Citizens are concerned with what continued development means for the health of the Snoqualmie River. Three forks of the river converge north of the city. Ashley Hiruko/file photo

Citizens are concerned with what continued development means for the health of the Snoqualmie River. Three forks of the river converge north of the city. Ashley Hiruko/file photo

Appeal challenges North Bend’s water system plan

Friends of the Snoqualmie River and Trail have filed an appeal against the city’s plan.

A conservation nonprofit has filed an appeal of the North Bend water system plan, which was recently approved by Washington state and King County.

The appeal was filed in King county Superior Court by Friends of the Snoqualmie Valley Trail and River against the city of North Bend and the Washington state Department of Health. The city’s water system plan outlines how it plans to deliver water to customers over the next five years, and includes two new parcels in its service area which are expected to see significant development.

The appeal asks the court to impose a stay on the implementation of the plan until the court can make a decision; vacate and set aside the Department of Health’s approval; toss out the city’s determination that the plan will not have a significant impact; and order a moratorium on development in North Bend until a new water system plan is approved that includes backup mitigation water.

In 1999, it was discovered that North Bend had been taking too much water from its well and entered a decade-long building moratorium. In 2009 it’s new and much larger Centennial Well came online. However, since the water used by the well comes from the same groundwater which feeds the Snoqualmie River, the city was required to find two backup sources of water to pump back into the river during hot, dry summer months when river levels reached certain low points.

Salmon in the Snoqualmie River — which is a tributary to the Snohomish River — need fresh and cool water to survive. All across Washington state, salmon populations are in trouble as their numbers continue to drop.

Jean Buckner, president of Friends of the Snoqualmie Valley Trail and River, said she was concerned about the availability of drinking water and salmon habitat.

“Water to fish is like oxygen to people,” she said.

North Bend was able to find one source of mitigation, from Seattle Public Utilities’ Hobo Springs. But this source can be unreliable during dry years. In the dry summer of 2015, North Bend wasn’t able to fully mitigate water use from Centennial Well, violating its permit. A backup water mitigation source could ensure that wouldn’t happen again.

The city has been in negotiations for 14 years with the neighboring Sallal Water Association to come to a deal where the water association would provide the city mitigation water, and the city would supply water to the association to allow them to grow. The lawsuit also challenges this, stating that Sallal’s water right currently only authorizes water use to serve customers in its area, not for water mitigation.

It also states that North Bend is expecting a 20% increase in residential units by 2025 with no assurance that additional water mitigation will be found in that time.

The Metropolitan King County Council approved North Bend’s water system plan in January with a 7-2 vote. Council members Rod Dembowski and Dave Upthegrove voted against approval. In March, the plan was approved by the state Department of Health. The plan also drew concern from the Tulalip and Snoqualmie Tribes.

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