World’s Groundwater Supplies Draining Fast, NASA Study Says

June 17, 2015

Using a new approach — employing satellite data from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) — NASA researchers concluded that 21 of the world’s 37 largest aquifers are being depleted faster than they can recharge, posing a long-term threat to the world’s freshwater supply, according to the study released Tuesday.

Areas with aquifers under the most stress include India, northern China, the Middle East, Saharan Africa, and California’s Central Valley.

“Most of those aquifers are the ones that support the world’s major food production,” Jay Famiglietti, a senior water scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and co-author of the ground water study, told ABC News.

Researchers blame agriculture, population growth, climate change and water-intensive industries such as mining, for the alarming rates of groundwater depletion seen during the decade-long study period.

“Humanity has done a terrible job with groundwater stewardship,” Famiglietti said.

Groundwater is the primary source of freshwater for approximately two billion people worldwide, supplying 35 percent of the water used by humans, according to the NASA report. Underground aquifers come under increased stress during drought periods.

“Because of climate change, we will be seeing even less replenishment of those aquifers,” Famiglietti said.

As the world’s middle latitudes become drier, their aquifers will replenish less often, Famiglietti said. Combine that with an increasing demand for groundwater as the world population grows, and there may be a serious problem.

“It really paints a compelling picture for the problems of the future,” Famiglietti said.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Source:http://www.mycentraloregon.com/2015/06/17/worlds-groundwater-supplies-draining-fast-nasa-study-says/

Environmental assessment reveals true costs of Shasta Dam raise

A Water Resources Investigation Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SLWRI DEIS) released by the United States Bureau of Reclamation can not hide the destructive impacts of the proposed increase in the height of the Shasta Dam, argues Friends of the River in a recent briefing. These include the threats it poses to the Winnemem Wintu Homeland for a second time.

The Bureau claims that spending more than a billion dollars to raise Shasta Dam by 18.5 feet will provide additional water that will be used to provide cold water downstream for threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead.

The report ignores the history of the Sacramento River salmon that only began their downward spiral towards extinction when Shasta Dam was completed in 1945, thereby blocking the river’s historic spawning grounds for salmon and steelhead.

It is also contradicted by research, referenced in the DEIS, by a report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) that states unequivocally that raising the dam will have negligible benefits for endangered fish. According to the USFWS, the raised dam will provide no fishery benefits 90% of the time. That’s because dams don’t produce water, they simply capture it when rain falls from the sky and flows downhill. If the rain doesn’t fall (as often happens during California’s chronic drought periods), there will be little or no additional water stored behind the raised dam to benefit salmon.

Friends of the River also note that the report reveals the real reason for the dam raise – “every extra drop of water stored behind the raised dam will be sold to federal water contractors downstream, with 77% of the water sold for export south of the Delta.” Which means the Shasta Dam raise is directly tied the proposal by water contractors and Governor Jerry Brown to build enormous twin tunnels under the Delta, which will divert large amounts of fresh water from the Sacramento River (much of it stored upstream behind Shasta Dam) for export to large corporate farms in the San Joaquin Valley and Tulare Basin.

The Winnemem Wintu tribe lost both their villages and many sacred sites when the Shasta Dam was erected. A dam raise of about 18-feet would permanently or seasonally flood an estimated 39 sacred sites along the McCloud River, including Puberty Rock, and would essentially end their ability to practice their culture and religion.

Nestle Chairman says Water is Not a Human Right

Link to Article with Video

In a candid interview for the documentary We Feed the World, Nestlé Chairman Peter Brabeck makes the astonishing claim that water isn’t a human right. He attacks the idea that nature is good, and says it is a great achievement that humans are now able to resist nature’s dominance. He attacks organic agriculture and says genetic modification is better.

Nestlé is the world’s biggest bottler of water. Brabeck claims – correctly – that water is the most important raw material in the world. However he then goes on to say that privatisation is the best way to ensure fair distribution. He claims that the idea that water is a human right comes from “extremist” NGOs. Water is a foodstuff like any other, and should have a market value.

He believes that the ultimate social responsibility of any Chairman is to make as much profit as possible, so that people will have jobs.

And just to underline what a lovely man he is, he also thinks we should all be working longer and harder.

