Heernett Foundation Newsletter
November 2002 - by Chanele Holbrook
Well, it has still been a dry month. We started to see a bit of rain towards the Thanksgiving Holiday, but not enough to make much of a difference. Scatter Creek (Heernett’s primary drainage area) still has considerably dry areas. Through observation and citizen reports, we know our local salmon are at the mouth of Scatter Creek waiting for their opportunity to travel up to the headwaters, just as they are waiting everywhere in the Chehalis River and other river systems throughout the Pacific Northwest. Mortality for our native salmon this year is especially high due to predation by wildlife and fishermen, as they eagerly sit and wait like cattle in stock pens, to move further up into smaller systems. Hopefully, December will bring our typical winter weather with lots of precipitation. It is desperately needed for both aquatic and terrestrial wildlife, as well as, humans just the same.
On another note, the Water Quality Sub-committee of the Chehalis Basin Partnership (as I spoke of last month) has had several meetings, and is continuing to discuss principal issues of “Water Rights” and “In-stream Flows” for our basin. Both of these critical issues are regulated by the Department of Ecology and affect all of us, homeowners or not.
The Chehalis Partnership sponsored a short-term assessment for In-stream Flows this summer through out the Chehalis River. There were 15 gauges placed in strategic locations to continuously record flow measurements. These gauges took recorded average flows every hour during July, August, September and part of October. The preliminary first draft reports indicate that flows this year through out the Chehalis River were BELOW the Department of Ecology “set minimums”. These “set minimums” are a “benchmark” for the Department to regulate water right issuance. Measurable water flows above the minimums can be issued as a water right. Once the flows go below the minimums there is “no” water available to issue, and those requesting a water right would be required to find a water allowance from anther source. (Granted, this is a VERY short explanation of how In-stream Flows and Water Rights work together, it is extremely complicated and tedious issue.)
Even though, currently there are no ESA “listed” salmonid species in the Chehalis Basin, In-stream Flows and Water Rights issues have been moved to the forefront of concern because of actions being taken by the Department of Ecology. Now Ecology is required, by law, (due to a recent civil law suite), to begin a “metering” process in 16 different watershed basins through out the State of Washington. These 16 specific watershed basins have been chosen first because they do have “listed” salmonid species, which are federally protected. Therefore, these salmon must have enough water to survive and thrive in their indigenous habitat areas. Now that this has become a “federal issue”, Ecology is forced to know where every drop of water is for these specific basins.
The Chehalis Basin Partnership realizes that we, everyone who lives in or has business in the Chehalis Basin, will have to address the same types issues as the other 16 primary basins. Therefore, have decided to address them head-on in our Watershed Management Plan. So, the Water Quality Sub-committee has requested the Department of Ecology to send both state experts for Water Rights and In-Stream Flows to come and give presentations explaining how these regulations are established, used, regulated, and enforced throughout the state of Washington. It is projected they will be giving their presentations after the New Year in January.
Again, the explanations I have given in this newsletter are brief, and only the tip of the iceberg. All of these issues are extremely complicated and are much more detailed than what I have described. My desire with this month’s newsletter is to raise awareness, and inform our local citizens that there will be meetings and presentations available to them to learn more about issues that will affect us all.
If you would like more detailed information about what is happening around our watershed, or to attend a Partnership meeting, contact me @ 360-264-4310 or Heernett@aol.com. This is a great opportunity to come out and help us Make A Difference!
Best Wishes Always, the Heernett Staff