A meeting to discuss the current drought situation on the West End was held Wednesday, Aug. 5, at the Rainforest Arts Center in downtown Forks. The good news about the drought is that there is really no good news.
Representatives from the city and other entities each gave a report on their situation and their concerns.
Mayor Bryon Monohon welcomed the small group of citizens that came to learn more. The mayor said we are facing a challenging time and that 60 percent of Washington is in drought conditions. Although he added that city wells have been lower than they are at this time, it was later in the dry season when the low water levels appeared. “We are currently at late August levels,” Monohon said.
Mike Gallagher from the Department of Ecology gave the most in-depth presentation. He said 2009 was the last time the entire state was declared to be in a drought. He focused on the lack of snow pack and the higher freezing level of around 7,000 feet to be a factor and shared photos of normal snow years compared to this year.
He said that other areas of the state, such as the Yakima Valley, have half the water available that they usually have and have lost crops as a result. He added as these weather conditions continue fish strandings will become a major problem.
Gallagher said we are heading into uncharted territory and urged citizens to consult with the Clallam County Conservation District to learn tips for conserving water.
He also spoke of being fire-wise as far as how homes are landscaped. With the dry weather fire danger has increased.
Matt Heil with the Sol Duc Hatchery said that that so far its brood stock is healthy, but low flows and warmer water are extremely bad for fish health, causing disease and stress.
Heil said fish migration is going to be a tough situation and WDFW is working with the tribes to take a pro-active approach and they have already done some diversion work to help fish passage. “This current drought situation could affect fish returns for years to come.”
Frank Geyer with Quileute Natural Resources spoke about enforcement of fishing laws being a concern. “We knew early in the year that these drought conditions were going to be a concern,” he said.
“QNR has been monitoring the situation, fish getting to the spawning grounds is a big concern, we may end up digging trenches if we have to.”
Dave Zellar, City of Forks Public Works director, said, “In 29 years I have never seen water this low this early.”
“Right now we are asking for voluntary conservation. We need three weeks of solid rain to get the wells back up to normal levels.”
As of now the city is checking the levels of the wells each Friday.
Rod Fleck, City of Forks attorney/planner, said, ”Conservation is buying us time, school is starting early, the school is one of our biggest water users.”
“If stricter conservation methods are needed, the Forks Police Department would enforce the rules. For those on wells experiencing dry wells there are programs through the USDA with no or low interest loans for drought situations,” Fleck added.
“If we continue in this pattern, in October we are really going to feel the impact.”