Consequences of water privatisation

The consequences of water privatisation have been devastating on poor communities around the world. In South Africa, where the municipal workers’ union SAMWU fought a long battle against privatisation, there has been substantial research (pdf) about the effects. Water privatisation lead to a massive cholera outbreak in Durban in the year 2000.

The Nestlé boycott

Nestlé already has a very bad reputation among activists. There has been a boycott call since 1977. This is due to Nestlé’s aggressive lobbying to get women to stop breastfeeding – which is free and healthy – and use infant formula (sold by Nestlé) instead. Nestlé has lobbied governments to tell their health departments to promote formula. In poor countries, this has resulted in the deaths of babies, as women have mixed formula with contaminated water instead of breastfeeding.

Tell Nestlé they are wrong – water is a human right

There is Europe-wide campaign to tell the European Commission that water is a human right, and to ask them to enact legislation to ensure this is protected.

If you live in Europe, please sign the petition.

Original article published by Union Solidarity International.

Our View: Transparency needed on transportation projects

The public has the right to know what the state and its private roadwork partners are up to.

April 3, 2013 | Portland Press Herald

Link to Article

Back in 2010, the Legislature created an exemption to the state’s right-to-know law that you could drive a truck through.

click image to enlarge

A group responds to Peter Vigue, CEO of Cianbro Corp., while he addresses more than 700 people during a public meeting at Foxcroft Academy in Dover-Foxcroft on May 31, 2012, to discuss the proposed east-west corridor. A study on the project’s feasibility will cost Maine taxpayers $300,000, although Vigue says the project will be privately financed.

2012 File Photo/Derek Davis

Under this exemption, all records of public-private partnerships involving transportation projects of $25 million or more are sealed until the Maine Department of Transportation decides whether to go ahead with or reject a given project.

All submissions and communications are secret. The public can’t find out how it would be affected until late in the process. Even when the public is paying for the work, under this exemption the public has no right to know how its money is being spent.

This exemption is far too broad and should be tightened by the Legislature this year. Lawmakers should do that by passing L.D. 721 and bringing transparency to this type of project.

The weakness of the current law became instantly obvious with the very first project to come along since the law went on the books – the proposed east-west transportation, utilities and communications corridor that the Cianbro Corp. construction company has proposed to cut across the state from Calais to Coburn Gore.

Cianbro President Peter Vigue has publicly said it would be a privately financed project, built on existing rights of way, taking no land through eminent domain. But the public is paying up to $300,000 for a feasibility study. Beyond that, there is no information available.

People have legitimate questions about how this project might affect them. No one knows the proposed route (except its broad outline), and the specifics could affect property and business owners along the way.

The project is supposed to be completely privately financed, but how would that work exactly? What role would the state having in maintaining and policing the new corridor or in connecting it to the rest of the transportation network?

What would happen if the company that owned the corridor went bankrupt? This has happened in other states when public-private partnerships were used to build roads and the state was left holding the bag.

Although it has been stated that no public money would be needed for the east-west corridor, the public is already spending $300,000 for a study at a time when it is cutting key services elsewhere.

There may be simple answers to all of these concerns, but secrecy is a surefire way to destroy public trust.

A narrowly defined exception that would protect trade secrets and the company’s competitive position could be crafted to permit the kind of public oversight that would ease these concerns.

The Legislature ought to tighten up this exemption to the right-to-know law to make sure important projects have public involvement every step of the way.

Tribe says LePage threatened Passamaquoddy over elvers during ‘enraged’ phone call

By Mario Moretto, BDN Staff | April 02, 2013

Link to Article

ELLSWORTH, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage issued an ultimatum to the Passamaquoddy Tribe on Monday morning: Play by the state’s fishing rules or face consequences from his office, tribal officials said.

According to a Passamaquoddy official who sat in on a phone call from the governor, LePage threatened to withdraw support for issues of importance to the Passamaquoddy — including the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a possible casino in Washington County — during a brief call with tribal leaders Monday morning.

Newell Lewey, a member of the Tribal Council, said he and several others sat in on the call, which LePage made to Chief Clayton Cleaves. LePage told the tribe he’d make good on those threats if they didn’t stand down on their claim to authority over tribal members’ right to harvest elvers.

