Environment | Opinion

Billy Frank: Squaxin Island Tribe looking to preserve water

"A basic rule of natural resources management today is that you don’t take too much of something unless you have a good idea how much there is to begin with. That was the point behind the Squaxin Island Tribe’s effort to protect water resources in the Johns Creek watershed, and a Thurston County Superior Court judge recently agreed.

The tribe had petitioned the state twice in two years to stop water withdrawals in the Johns Creek basin until scientific information could be gathered to determine impacts from the multiplying wells. The state said it just couldn’t do that. Budget problems, they said.

For as much as we don’t know about how much water is available in the small Johns Creek watershed, there’s no doubt that the creek is mostly fed by groundwater in the basin. Flows in Johns Creek have dropped steadily since records started being kept in the 1950s, and every year the shortage has increased.

Since 1984 when its stream flow was formally protected, more than 200 “permit-exempt” wells have been drilled close to Johns Creek. State law allows these wells to be drilled without a permit and pump up to 5,000 gallons of water a day. Decades ago this type of well provided homeowners and others with easier access to water. Today those wells number in the thousands in western Washington and more are being drilled all the time."

Get the Story:
Billy Frank Jr: Before You Take Too Much Water, Make Sure It’s There (Indian Country Today 5/16)

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