As part of the Washington Department of Ecology’s commitment to find water solutions for Skagit Basin landowners, water is now available for additional eligible landowners in Skagit County. Until now, limited legal rights to water were available due to a 2013 state Supreme Court ruling.
The Skagit River Basin Mitigation Program, established by Ecology, creates a process for landowners along an area of the main stem of the Skagit River seeking water for new domestic uses to apply to Ecology for approval. In March 2020, Ecology provided a legal right to water for several hundred landowners who were using water before the 2013 state Supreme Court ruling.
“This program is doing what we intended – getting water to landowners and protecting the river for years to come,” said Ria Berns, manager of Ecology’s Water Resources program for the Northwest Region. “Ecology is excited to bring this to the community.”
Ecology will accept applications from landowners in the mitigation zone to provide documentation that records their legal water source, which is needed to apply for county building permits. There is no closing date for the applications. To see if you are in the mitigation zone, visit the Skagit River Basin Program webpage.
“We are grateful that some of our upriver property owners now have an option to get water for their property,” said Skagit County Commissioner Ron Wesen.
The mitigation water is free to eligible new and existing water users. Ecology purchased this mitigation water with a legislative appropriation that directed Ecology to find water supply solutions in the Skagit watershed. Ecology purchased the 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. This continuous release of water into the Skagit River also provides additional water for fish in the river.
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 more parts of the Skagit River Basin through collaboration with watershed partners.