“Gov. LePage also threatened he would shut down the entire fishery,” Lewey said Monday evening, quoting a letter sent by the tribe to Senate President Justin Alfond informing him about the phone call.

Adrienne Bennett, the governor’s press secretary, confirmed that LePage had spoken with Cleaves on Monday, but said she could not comment on the specifics of the conversation because she wasn’t present for the call.

“The governor is gravely concerned about this issue,” Bennett said Tuesday. “We have state law that is very clear and we have a Passamaquoddy Tribe that is knowingly issuing more than double the number of licenses that are allowed.”

She continued, saying, “In regard to what some are calling threats, the governor has the responsibility to ensure that the law is followed.”

March 12 legal opinion by Attorney General Janet Mills was made available Tuesday in which Mills backed up the state’s authority over tribal fishermen.

Lewey said there was no mistaking LePage’s intent or anger, describing the governor’s message as “loud, enraged and demanding.”

“He’s going to try to hold us hostage, that’s what he’s going to do,” Lewey said. “I was in there. I heard it. I heard his tone. There was no mistake.”

Rumors also swirled in Augusta on Monday that LePage had threatened to call in the National Guard, though Bennett said there was no indication that guardsmen would be called in to enforce the state’s rules on elver harvesting.

The dispute began last week when DMR announced that it would invalidate all but 150 of the 575 elver licenses issued by the tribe. A new state law limits the number of elver permits available to the Passamaquoddy to 200 — 150 permits to set fyke nets anywhere in the state and 50 permits to use dip-nets in the St. Croix River.

Keliher said the Passamaquoddy had put the state out of compliance with rules imposed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. Enforcement of the law began March 31, and Keliher said any Passamaquoddy fishing with a permit number higher than 150 would be issued a summons and have their nets confiscated.

For its part, the Passamaquoddy say they aren’t backing down. Lewey said that even if he wanted to, the chief couldn’t back down because the Joint Tribal Council — which represents Passamaquoddys in Indian Township and Pleasant Point — had already spoken.

“The chief of the tribe is acting on a Joint Council Resolution, shaped by the people of the tribe, and the council voted unanimously, all 12 council members, to support the elver fisheries management plan,” he said. “The chief cannot override that.”

On Sunday night, there was a confrontation between tribal leaders, backed up by a crowd of Passamaquoddys, and Maine Marine Patrol in Pembroke. State police were called to backup DMR’s effort to enforce its rules and ultimately Keliher, who was on scene during the incident, agreed to hold off on issuing summonses, but nets were still confiscated.

Keliher later told legislators in Augusta that the police involved in the Sunday incident had become fearful for their safety because of the number of Passamaquoddy protesting their action.

At least three summonses have been issued to tribal fishermen, though DMR has not returned calls for comment, so the total number of summonses issued is unknown.

Fred Moore III, a former Passamaquoddy representative to Augusta and a member of the tribe’s fisheries committee, said attempts to strip indigenous fishing rights would only result in more tribal fishing.

“They can come and take a couple of us to jail, and 300 more will join in.” he said Monday.

The sovereignty dispute has grown hotter by the day, with the Passamaquoddy attacking the state’s elver management plan and touting the superiority of its own conservation techniques.

Lewy said the state’s effort to protect the elver population by limiting the number of licenses was inferior to the tribal management plan, which instead sets a total allowable catch limit of 3,600 pounds.

“The idea that we have jeopardized the entire fishery for the state is an outright lie,” Lewey said Monday night. “He [Keliher] keeps coming back to that number, that 150 or 200 licenses, but it doesn’t really matter because at 3,600 pounds, we’re shutting down, whether we reach that in early April or mid-May.”

The lucrative elver season runs from March 22 to May 31. Last year, harvesters netted 19,000 pounds of the juvenile American eels and were paid nearly $38 million for their catch. Individual fisherman sometimes received more than $2,000 per pound.

Regardless of whether the tribe’s management plan is superior, Bennett emphasized that the Passamaquoddys are not in compliance with the law on the books.

“There were no concerns like this brought up during the legislative process, albeit it was a relatively quick process,” Bennett said, referring to the rule passed in March that limited the number of Passamaquoddy elver licenses. “It’s very clear that the tribe is defying state law.”

