Olympia – Seattle City Light and Washington Department of Ecology have reached a landmark agreement that will provide water to more than 400 homes in Skagit and Snohomish counties and additional water for fish in the Skagit River.
This new water supply will remove legal uncertainty for homes affected by a 2013 state Supreme Court ruling. This water purchase upholds a commitment made by Ecology to find solutions for Skagit Basin landowners most affected by the ruling. This agreement also provides for water to a limited number of new homes along the Skagit River.
Through this agreement, Ecology will purchase water near Newhalem, in the upper Skagit River watershed. The water purchased is tied to a senior water right owned by Seattle City Light and used at their Skagit River Hydroelectric Project.
“I applaud Seattle City Light and area tribes for paving the way to make this innovative water agreement become a reality,” said Ecology Director Maia Bellon. “This approach provides needed relief to Skagit landowners and is part of our ongoing efforts to develop water solutions throughout the Skagit watershed. We look forward to continued collaboration with Skagit County and other partners on this important project.”
"Seattle City Light is 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 water release will benefit both local communities along the river as well as the fish in the river. We believe that this collaborative approach can serve as a model for settling future natural resource issues."
This purchase agreement is the first step in developing a water mitigation program, which is anticipated to begin operating next year. In 2018, Ecology and Skagit County established the Big Lake Water Bank, which allowed new home development within the Nookachamps sub-basin. In 2017, Ecology announced a water availability zone in the Bayview area, where new water uses would not impact the Skagit River.
Department of Ecology News Release - May 14, 2019