As part of the Washington Department of Ecology’s commitment to find water solutions for Skagit Basin landowners, water is now available for some landowners in Skagit and Snohomish counties affected by a 2013 state Supreme Court ruling. This new continuous release of water into the Skagit River also provides additional water for fish in the river.
The Skagit River Basin Mitigation program, established by Ecology, provides a legal right to water for approximately 340 affected landowners who did not have a legal water source for nearly seven years. It also provides water for limited new domestic uses in Skagit County.
“This program would not be possible without the work of our partners in Skagit County,” said Ria Berns, manager of Ecology’s Water Resources program for the Northwest Region. “Simply put, this program is a win-win that helps landowners and protects the river for years to come.”
To establish this mitigation program, in 2019 Ecology agreed to purchase water from Seattle City Light near Newhalem, in the upper Skagit River watershed. The purchased water is tied to a senior water right owned by Seattle City Light and used at their Skagit River Hydroelectric Project.
“As a watershed partner, Seattle City Light was pleased to work with the Department of Ecology and the tribes to help resolve a significant water issue in the Skagit Watershed," said Debra Smith, Seattle City Light general manager and CEO. “This solution helps to meet the needs of local communities along the river while supporting fish, which aligns with our environmental stewardship priorities.”
Ecology will work directly with affected landowners to provide documentation that records their legal water source and partner with Skagit County to provide documentation needed for county building permits.
The program is part of Ecology’s ongoing water supply work in the Skagit basin. Ecology continues to look for opportunities to implement long-term water solutions in the Skagit River Basin through collaboration with watershed partners.