City is forward-thinking about water

Letter to the Editor.

This letter is in response to comments made by Mr. Bill

Weber [Dec. 21, 2000] concerning land-use and planning

issues and North Bend’s water problem. Mr. Weber’s letter contained

several questions and requires some clarification from

the city of North Bend’s perspective.

Mr. Weber’s point seems to be that those in local government have

control over the water supply and, therefore, control over local

development. The water supply in the state of Washington is viewed

as a state resource and is controlled by state law through rules

enforced by the Department of Ecology. The state issued a

certificate of water rights in 1965 to North Bend. That certificate allowed

an annual withdrawal of no more than 336 acre/feet of water

per year from the spring source at Mount Si.

Past errors in interpreting the city’s water rights were

embodied in the 1985 and 1993 water comprehensive plans prepared

by consultants, reviewed and approved by the county and the

state and adopted by the city during that time frame. In 1998,

consulting engineers who were assisting the city on a revision of the

water comprehensive plan made the discovery that the city was

using as much 48 percent more water on an annual basis than

allowed under the 1965 water-right certificate, and that this overuse

had started in 1993. The previous water systems plans developed

in 1985 and 1993 had analyzed the city’s daily

water-use totals, but not the city’s annual

water-use totals.

As a result of this water overuse, the City Council has

authorized a moratorium on any development in the city that requires

a certificate of water availability. Contrary to Mr. Weber’s letter,

the current moratorium is not a tool to stop growth. The

moratorium is a responsible attempt by the City Council to keep the city

from compliance orders or fines that could be issued by the

Department of Ecology or other enforcement action.

Following the first moratorium in 1998, North Bend

developed a potential agreement to purchase water from the city

of Snoqualmie. This agreement was not viewed favorably by local

officials of the Department of Ecology, who determined that

under its water right, Snoqualmie could not sell water outside of its

water service area.

Mr. Weber asserts that, “Had North Bend agreed to annex

the Uplands, it is probable that the water moratorium might not be

an issue.” Annexing the Uplands would not have included

additional water rights; therefore the city would have dug an

even deeper hole by allowing more growth to occur without

having adequate water resources to serve that new growth.

The North Bend City Council listened to the public in

the early ’90s when a petition to exclude the Uplands from the

Urban Growth Area was submitted to the city. The petition

was signed by 1,500 concerned citizens who felt the annexation

of an additional 1,000 acres was not needed to meet mandated

growth targets.

Mr. Weber indicated that North Bend is not governed

by “forward-thinking.” To date the city has already

accommodated 29 percent of the population growth we are required to

accept by the year 2014. The city of North Bend has adopted a

land-use comprehensive plan that is used as a guide to

accommodate the city’s share of population in a manner acceptable to the

community, as required by the Growth Management Act.

As stated in its introduction, “The comprehensive plan is a

reflection of the values and attitudes of the community that

developed it.” The comprehensive plan was based on a

community-inspired vision that, in part,

states, “The community of North Bend wants to preserve its rural

character, natural beauty and small-town scale.” Pretty forward

thinking, wouldn’t you say?

Phil Messina serves as City administratorfor the City

of North Bend