Walla Walla County Critical Aquifer protection to expand

A meeting is set on proposed regulations developed by the county.

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WALLA WALLA - Regulations that will greatly expand Walla Walla County's Critical Aquifer Recharge Areas will be scrutinized this week.

There will be an informational meeting Monday about the proposed regulations and county commissioners will hold a public hearing Tuesday. Action or direction to staff may follow Tuesday's hearing and discussion.

The new regulations are the result of a ruling in 2010 by the Eastern Washington Growth Management Hearings Board, which ordered the county to redraw its ordinances dealing with Critical Aquifer Recharge Areas that protect potable water sources.

The section was challenged by Citizens for Good Governance and Futurewise. The groups contended the county had failed to comply with state laws for protection of gravel aquifers that recharge wells used for drinking water.

The board ruled the county failed to use "best available science" to determine which parts of the 190 square miles of gravel aquifer in the county should be designated as Critical Aquifer Recharge Areas.

Although the county was initially ordered to redraw its ordinances by October 2010, it has been granted several extensions by the hearings board to allow it time to work on the new regulations, said Jesse Nolte, assistant prosecuting attorney who is the commissioners legal counsel.

Nolte said the new regulations cover a larger geographical area than the original version, which was approved by county commissioners in 2009. At that time the regulations designated only wellhead protection areas, but not the complete area covered by the shallow gravel aquifer.

The proposed changes worry Port of Walla Walla officials because of their potential effect on businesses wanting to locate in the Walla Walla Regional Airport business park, which the Port manages, said Jim Kuntz, Port executive director.

"We have concerns with it, both in terms of the size of the area covered and the lack of detail" in maps defining where the shallow gravel aquifer is or is not. Under the proposed new regulations, maps show most of the airport property as being underlain by a shallow gravel aquifer, which would designate it as part of a Critical Aquifer Recharge Area.

This would mean that a business or development wanting to locate in the airport business park might have to prepare a "level one hydrogeological assessment" to meet requirements under the county regulations. That requirement would be a main concern for the Port, Kuntz said. "It's one more regulatory hurdle to clear."

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318.

meeting information

An informational meeting on the proposed Critical Aquifer Recharge Areas regulations will be held at 7 p.m. Monday at the Walla Walla County Public Health and Legislative Building, 314 W. Main St. The meeting will be in the commissioners' chambers on the second floor.

Walla Walla County commissioners will hold a public hearing on the proposed regulations starting at 10:45 a.m. Tuesday in the commissioners' chambers at the Walla Walla County Public Health and Legislative Building, 314 W. Main St.

on the net

Walla Walla Joint Community Development Agency CARA information page: ubne.ws/twP49W

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