The Washington Department of Ecology and SC Aggregate Inc. have finalized a water right transfer and trust water right agreement that paves the way for groundwater users to purchase senior water-right shares in the Ellensburg area.
Some 166-acre-feet of water owned by SC Aggregate that once served the Reecer Creek Golf Course has been transferred into the state’s Trust Water Right Program to be made available to willing buyers through a water banking program.
“While mitigation credits are not required in the Ellensburg area, this trust water right gives residential water users and developers an opportunity to gain the security of coverage under very old water rights,” explained Ken Slattery, Ecology’s water resources program manager in Olympia.
When they acquire a senior water right, property owners add value to their real estate and protect themselves from curtailment in low water years. Those relying on permit-exempt groundwater wells put themselves at risk in a basin where water has been rationed to some users four out of the past 10 years.
To see the description of the Lower Kittitas Water Exchange, the SC Aggregate-Ecology trust water agreement, and the Certificate of Trust Water Right, go to the Lower Kittitas Water Exchange web page.
“For the first time, landowners have the ability to plan knowing that they can now obtain an actual groundwater permit for their domestic water requirements and avoid the problems and risks associated with exempt wells,” said Steve Lathrop, a local Ellensburg attorney who represents SC Aggregate in its mitigation program.
A map describing the suitability of the SC Aggregate water right – also known as the Reecer Creek Golf Course right – to mitigate new groundwater withdrawals within the Ellensburg area can be viewed at Ecology’s website.
In addition to the information on Ecology’s website, information on the SC Aggregate mitigation program is available from Steve Lathrop by phone at (509) 925-5622 and by email.
The transfer of existing water rights to new uses is one tool being encouraged to address water concerns in the greater Yakima River Basin. In addition, the region is exploring additional storage, infrastructure improvements and conservation as other mechanisms for improving the overall water supply through the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project (YRBWEP) -3 Workgroup.
[see Washington Department of Ecology, May 24]