WENATCHEE — Some of Chelan County’s buckets of water are beginning to run dry.
The Chelan County Commission on Monday took up the issue with a consultant and county employees, with an eye to water management choices it may need to make. Some of the county’s water resources — such as the Entiat, Icicle and Chumstick rivers, Mission Creek and Lake Chelan — are getting low and could limit future growth, said Dan Haller, Chelan County consultant with Aspect Consulting.
“The implication of the do-nothing alternative here is what Kittitas County faced, which is at some point the (state) Department of Ecology closes the basins,” Haller said. “You’re not managing the system and the grace period has run out. Mission you’re done, Icicle you’re done, Chumstick you’re done.”
In Mission Creek there may only be another year to a year-and-a-half of growth available if not managed, said Mike Kaputa, County Natural Resource Department director.
The county has already been tracking and managing the amount of water that comes out of these reserves, Kaputa said. “We feel like all the watersheds are in good shape right now, but some of them need more work,” he said.
Chelan County has been doing a lot over the years to help mitigate the problem, Kaputa said. That includes building 20 alluvial storage structures in places like Poison Canyon, which is a tributary to Mission Creek.
“So what we do is we build these structures that slow down the water,” Kaputa said. “We’re basically building storage structures, but they’re out of natural material, vegetations, logs.”
In the future the county may need to create a water bank system, buy water or do something else, he said.
Another problem the county faces, though, is the grant funding it has been receiving to manage these water reserves will evaporate by the end of July, Kaputa said. The county may then need to pass the expense of managing the reserves onto residents.
Haller did some calculations as to the potential cost and estimated that $1,546 could be added to the cost of a building permit.
In comparison Kittitas County charges between $3,790 to $4,695 for one-time mitigation costs. Kittitas County also meters water use and requires a $180 annual meter-reporting fee, according to Haller. In Yakima, it is a $650 one-time mitigation fee, but a $35 monthly utility payment.
The county could just decide to pay for the expense through its general fund or hire additional staff, Kaputa said. Most of the cost for managing the reserves comes from labor.