KPUD taps into deluge of new well options

KINGSTON — While citizens and federal agencies have been testing the hot pot of water rights issues lately, the Kitsap Public Utility District is calmer than the waters of Apple Tree Cove on a quiet morning.

The local agency is certainly concerned about federal agencies imposing their senior rights to access more water sources but KPUD Superintendent Bob Hunter said the North End has plenty of water for everyone — it’s just a matter of properly managing its new and existing resources.

Hunter is heading up several projects to ensure KPUD’s customers will have water in the future. These plans include obtaining more water rights, bringing water from other parts of the county and resting some of the area’s existing wells.

The biggest challenge so far has been obtaining water rights. With the Suquamish Tribe’s recent public “reminder” that it — like the Navy and other federal agencies — has senior water rights over everyone else, the KPUD is working to make sure its systems are prepared for such situations.

“They can say, ‘You know what, if you pump 300 gallons a minute less out of a particular well, we would be able to get more water?’” Hunter explained about how the senior water rights work. “That’s what we’d have to do. We turn that pump off or reduce it. What that means, that maybe we’ll be over connected at that time. We may not be able to meet peak day for our customers.”

The KPUD has back-up plans in case its systems are affected by senior water rights, he added.

First, the KPUD is waiting to see if the Washington State Department of Ecology will grant the agency water rights for Kingston Well 7, which is located within the greater Kingston area. Well 7 can pump 750 gallons of water per minute and has 250 connections for new hook ups. This well alone could serve the Kingston-Hansville-Gamblewood infrastructure if no other wells were utilized, Hunter said.

Currently, the water rights to Well 7 are owned by the DOE but KPUD has hired a private firm in hopes of reaching decision on the matter. It has been waiting for more than a decade now for an answer.

“We just want a yes or no,” Hunter said.

Another plan, one that may have more immediate effects, is to bring water from a 5,000-gallon-a-minute aquifer in Seabeck to the Kingston-Gamblewood-Hansville water system.

The project is scheduled in three phases:

•Phase 1 — Install a water main from Rude Road to Sherman Hill Road along Clear Creek Road; work is slated for this fall

•Phase 2 — Install a water main from Sherman Hill Road to the Silverdale Water District along Clear Creek Road; work is slated for summer 2005

•Phase 3 — Install a water main from Pioneer Way, through either Big Valley or the Olympic Resource Management timber property, then hook into the Gamblewood system; work is slated for two to three years from now.

The project is roughly estimated to cost about $6 to $7 million.

There are two reasons for this project, Hunter said: to manage the existing resources and meet potential growth projections and to ensure customers that water will be available should federal water rights supersede those of the KPUD.

But it’s not as simple as just installing a couple water mains, Hunter said. The KPUD is also waiting to hear from the City of Poulsbo as to whether it is interested in the project, which would help accommodate its own future growth.

Poulsbo’s decision to participate depends on how large the KPUD’s pipe will be and ultimately how much the project will cost. Right now, Hunter said, the KPUD will definitely need to install a 12-inch water main along Clear Creek Road. But if the pipe size needs to be upgraded to a 16-inch water main for more flow, the price of the project may double.

“We don’t want to (upgrade the pipe) if no one needs it because certainly, we don’t want to spend that kind of money,” Hunter said.

Another reason to introduce new water to the area (through either Well 7 and/or the Seabeck aquifer) is to try and rest existing aquifers so the KPUD can monitor their health.

Wells can’t just be turned off for a few days for monitoring — they need to rest for up to six months so the KPUD can get an accurate prognosis of the aquifers’ health, Hunter said.

“If we got the water rights for Well 7, do we need additional water for the area? No, we don’t, however, we do, if we want to properly manage the resources,” he said. “It’s the same thing, eventually, you’re going to want to rest Well 7 to see how the health of it, how it’s doing.”

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