Squaxin Island Tribe seeks more science on Johns Creek

SHELTON (April 11, 2008) – The Squaxin Island Tribe has filed a petition with the state Department of Ecology (DOE) to stop all new water withdrawals, including permit-exempt wells, in the Johns Creek watershed near Shelton.

“Summer flows on Johns Creek are already below the minimum required by state rules to protect salmon spawning” said Jim Peters, chairman of the Squaxin Island Tribe. “The responsible thing to do is for everyone to stop new water withdrawals and figure out what’s really going on with the creek, especially because the impact of over 270 exempt wells drilled in the last 25 years has never been quantified.”

The tribe is filing the notice under a provision of state law that closes a watershed from future withdrawals if not enough information is available to justify those withdrawals. Development of a groundwater model as proposed by the Tribe and the city of Shelton would have answered many of the questions surrounding Johns Creek, but funding for the model was denied by DOE.

Some winter rainfall seeps into the ground and provides both drinking water and summer stream flow for Johns Creek. Because wells draw water from the same aquifers that discharge into Johns Creek, when these wells are pumped there is less water in nearby streams for fish. “A groundwater model could have been used to identify where and when water can be taken from wells that would have little or no impact on stream flows,” said John Konovsky, environmental program manager for the Tribe.

Johns Creek is home to a small and fragile population of summer chum that is being harmed by increasingly low water levels. “If summer flows were just at the minimum required, we would see 20 percent more spawning habitat available for summer chum salmon,” Konovsky said.

The approximately 13,000 acre watershed northeast of Shelton has been the center of recent economic and residential development efforts. “We simply don’t know how much water is available for people to use near Johns Creek,” Peters said. “You can’t just assume there is enough there for development to happen, you have to do the science first.”
The Tribe expects the Department of Ecology to respond to the petition within the 60-day period required by law. “We’re watching Johns Creek wither away because water is a finite resource,” Peters said. “We need to make sure we know what we’re doing.”


For more information, contact: Jeff Dickison, Assistant Natural Resources Director, Squaxin Island Tribe, (360) 432-3815. John Konovsky, Environmental Program Manager, Squaxin Island Tribe, (360) 432-3804. Emmett O’Connell, Information Officer, NWIFC, (360) 528-4304.

PDF file of the petition sent to Department of Ecology
PDF file of a map of the area in question.