Thu., April 2, 2015
Thirsty Wenatchee eyes water in Alpine Lakes Wilderness
PUBLIC LANDS -- Dam and diversion projects or expansions are being proposed on lakes within Washington's Alpine Lakes Wilderness up to satisfy Chelan County water needs and/or desires.
The Department of Ecology's Office of the Columbia River is funding and sponsoring proposals to increase water diversions from seven lakes in the Enchantment Lakes region of the Cascades wilderness that flow into Icicle Creek: Colchuck, Eightmile, Upper and Lower Snow, Nada, Upper Klonaqua and Square Lakes.
Rachael Paschal Osborn, a public interest water lawyer in Spokane, has posted a four-part series of articles describing the Alpine Lakes proposed projects on her Naiads website:
- Part 1 describes the "Genesis of the Icicle Work Group.
- Part 2 discusses the Eightmile Lake Restoration-Storage project.
- Part 3 discusses the Upper Klonaqua Lake pipeline proposal.
- Part 4 discusses the Alpine Lakes Automation-Storage project.
"In 2012, the Office of the Columbia River funded Chelan County to form a "collaborative work group" to address Icicle Creek water quantity issues," she says. "Ostensibly the purpose of the Icicle Work Group (IWG) is to solve instream flow problems in Icicle Creek while obtaining more water from the system for out-of-stream uses."
The Office of the Columbia River has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and is seeking another $3.5 million to continue the IWG work into the 2015-17 biennium and wind through a dizzying process of state and federal laws, including the Wilderness Act.
"The Icicle-Peshastin Irrigation District holds grandfathered easements and water rights that allow it to store and divert water from the Alpine Lakes," Osborn says. "Leavenworth Fish Hatchery (owned by US Bureau of Reclamation, operated by US Fish & Wildlife Service) also holds a water right for Snow & Nada Lakes. The scope of these interests is a matter for evaluation as well."
Osborn said wilderness advocates should weigh in on the matter, since options are available that would be less invasive to one of Washington's most prized wilderness areas.
"Rather than divert additional water from the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, water solutions for Icicle Creek could be found through more sustainable approaches," she said. For example, "Approximately 117 cfs of new instream flow could be added to a 6-mile length of Icicle Creek (downstream of Snow Creek) by moving the Icicle Peshastin Irrigation District's take-out point downstream to the Wenatchee River.
"Water conservation opportunities are substantial."
- For more information about the Icicle Work Group, see the Chelan County website, and read the Naiads series, Parts 1-4 (links above).