Department of Ecology News Release - November 19, 2019

Comments sought on proposed amendments to instream flow rule in Nooksack watershed

Nooksack River in northwest Washington (Credit: Washington Dept. of Ecology)


The Washington Department of Ecology is seeking public input on a proposed rule amendment that would establish a water use conservation standard for some new homes in parts of Whatcom County and small areas in Skagit County.

New homes that rely on new domestic permit-exempt groundwater withdrawals in the Nooksack Water Resource Inventory Area (WRIA) 1, will be affected. The proposed amendments will also add flexibility to enable projects that retime high flows and benefit streams during low-flow periods, and other technical updates.

Ecology is proposing to amend the rule to meet the requirements of the streamflow restoration law passed by the Legislature in 2018, which helps restore streamflows to levels necessary to support robust, healthy, and sustainable salmon populations while providing water for homes in rural Washington. The law was in response to the Hirst decision. The public has an opportunity to provide comments on the proposed rule amendment and supporting documents through Jan. 17, 2020.

“We are proposing these changes so that new domestic permit-exempt well users will have more certainty,” said Ria Berns, manager of Ecology’s Water Resources program for the Northwest Region. “We are also proposing a set of projects to offset the impacts on streams from new homes built between 2018 and 2038.”

Fish and streams will benefit from the proposed changes in conservation standards, retiming of high flows, and offsetting new water use to achieve a net ecological benefit.

Comments on the proposed changes must be received by Jan. 17, 2020, and can be submitted several ways:

  • Online
  • In person at public hearings:
    • Jan. 7 – 6 p.m. at Fairhaven Middle School, 110 Parkridge Road, Bellingham
    • Jan. 8 – 3 p.m. at Lynden Middle School, 8750 Line Road, Lynden
    • Jan. 9 – 10 a.m. Ecology’s Padilla Bay Reserve, 10441 Bayview Edison Road, Mount Vernon
  • Mail: Annie Sawabini, Water Resources Program, PO Box 47600, Olympia, WA 98504-7600

The proposed rule was developed based on the feedback Ecology received earlier this year on the preliminary draft of the rule. It also builds on the work developed in 2018-2019 through the WRIA 1 Streamflow Restoration planning process. The agency will use the feedback received on the proposed rule to inform the final rule.

As part of the supporting documents, Ecology has also issued a Determination of Non-significance under the State Environmental Policy Act for the rule amendment.

Find more information on the proposed rule amendment on Ecology’s website.


Contact information

Keeley Belva
Water Resources Communications
360-407-7139 or 360-480-5722