While the Passamaquoddy seem to have drawn a line in the sand over the elver issue, Bennett said the governor hoped a resolution could be found before the dispute escalates further.

“We hope the lines of communication remain open,” she said. “The governor has a background of trying to improve tribal relations. He would hate to see this issue jeopardize that relationship.”

BDN reporter Robert Long contributed to this report. Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at@riocarmine.

CORRECTION:

An earlier version of this story stated that Attorney General Janet Mills released a legal opinion on the jurisdiction dispute on Tuesday. While the opinion was released on Tuesday, it was dated March 12, 2013.

Democracy School in Dover-Foxcroft

This democracy school by CELDF was brought to Dover-Foxcroft by members of Stop the East-West Corridor.  There will be another school on April 5 and 6th, followed by a rights-based-ordinance workshop on April 7th.  Visit our calendar for details.

Citizens and Activists Learn About U.S. Government System

by WABI-TV5 News Desk | March 8th 2013

View Original Article.

Dover-Foxcroft - Concerned citizens and activists had a chance to learn more about the United States government system.

The Daniel Pennock Democracy School was held at the Congregational Church in Dover-Foxcroft earlier this week.

This was the third time the course has been taught in the area by members of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund.

“Folks come here to learn about the legal structure. How it’s set up and what they can to do to actually take local democracy back and actually make those decisions for themselves”
“It’s about giving them an avenue to follow to be able to get that kind of community established and in place.”

Nat Pop: “So were going actually move now and take a look at the constitution of the United States of America.”

Participant Matthew Newman was paying close attention throughout the session.

“I came here specifically to learn how to write legislation or ordinances for towns along the route so that they can self govern”

In particular, he is concerned with the East West Corridor proposal.

“we should have the right as the community to to say as a community that we don’t want this”

But not everyone is here for the same reason as Matthew,

“We’ve had elected officials folks from all different political backgrounds. Folks come to this school when they either would like to say no to something coming into their community that they don’t want to see that’s going to harm…Or they would actually like to implement a positive policy ”
“I very rarely know what political leanings the people who participate in these democracy schools are. I seldom ask and I seldom find out. It’s really about those members of the communities who see that they perhaps are somehow being restricted from really obtaining the goals they have for their children or their grandchildren”

Caitlin Burchill. WABI TV 5 News. Dover-Foxcroft.

Skagit County Suggests Swinomish Indian Tribal Community Dismisses Its [Water]Lawsuit

Sandra Spargo, Defending Water in the Skagit River Basin, Dec. 15, 2012

Please find below an article in the Skagit Valley Herald that is entitled, County suggests Swinomish dismiss its lawsuit. The Swinomish lawsuit (supported by the City of Anacortes without citizen input), if successful, could lead to all rural and agricultural landowners in the Skagit River Basin losing access to well water if they had drilled their well in 2001 or after, Ecology officials have said.

Moreover, if the Wash. State Supreme Court rules in favor of the Swinomish, Skagit River Basin owners of about 5,700 buildable lots–on which at least 400 homeowners have already built homes–could lose access to their well water for residential use.

The link of Skagit County’s letter of Dec. 14, 2012, to Chairman Brian Cladoosby and the Senate of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community is located at Letter to Swinomish & Anacortes on Dec. 14, 2012.   The link contains the letter’s three supporting documents.

To understand the viewpoint of landowners/homeowners caught up in the contentious water issue over which they have no input, visit the Just Water Alliance website at http://justwateralliance.org.

Do the citizens of Anacortes want the City to support the Swinomish lawsuit against the the Dept. of Ecology that could result in at least 400 homeowners losing their well water for residential use, possibly their homes? For a history of Anacortes’ involvement with Swinomish lawsuits, see the legal section of the City of Anacortes website at http://www.cityofanacortes.org/Legal/WaterRightsSwinomish/index.asp.

My opinion is that the City of Anacortes’ nonsupport of a compromise regarding the water issue while it promotes the sale of five million gallons of water per day for Tethys Enterprises’ proposed bottling plant makes Anacortes a lousy neighbor. Tethys would be the largest bottling plant in North America.

County suggests Swinomish dismiss its lawsuit

By Kate Martin | Posted: Saturday, December 15, 2012 1:00 am

MOUNT VERNON — Skagit County commissioners say they will rejoin a 1996 water agreement if the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community drops its lawsuit against the state Department of Ecology.

