows, irrigation efficiency projects, groundwater aquifer recharge projects and establishing sustainable management of new water uses with the Dungeness Water Exchange.  

“Water supply for instream and out of stream uses depends on the snowpack in the North Olympics,” observed Ron Allen, Chair and CEO of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, “Low snowpack years, exacerbated by climate change, threaten to compromise our existing work and promise that there will not be enough water for instream and out of stream needs in the future.”  

Mark Ozias, Clallam County Commissioner for District 1 said, The Dungeness Off-Channel Reservoir is one of the first significant projects that Clallam County has undertaken to address and adapt to the impacts from climate change on our limited water resources. 

The coalition has proposed construction of the 88-acre reservoir project on land currently owned by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. The project can help avoid the diversion of 25 cubic feet per second (cfs) from the Dungeness River, leaving that amount in-stream during the critical low flow period (August 15-September 15) when flows in the Dungeness River can fall as low as 60 CFS, which is not enough to support migrating salmonids.  

“The off-channel reservoir is an important collaborative restoration project which returns critical flow to the Dungeness River when it is needed most while providing secure access to water for local agriculture,” noted Jason Hatch, Project Manager with Washington Water Trust. “Record low flows in the river during the drought of 2015 threatened successful upstream passage of salmon and offered a stark reminder of future water supply in the Dungeness. 

This multi-benefit project would also establish a new 320-acre County Park, provide substantial flood relief to the city of Sequim by intercepting storm flows before they reach vital infrastructure, businesses and residences, and provide water for aquifer recharge during early spring months.

“The City views storm water as a resource.  Taking storm water into the off-channel reservoir allows it to be used for salmon, agriculture, aquifer recharge, and to reduce flooding in the city of Sequim.  This is a smarter way to manage resources,” said David Garlington, Sequim Public Works Director.

The Dungeness Off-Channel Reservoir project has completed a preliminary design with a cost-benefit analysis underway.  The coalition is hopeful for the successful transfer of the DNR parcel, requested by Clallam County.  DNR has expressed support for this transfer and it is currently under consideration with the state legislature on the Senate Ways and Means Committee and the House Capital Budget Committee.

The coalition is pursuing grant funding for property acquisition and final design from the state Floodplains by Design program, the Salmon Recovery Funding Board, and the Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration Fund (PSAR).  A FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant was submitted to cover stormwater capture elements of the project. 

The film and additional information regarding the Dungeness Off-Channel Reservoir are available at www.washingtonwatertrust.org.  The Film was produced by Spirit Vision Films with funding from Clallam County and City of Sequim.