In the recently released State of Our Watersheds report, the Suquamish Tribe reported a 300 percent increase in exempt wells on the eastern portion of the Kitsap peninsula. The animation below illustrates this drastic impact to salmon:
Between 1980 and 2010, there was an increase of about 300% in the number of permit-exempt wells in East Kitsap focus area. In the Port Madison Water Resource Area (PMWRA), the increase was over 337%. Exempt wells are not subject to the same restrictions and regulations as other water diversions in Washington State. They contribute to the overappropriation of groundwater and to the decline of aquifers. The cumulative effect of exempt wells reduces water levels in wetlands, springs, streams and rivers. Local zoning and development ordinances rarely provide sufficient protection for groundwater and its critical contribution to summer base flows.
In Chico Creek, minimum instream flows were not met from June to September in the 13 years for which data was available. Grover’s Creek in the PMWRA appears to be similarly impacted (Suquamish Tribe’s John O’Leary, personal communication). Many studies in the Pacific Northwest have documented the relationship between low stream flow and poor salmonid survival (Quinn and Peterson, 1996; Mathews and Olson, 1980; Hartman and Scrivener, 1990).