The tribe’s lawsuit is currently being reviewed by the state Supreme Court. If the tribe is successful, it could lead to all rural and agricultural landowners in the Skagit River basin losing access to well water if they drilled their well in 2001 or after, Ecology officials have said.

The letter, sent Friday, is in response to those sent last week by Anacortes and the Swinomish. Those letters in turn were in response to a November letter by commissioners, which announced the county had left the 1996 Memorandum of Agreement, which outlined a historic water agreement in the valley.

Commissioners also asserted that they had left the agreement because the Swinomish and Anacortes broke that agreement by suing Ecology to invalidate a 2006 state rule amendment that allows more water for rural and agricultural users. The original rule amendment, from 2001, provided no new water at all for rural landowners or for agricultural uses, the county states.

The commissioners’ letter outlined a path to where the county could rejoin the agreement: “You can remedy your ongoing breach by dismissing your pending lawsuit. Until that happens, Skagit County is not a party to the 1996 MOA, and has no further obligations under the 1996 MOA.”

Anacortes Mayor Dean Maxwell said he had not had a chance to read the letter, which was sent at 2 p.m. Commissioners Ken Dahlstedt and Sharon Dillon could not immediately be reached for comment.

Larry Wasserman, environmental services director for the tribe, had little to say about the commissioners’ response.

“The tribe doesn’t believe it is productive to continue to have these debates in the newspaper,” Wasserman said. “Our previous letter speaks for itself, as do the facts on our website. People can look there to find out what the real history has been.”

The commissioners’ letter also says the tribe and city’s ongoing lawsuit “completely undermines the stated purpose of the 1996 MOA” by seeking to eliminate all water for rural landowners and farmers.

The city and tribe both said in their letters that the county was using the same legal process for challenging Ecology’s rule when it sued the agency in 2003 as the tribe used to challenge the rule amendment in 2008.

Skagit County Commissioner Ron Wesen said it’s not the same.

Wesen said the 2003 disagreement the county had with Ecology involved the 2001 instream flow rule because that rule did not include any water for rural agriculture or residences requiring a well.

“What the tribe and Anacortes are saying, ‘We don’t agree with Ecology’s authority to make this change.’ If they don’t have authority to do that, then all exempt wells since 2001” are gone, Wesen said.

The Swinomish contend in their lawsuit that Ecology is using an overly broad definition of a narrowly defined exception to provide water in exceptional circumstances. The Swinomish lost an earlier round in the Thurston County Superior Court in 2010. The state Supreme Court’s ruling could be months from now.

“It’s complicated, but we’ll find out when the Supreme Court makes its ruling who is right,” Wesen said.

Wesen said the MOA and the instream flow rule don’t take into account the fact that water use changes over time. “To say this is the rule we have for 50 years and have no flexibility, it doesn’t make any sense to me.”

Skagit County Suggests Swinomish Indian Tribal Community Dismisses Its [Water]Lawsuit

Sandra Spargo, Defending Water in the Skagit River Basin, Dec. 15, 2012

Please find below an article in the Skagit Valley Herald that is entitled, County suggests Swinomish dismiss its lawsuit. The Swinomish lawsuit (supported by the City of Anacortes without citizen input), if successful, could lead to all rural and agricultural landowners in the Skagit River Basin losing access to well water if they had drilled their well in 2001 or after, Ecology officials have said.

Moreover, if the Wash. State Supreme Court rules in favor of the Swinomish, Skagit River Basin owners of about 5,700 buildable lots–on which at least 400 homeowners have already built homes–could lose access to their well water for residential use.

The link of Skagit County’s letter of Dec. 14, 2012, to Chairman Brian Cladoosby and the Senate of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community is located at Letter to Swinomish & Anacortes on Dec. 14, 2012.   The link contains the letter’s three supporting documents.

To understand the viewpoint of landowners/homeowners caught up in the contentious water issue over which they have no input, visit the Just Water Alliance website at http://justwateralliance.org.

Do the citizens of Anacortes want the City to support the Swinomish lawsuit against the the Dept. of Ecology that could result in at least 400 homeowners losing their well water for residential use, possibly their homes? For a history of Anacortes’ involvement with Swinomish lawsuits, see the legal section of the City of Anacortes website at http://www.cityofanacortes.org/Legal/WaterRightsSwinomish/index.asp.

