North Bend’s water system plan was approved by the Washington state Department of Health on March 4. The plan allows the city to provide water service for two large properties that could house a 212-unit apartment complex and the new state National Guard armory.
The nearly 1,800-page document outlines the way the city plans to deliver drinking water to current and future customers. While water system plans are normally approved for 10 years, the city requested a five-year term to alleviate concerns about its water rights. North Bend, as a condition of its large Centennial Well, must find a backup mitigation water source.
“The city has and will continue to engage with local Tribes about meeting its water obligations for the health of the Snoqualmie River and surrounding environment while ensuring the delivery of safe, potable water,” according to a press release from North Bend.
The plan was also approved by King County and the state Department of Ecology.
“While the approval process for this plan was long, we are pleased that we reached the right outcome,” North Bend Mayor Rob McFarland said in the press release.
The King County Metropolitan Council approved the water plan in late January in a 7-2 vote, with council members Rod Dembowski and Dave Upthegrove voting against it. Dembowski voiced concerns over whether an agreement between North Bend and the neighboring water provider the Sallal Water Association would be able to reach an agreement to meet the city’s water mitigation needs.
North Bend needs a backup mitigation water source for hot, dry summer months. As a condition of its Centennial Well permit, which came online in 2009, it needs backup sources of water so when the flows in the Snoqualmie River are low, the city can pump water into the river. Cold water with adequate river levels are essential for native salmon species, which have been struggling in recent decades to survive.
So far, the city hasn’t found a full backup mitigation source.
Sallal needs water to provide for new connections in its service area, and North Bend needs mitigation water. Discussions broke down between the two water providers last year, and the discussions have been on and off for more than a decade. At one point, North Bend was poised to fine Sallal thousands of dollars a day for threatening to not provide water usage rates, which the city argued it needs to calculate sewer bills.
Since then, the city and Sallal have seemingly mended relations and have signalled willingness to return to the negotiation table.