The Right Economic Development
Anacortes’ municipal water supply will be needed to address much of Skagit County’s predicted population growth of 100,000 by 2060. Tethys Enterprises’ consumption of five million gallons of water per day for a bottled water/beverage plant equals the same amount of water per day as 41,000 people at current rates of water consumption in our area.
Not only is the Skagit River our potable water source, it is a hydroelectric source for the City of Seattle. The Skagit River Hydroelectric Project, owned by Seattle City Light, provides about 25 percent of Seattle’s electrical power. In 2005, Seattle City Light studied the effects of climate change on the Skagit River. In short, “A warming climate could have significant effects on the hydrologic balance of watersheds on which hydropower depends. Model studies indicate that over the next 40 years, projected climate change could require the utility to reconsider its current operating procedures.”
The study indicates an increase in average monthly river flow during winter months and a decrease during spring months, resulting in a critical water management shift. The crux is that inflow during spring months is used to refill the Ross Reservoir for power generation during the following high-demand winter period when flood-control requirements limit useable storage of water. Under 2040 conditions, the study indicates current reservoir operation guidelines could not be modified to meet the current level of generation to serve load, in-stream flow requirements and flood control objectives, resulting in a projected loss to meet Seattle customer demand.
Water management is a climate change issue, as Anacortes City Council members learned during their study session of July 12, 2010. Guest Lara Whitely Binder of the Climate Impacts Group, U. of W., informed the Council of projected wetter winters and hotter, drier summers. She said, “Water supplies, water quality, in-stream flows, flood risk, hydroelectric supplies, public health, food production and the agricultural, forest and timber economies will be affected by climate change. Snow packs are declining and this trend is expected to continue.”
She warned that weather trends are not necessarily linear, and communities must be prepared to adapt and respond as climate conditions develop. In the face of our preparation to various climate change scenarios, no single water-entitlement community should build its kingdom at the expense of others—including a contract for more water-intensive industry that is entitled up to five million gallons of water per day to bottle our water and ship it, never again to return to our watershed. The right economic development is water sustainable. Why not a regional Skagit River Basin climate summit?
Sandra Spargo, Anacortes, Wash.