In addition, my opinion is that without supporting compromise of the Skagit River Basin water issue while promoting the sale of five million gallons of water per day to Tethys Enterprises for a beverage bottling plant, the City of Anacortes–which represents its citizens–is a lousy neighbor. 

 

All the best,

Sandra Spargo
Anacortes, Wash.

County suggests Swinomish dismiss its lawsuit

By Kate Martin | Posted: Saturday, December 15, 2012 1:00 am

MOUNT VERNON — Skagit County commissioners say they will rejoin a 1996 water agreement if the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community drops its lawsuit against the state Department of Ecology.

The tribe’s lawsuit is currently being reviewed by the state Supreme Court. If the tribe is successful, it could lead to all rural and agricultural landowners in the Skagit River basin losing access to well water if they drilled their well in 2001 or after, Ecology officials have said.

The letter, sent Friday, is in response to those sent last week by Anacortes and the Swinomish. Those letters in turn were in response to a November letter by commissioners, which announced the county had left the 1996 Memorandum of Agreement, which outlined a historic water agreement in the valley.

Commissioners also asserted that they had left the agreement because the Swinomish and Anacortes broke that agreement by suing Ecology to invalidate a 2006 state rule amendment that allows more water for rural and agricultural users. The original rule amendment, from 2001, provided no new water at all for rural landowners or for agricultural uses, the county states.

The commissioners’ letter outlined a path to where the county could rejoin the agreement: “You can remedy your ongoing breach by dismissing your pending lawsuit. Until that happens, Skagit County is not a party to the 1996 MOA, and has no further obligations under the 1996 MOA.”

Anacortes Mayor Dean Maxwell said he had not had a chance to read the letter, which was sent at 2 p.m. Commissioners Ken Dahlstedt and Sharon Dillon could not immediately be reached for comment.

Larry Wasserman, environmental services director for the tribe, had little to say about the commissioners’ response.

“The tribe doesn’t believe it is productive to continue to have these debates in the newspaper,” Wasserman said. “Our previous letter speaks for itself, as do the facts on our website. People can look there to find out what the real history has been.”

The commissioners’ letter also says the tribe and city’s ongoing lawsuit “completely undermines the stated purpose of the 1996 MOA” by seeking to eliminate all water for rural landowners and farmers.

The city and tribe both said in their letters that the county was using the same legal process for challenging Ecology’s rule when it sued the agency in 2003 as the tribe used to challenge the rule amendment in 2008.

Skagit County Commissioner Ron Wesen said it’s not the same.

Wesen said the 2003 disagreement the county had with Ecology involved the 2001 instream flow rule because that rule did not include any water for rural agriculture or residences requiring a well.

“What the tribe and Anacortes are saying, ‘We don’t agree with Ecology’s authority to make this change.’ If they don’t have authority to do that, then all exempt wells since 2001” are gone, Wesen said.

The Swinomish contend in their lawsuit that Ecology is using an overly broad definition of a narrowly defined exception to provide water in exceptional circumstances. The Swinomish lost an earlier round in the Thurston County Superior Court in 2010. The state Supreme Court’s ruling could be months from now.

“It’s complicated, but we’ll find out when the Supreme Court makes its ruling who is right,” Wesen said.

Wesen said the MOA and the instream flow rule don’t take into account the fact that water use changes over time. “To say this is the rule we have for 50 years and have no flexibility, it doesn’t make any sense to me.”

Skagit County Suggests Swinomish Indian Tribal Community Dismisses Its [Water]Lawsuit

Sandra Spargo, Defending Water in the Skagit River Basin, Dec. 15, 2012

Please find below an article in the Skagit Valley Herald that is entitled, County suggests Swinomish dismiss its lawsuit. The Swinomish lawsuit (supported by the City of Anacortes without citizen input), if successful, could lead to all rural and agricultural landowners in the Skagit River Basin losing access to well water if they had drilled their well in 2001 or after, Ecology officials have said.

Moreover, if the Wash. State Supreme Court rules in favor of the Swinomish, Skagit River Basin owners of about 5,700 buildable lots–on which at least 400 homeowners have already built homes–could lose access to their well water for residential use.

