Snoqualmie Valley Watershed Improvement District holds first of its kind water auction for 2017 irrigation

Some farmers in the Snoqualmie Valley have long been able to draw water from the river to irrigate their fields, legally, through their ownership of water rights. This spring and summer, that irrigation ability will be extended to include a half-dozen other farmers, who bid in a unique water lease auction last month.

The Snoqualmie Valley Watershed Improvement District (SVWID), formed in 2015, held its first water lease auction in January, and announced the results last week.

This wasn’t a typical auction, though, explained SVWID Executive Director Cynthia Krass, because the intent was to encourage participation and engagement. Both sellers, who owned water rights and were willing to lease all or part of them to a water bank established by the irrigation district, and the buyers, farmers who wanted access to water for irrigation this season, submitted sealed bids for the process.

“There are no other agricultural water banks that we know of in the state,” said Krass, and the auction process was new to the district, as well.

The two sellers had to meet specific requirements; their ownership of water rights gives them authority to draw only specific amounts of water from the Snoqualmie River, downstream of Snoqualmie Falls. They cannot use more water than is allowed by their water rights, either for themselves or to lease to another farmer, so they each had to ensure that they could provide the amount of water they were offering.

However, “All of the water rights we’re dealing with now are senior to the instream flow rule,” Krass told a group of interested bidders at a public information meeting in Carnation in January. A senior water right takes precedence over junior water rights, so a senior-right owner can withdraw his or her entire allowed amount of water from the river, regardless of demands from other water rights holders, as well as any instream flow requirements established by the Department of Ecology.

The district also holds a senior water right, from Tokul Creek, above Snoqualmie Falls, and offered to lease a portion of this water right in the auction.

The two other sellers and six buyers all submitted their sealed bids, per the acre-foot of water, Jan. 17.

The bids were opened Jan. 19, then analyzed for location matches. These water leases require Department of Ecology approval to transfer water from seller’s sites to buyers’ land, so location matches were important.

Next, bids and offers were analyzed and matched, in a market clearing process to determine a mean market price, the price that would be set for all leases.

The market clearing process matched bid and offer prices in descending order, starting with the highest bid matching the lowest offer that was also a location match. The market price was set as the midpoint between the last bid and offer that matched under this procedure.

“While this process is somewhat complex, this auction was designed differently than a traditional ‘highest-bid-takes-all’ approach to encourage participation and engagement,” Krass said.

The market price for all leases in 2017 was calculated as $125 per acre-foot of water, the amount of water need to cover one acre of land to one foot deep.

Based on preliminary analyses and pending Department of Ecology approval, the district is optimistic about being to provide water for irrigation to all the farmers who bid for water, Krass said.

Most of the Tokul Creek water right, 93 percent, will remain instream in 2017 for ecological benefit.

For more information about the Snoqualmie Valley Watershed Improvement District, visit www.svwid.com.

More in News

Washington State Capitol. Photo by Nicole Jennings
Washington may soon teach sexual abuse prevention in schools

The State Legislature is considering training aimed at improving child safety.

Permit approved for disabled adult home in Snoqualmie; public can comment through March 2

The Snoqualmie Hearing Examiner recently approved a conditional use permit for a… Continue reading

Blotter: Man who slept in shower stall creates a commotion; Unruly bar patron exposes himself

Police and fire agencies in the Snoqualmie Valley responded to the following… Continue reading

Stilson Avenue to close Feb. 20-24 for pavement repairs

Stilson Avenue in North Bend (432nd Avenue SE) will be closed Tuesday,… Continue reading

SVSD voters support tax increase in early returns

Snoqualmie Valley School District residents were rejecting two school funding issues in… Continue reading

Snoqualmie Police to host pepper spray defense class for RAD graduates

The Snoqualmie Police Department is now offering self-defense classes with pepper spray… Continue reading

NB Planning Commission reviews recommended changes to city’s tree code Feb. 22

The city of North Bend is proposing amendments to its tree regulations,… Continue reading

Maloney Grove Avenue to close for subdivision work on three separate days, starting Thursday

Partial closures of Maloney Grove Avenue in North Bend can be expected… Continue reading

Kayaker drowned Saturday on Snoqualmie River’s North Fork

A Snohomish County firefighter drowned while kayaking in the Snoqualmie River near… Continue reading

Most Read