Still waiting

December 7, 2022

The draft EIS on a new Eightmile Lake dam is still not out.

Despite repeated estimates on when the environmental impact statement would be released, the state Department of Ecology says it is still not ready.

Informed sources claim the delay is because consultations with the tribes and the Forest Service have taken longer than expected. An equally plausible explanation is that Ecology has been struggling over how to address the question of relinquishment of water rights by the Icicle Peshastin Irrigation District, which affects how the dam would be designed to accommodate a given reservoir level and draw-down.

The role of the Forest Service in this process is not clear. We do not know if consultations with it are intended to eliminate differences over what the Wilderness Act allows. Eightmile Lake is within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. The irrigation district has grandfathered water rights, but the extent of those rights is hotly disputed. So far, Ecology has avoided any decision on how much the irrigation district has relinquished those rights through extended non-use.

Ecology has an interest in finding little or no relinquishment because it could use that extra water to settle a long-standing dispute with the City of Leavenworth.