The link of Skagit County’s letter of Dec. 14, 2012, to Chairman Brian Cladoosby and the Senate of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community is located at Letter to Swinomish & Anacortes on Dec. 14, 2012.   The link contains the letter’s three supporting documents.

To understand the viewpoint of landowners/homeowners caught up in the contentious water issue over which they have no input, visit the Just Water Alliance website at http://justwateralliance.org.

Do the citizens of Anacortes want the City to support the Swinomish lawsuit against the the Dept. of Ecology that could result in at least 400 homeowners losing their well water for residential use, possibly their homes? For a history of Anacortes’ involvement with Swinomish lawsuits, see the legal section of the City of Anacortes website at http://www.cityofanacortes.org/Legal/WaterRightsSwinomish/index.asp.

In addition, my opinion is that without supporting compromise of the Skagit River Basin water issue while promoting the sale of five million gallons of water per day to Tethys Enterprises for a beverage bottling plant, the City of Anacortes–which represents its citizens–is a lousy neighbor. 

 

All the best,

Sandra Spargo
Anacortes, Wash.

County suggests Swinomish dismiss its lawsuit

By Kate Martin | Posted: Saturday, December 15, 2012 1:00 am

MOUNT VERNON — Skagit County commissioners say they will rejoin a 1996 water agreement if the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community drops its lawsuit against the state Department of Ecology.

The tribe’s lawsuit is currently being reviewed by the state Supreme Court. If the tribe is successful, it could lead to all rural and agricultural landowners in the Skagit River basin losing access to well water if they drilled their well in 2001 or after, Ecology officials have said.

The letter, sent Friday, is in response to those sent last week by Anacortes and the Swinomish. Those letters in turn were in response to a November letter by commissioners, which announced the county had left the 1996 Memorandum of Agreement, which outlined a historic water agreement in the valley.

Commissioners also asserted that they had left the agreement because the Swinomish and Anacortes broke that agreement by suing Ecology to invalidate a 2006 state rule amendment that allows more water for rural and agricultural users. The original rule amendment, from 2001, provided no new water at all for rural landowners or for agricultural uses, the county states.

The commissioners’ letter outlined a path to where the county could rejoin the agreement: “You can remedy your ongoing breach by dismissing your pending lawsuit. Until that happens, Skagit County is not a party to the 1996 MOA, and has no further obligations under the 1996 MOA.”

Anacortes Mayor Dean Maxwell said he had not had a chance to read the letter, which was sent at 2 p.m. Commissioners Ken Dahlstedt and Sharon Dillon could not immediately be reached for comment.

Larry Wasserman, environmental services director for the tribe, had little to say about the commissioners’ response.

“The tribe doesn’t believe it is productive to continue to have these debates in the newspaper,” Wasserman said. “Our previous letter speaks for itself, as do the facts on our website. People can look there to find out what the real history has been.”

The commissioners’ letter also says the tribe and city’s ongoing lawsuit “completely undermines the stated purpose of the 1996 MOA” by seeking to eliminate all water for rural landowners and farmers.

The city and tribe both said in their letters that the county was using the same legal process for challenging Ecology’s rule when it sued the agency in 2003 as the tribe used to challenge the rule amendment in 2008.

Skagit County Commissioner Ron Wesen said it’s not the same.

Wesen said the 2003 disagreement the county had with Ecology involved the 2001 instream flow rule because that rule did not include any water for rural agriculture or residences requiring a well.

“What the tribe and Anacortes are saying, ‘We don’t agree with Ecology’s authority to make this change.’ If they don’t have authority to do that, then all exempt wells since 2001” are gone, Wesen said.

The Swinomish contend in their lawsuit that Ecology is using an overly broad definition of a narrowly defined exception to provide water in exceptional circumstances. The Swinomish lost an earlier round in the Thurston County Superior Court in 2010. The state Supreme Court’s ruling could be months from now.

“It’s complicated, but we’ll find out when the Supreme Court makes its ruling who is right,” Wesen said.

Wesen said the MOA and the instream flow rule don’t take into account the fact that water use changes over time. “To say this is the rule we have for 50 years and have no flexibility, it doesn’t make any sense to me.”