Tag Archives: Kitsap Public Utility District

Drought continues with fear of fire throughout Western Washington

Severe drought is settling in across most of Western Washington — including Kitsap County — where dry conditions raise the risks of wildfire, and low streamflows could impair salmon spawning this fall.

Western Washington is one of the few places in the country with “severe” drought.
Map: U.S. Drought Monitor, Richard Tinker, U.S. agencies.

Scattered showers and drizzle the past few days have done little to reverse a drying trend as we go into what is normally the driest period of the year, from now through August. As of today, the fire danger is moderate, but warmer weather could increase the risk substantially within a day or two.

The topsy-turvy weather that I observed across the Kitsap Peninsula last quarter (Water Ways, April 2) continued through June. Normally, the southwest corner of the peninsula near Holly receives twice the precipitation as the north end near Hansville. But that didn’t happen last month, when the monthly rainfall total was 0.61 inches in Holly and 0.83 inches in Hansville. Silverdale, about halfway between, received 1.11 inches in June.

Rain total for Holly, Water Year 2019. Blue line is current; pink line is average. (Click to enlarge.)
Graph: Kitsap PUD

For Holly, it was the fourth driest month in the record books going back to 1991. The only drier months of June were 2003 with 0.20 inches, 2015 with 0.31 inches, and 2009 with .40 inches. Hansville had six Junes that were drier, and Silverdale had nine.

Differences across the peninsula were also seen in April and May. Holly had 3.45 inches of precipitation in April, below the median average of 4.92, while Silverdale had 2.18 inches, also below the median (3.26 inches). Hansville received 2.27 inches, which was just about average (2.12 inches).

Rain total for Hansville, Water Year 2019. Blue line is current; pink line is average. // Graph: Kitsap PUD

In May, Hansville recorded above-average precipitation with 1.92 inches compared with a median 1.57 inches. Holly and Silverdale were below average, with Holly at 1.16 inches compared to a median 2.22 inches. Silverdale showed May with 0.95 inches, compared to a median of 1.57 inches.

Regionwide, drought conditions are worsening. In May, Gov. Jay Inslee added 24 watersheds to his emergency drought declaration, which now covers about half the state. The declaration was based on forecasts of low rainfall, melting snowpack and higher-then-normal temperatures issued by the Washington Department of Ecology.

Rain total for Silverdale, Water Year 2019. Blue line is current; pink line is average. // Graph: Kitsap PUD

“I appreciate Ecology’s work with partners around the state to prepare for drought and to position us to quickly react to those in need,” said Inslee in a news release. “As the climate continues to change, we must be proactive in taking steps to plan for those impacts.”

The 2019 Legislature approved $2 million to address the drought conditions.

“The emergency declaration allows us to expedite emergency water-right permitting and make funds available to government entities to address hardships caused by drought conditions,” said Ecology Director Maia Bellon.

Washington state drought: orange = severe; tan = moderate; yellow = abnormally dry
Map: National Integrated Drought Information System

Western Washington is beginning to stand out even more for its ongoing drought conditions this year, following moderate to heavy rains in Northeast Montana that erased concerns over drought in that area — although concerns remained from Western Montana through Eastern Washington and into the central part of the state.

Officials with Washington Department of Natural Resources are warning Western Washington residents about the extreme fire danger we’re facing. For the first time in years, the west side of the state may be more at risk than the east side, depending on what happens in the coming weeks. Wherever there is fire, there is smoke, and DNR offers a Smoke Information blog to help people contend with bad air that we may see this year.

Streamflows in Western Washington: orange = 10-24% of normal; brown = 5-10% of normal; red = less than 5% of normal; white = not ranked.
Map: U.S. Geological Survey

Long-term dry conditions are leading to low streamflows throughout Western Washington, including Kitsap County. Streamflows in Chico Creek in Central Kitsap, one of the most productive salmon streams on the peninsula, is roughly half its normal flow for this time of year, according to data compiled by Kitsap Public Utility District.

As of June 18, looking at seven-day average flows, 83 percent of the stream-monitoring stations in Washington state are below normal, with 54 percent listed as much below normal, according to Ecology’s monitoring website.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is taking action where it can, such as closing fishing in the Chehalis River and its tributaries in Southwest Washington to protect spring chinook salmon.

“Low stream flows decrease holding and staging refuges and elevate vulnerability and pressure on these chinook,” the agency said in announcing the closure. “Any encounters of spring chinook could subject these fish to stress, injury, or death.”

Other closures may be warranted before or during the fall salmon migration to reduce stress on the fish as they face low streamflows while returning to spawn.

For additional weather and climate information and long-term weather and climate predictions, check out the weekly “Water and Climate Update” (PDF 3.6 mb) from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA.

Unnamed stream could be named LeCuyer Creek for KPUD hydrologist

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.

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.

The word is ‘average’ for the first three months of Water Year 2019

Average, very average. That was my first reaction as I looked over the rainfall data for the first quarter of Water Year 2019, which began Oct. 1.

The point was driven home when I looked at the rainfall totals for Silverdale on the website of the Kitsap Public Utility District. October’s rainfall total was 3.23 inches, compared to a median average of 3.74 inches. November’s total was 5.51, compared to a 6.83 average. And December’s total was 9.31, lining up perfectly with a 9.31 average. (Exactly the same! What’s the chance of that happening?)

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Rainfall records are beginning to fall across the Kitsap Peninsula

Water Year 2017, which began on Oct. 1, got off to a rip-roaring start this month in terms of rainfall, and now records are falling for October rainfall totals across the Kitsap Peninsula.


As shown in the three charts on this page, the graph started climbing steeply above the lines shown — including the green lines, which denote the highest annual precipitation recorded for the past 25 to 33 years.

So far this month, 19.5 inches of rain have fallen at Holly, which has averaged about 7 inches in October for the past 24 years. As you can see in the annual rainfall map at the bottom of this page, Holly lies in the rain zone on the Kitsap Peninsula — the area with the greatest amount of rainfall in most years. With four days left in the month, Holly has about an inch to go to break the record of 20.5 inches going back to 1991.

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