By Marcy Stamper
Water managers and irrigators are exploring a pilot project that would raise water levels in Big and Little Twin Lakes and donate part of a water right to increase flows in the Methow River.
If the project proved successful, it could allow new out-of-stream uses from October through March when water isn’t used for irrigation. Those uses could potentially include new year-round water rights for municipal supply, according to a fact sheet prepared by George Schneider, a consultant on the Wolf Creek/Twin Lakes storage project.
The project would use an automated system to control water levels, eliminating the need for spilling 200 acre-feet of water under current manual operations.
The proposed pilot project comes after nearly 20 years of research into ways to restore lake levels in the Twin Lakes and conserve water.
The proponents believe the project would have environmental benefits, including restoring the levels of the Twin Lakes and their aquifer, restoring trout fishing in the lakes, and adding water to the Methow River during low flows.
Even if the pilot gets a go-ahead, proponents would have to develop a monitoring program, a means for treating the water, obtain permits and easements, and construct a pipeline extension and treatment facility. They would also have to apply for a temporary water-right donation from the state Department of Ecology.
The pilot would help hydrologists to measure the changes in ground- and surface water, allowing them to fine-tune their computer models.
Developing new opportunities for water storage is a priority identified by the Methow Watershed Council. The council received a grant from Ecology to study the feasibility of water storage in Wolf Creek and Twin Lakes. The Twin Lakes Aquifer Coalition has also been looking into storage options since the early 2000s. The Wolf Creek Reclamation District is another project partner.
The pilot project would last two to four years. Results would be used to refine assumptions about lake and aquifer storage and flows to the river. There is no certainty that the pilot would result in a permanent project.
There is an informational public meeting about the Wolf Creek/Twin Lakes storage project on Thursday, May 31, at 6 p.m. at the Winthrop Barn. For more information, contact Schneider at email@example.com.
Water-study areas on county agenda
The Okanogan County commissioners are holding a hearing about a proposal to freeze development in some areas so the county can study water adequacy. The proposal would curtail land uses that rely on wells for drinking water. The ordinance gives the commissioners the authority to create a water-study area but doesn’t specify where the areas would be.
The hearing is Tuesday (May 29) at 2 p.m. in the commissioners’ auditorium in Okanogan. People can submit input at the hearing or in advance to Laleña Johns at firstname.lastname@example.org.