LEAVENWORTH, Wash. — A study group is seeking public comment on $65 million to $85 million in proposed improvements to the Icicle Creek watershed, near Leavenworth, to boost water supply for fish, farmers and residents.
The Icicle Creek Work Group — made up of local, state and federal agencies, tribes, and environmental, agricultural and residential interests — worked for three years to propose a strategy and projects to boost water supply.
The watershed includes 212 square miles west of town and mostly in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and Wenatchee National Forest.
Total projects would gain 26,800 acre-feet of water. The average base flow of the creek in a normal year is 63 cubic feet per second. That would increase by 77 cfs for habitat and instream flows, 4 cfs for agriculture and 5 cfs for domestic use. In drought years, 20 cfs is the base flow, 47 cfs would be added for habitat and instream flows, 4 cfs for agriculture and 5 cfs for domestic.
Projects include $20 million to conserve and improve water quality with well improvements and recirculation tanks at Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery, automating and optimizing releases from six alpine lakes, and restoring Eight-mile Lake reservoir from 1,375 acre-feet to its permitted 2,500 acre-feet.
Further work includes conserving water by piping and lining of Cascade Orchard Irrigation Company and Icicle-Peshastin Irrigation District canals and pipe replacement and metering and technical assistance for domestic use.
An Icicle Water Bank would be created with an initial acquisition of 1,000 acre-feet at $3,000 per acre-foot for interruptible ag users during times of shortage. Fish and wildlife habitat would be improved.
The irrigation districts serve more than 4,000 acres of pear orchards in the upper ends of the Wenatchee Valley, regarded by many as the foremost pear region in the world.
“Icicle Creek needs more reliable water flows for fish recovery to be successful, especially in years of drought,” said Jim Brown, work group chairman and regional director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“An important goal is to develop water projects that meet multiple community values and achieve a real win for fish and people,” Brown said.
Chelan County and the Washington Department of Ecology’s Office of Columbia River are jointly overseeing preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement to evaluate potential impacts of the strategy.
Details of the projects and strategy and a State Environmental Policy Act checklist are available at www.co.chelan.wa.us. An open house for public comment will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. April 20 at the Leavenworth Fire Hall.
Written comments will be accepted until May 11 and may be addressed to: Mike Kaputa, director, Chelan County Natural Resources Dept., 411 Washington St., Suite 201, Wenatchee, Wash., 98801, or emailed to: Mike.Kaputa@CO.Chelan.WA.US.