Unnamed stream could be named LeCuyer Creek for KPUD hydrologist

UPDATE, MAY 31
The name LeCuyer Creek was approved yesterday by the Washington State Committee on Geographic Names. The name change now goes to the state Board of Natural Resources, which sits as the state Board of Geographic Names. Action is normally a formality. The name, which will be recognized for state business, will be forwarded to the U.S. Board of Geographic Names, which is likely to adopt it for federal actions as well.
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The late Jim LeCuyer, who developed a system of monitoring rainfall, streamflow and groundwater levels in Kitsap County, could be memorialized next week when a stream near Kingston is officially named LeCuyer Creek.

Jim LeCuyer

The state’s Committee on Geographic Names will meet Tuesday Thursday to consider the proposed stream name in honor of LeCuyer, who died in 2012 from a blood disorder.

Jim, who joined the Kitsap Public Utility District in 1984, came to understand the water cycle on the Kitsap Peninsula perhaps better than anyone else. When Jim took the job, one of the looming questions for government officials was whether the peninsula would have enough water to serve the massive influx of people who were coming to Kitsap County.

“Jim started doing hydrological monitoring about 1991,” said Mark Morgan, KPUD’s water resources manager who proposed the name LeCuyer Creek. “What he developed became one of the best monitoring systems in the state, some say on the West Coast.”

It is Jim’s system that I use when I report on water conditions in North, Central and South Kitsap, which are widely different most of the time.

Since Kitsap has no mountain glaciers or snowpack, all the water we get falls from the sky. It then either soaks into the ground or becomes part of a stream. Jim’s ambitious goal was to account for all that water and let people know when low groundwater levels were threatening water supplies or when low streamflows were affecting salmon spawning.

For the system to work well, the data must be rigorously and consistently maintained, month after month, year after year, Mark told me. There is no room for a haphazard approach, and Jim was steadfast in his work.

Beyond that, I can personally testify that Jim was good at putting pieces of the puzzle together, using numbers to prove his point. He would sometimes call me, especially during low-water years to explain the threat to wells and the need for people to conserve water.

A stream on Miller Bay in North Kitsap would be named LeCuyer Creek under new proposal.

I would arrive at Jim’s office, and he would spread out colorful charts and graphs across the top of the table. Then he would proceed to explain, calmly and patiently, the technical details and answer my questions.

“The data and systems we have today is because of Jim,” said Bob Hunter, general manager of Kitsap Public Utility District. “He knew we were in a unique spot on this peninsula with no glacial runoff. It was his idea to collect the data to determine if (the water supply) is influenced by the water purveyors or if it is truly tied to rainfall.”

Those questions are still being pursued, but it appears from the latest studies that the Kitsap Peninsula will have adequate water supplies for the foreseeable future, provided people adopt a variety of conservation measures and that utilities are able to move water from place to place.

In early 2012, looking forward to retirement, Jim sat down with Bob to discuss the future.

“I told him that I wanted him to hire his replacement,” Bob recalled, adding that continuity was so important that he wanted the new person to have a year to learn from Jim. The PUD went through the normal hiring process and interviewed several applicants.

After the search had gone on awhile, Jim came to Bob and said, “I know of only one person who you can trust with managing the data,” according to Bob who added, “Knowing Jim as long as I did, I knew he meant that.”

Jim recommended his own son, Joel, for the job, and the KPUD board approved the hire, which has worked out well for everyone.

While Joel was in training, his father came down with an illness and was taken to Harrison Medical Center in Bremerton, where he died. After his death, his family learned that he had a form of lymphoma.

The stream chosen to bear the name LeCuyer Creek drains into Miller Bay near White Horse Golf Course west of Kingston, where Jim and his family lived for about 20 years before moving to Port Ludlow. The stream is a little more than a half-mile long and has never had an official name.

Born April 10, 1953, Jim received bachelor degrees in environmental science and biochemistry from Saint John’s University and the University of Minnesota. He worked for Northern States Power Company and Grain Belt Brewery, both in Minneapolis, and Honeywell in Deer Park, Ill., before moving to Seattle, where he took a job with James Brinkley Company, which manufactures equipment for pulp and paper mills.

In 1984, Jim went to work for Kitsap Public Utility District, where I first met him. At the time, he was scrambling to add new data by testing monitoring wells throughout Kitsap County. Check out the Kitsap Sun, Nov. 12, 1991. Among the stories I wrote involving Jim was a drought in 2009 — a condition we may be facing again this year. See Kitsap Sun Oct. 3, 2009.

Jim, whose family said his work with KPUD was “the job of his dreams,” also loved outdoor sports, animals and spending time with his family. He was 59 years old when he died on Dec. 10, 2012. In addition to his son Joel, he is survived by his wife, Jody; his daughter, Jackie; and two brothers, Bob and Bill.

The Committee on Geographic Names will hold a hearing on the proposed name LeCuyer Creek on Thursday in Olympia. To provide comments, go to the webpage of the Committee on Geographic Names within the Department of Natural Resources.

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