Updated October 4, 2022
While these FAQs include expected frequently asked questions, the City will add to it as additional questions come in from the community.
For several years, Sallal has been unable to serve all of the property owners, businesses, and residents within Sallal’s water service area who requested water service, forcing the City to step in and provide water.
The City’s offer to purchase comes after the failure of Sallal to provide a meaningful response to the City’s multiple written offers to develop a water supply agreement, which would have allowed the City to help alleviate Sallal’s water supply issues. In addition, in June 2022, the Sallal Board of Directors imposed an emergency moratorium prohibiting all new water connections, including new connections to property owners, businesses, and residents within Sallal’s water service area that is within city limits. In its announcement, Sallal stated that it may “make the moratorium permanent until additional water rights are obtained.” The process to obtain new water rights in Washington State is both expensive and time consuming, often taking many years to complete.
North Bend can increase water supply to property owners, businesses, and residents within Sallal’s water service area as soon as the Sallal members approve the offer to purchase. While Sallal is a privately-owned water system, it has legal responsibilities to provide water within its service area, which includes areas within North Bend’s city limits and within North Bend’s urban growth area. Sallal’s unwillingness to meet these legal responsibilities impacts residents, property owners, and businesses across our community.
Since 2007, the City and Sallal have discussed a water supply agreement under which Sallal would serve as a mitigation water source for the City, and the City would sell water to Sallal from the Centennial Well to enhance Sallal’s water supply to their members and enable them to end the moratorium. The City has in fact made substantial revisions to the draft water supply agreement in response to comments and concerns by Sallal, yet each revision has been met with new objections.
While the City has made an offer to consolidate due to the failure of past negotiations, the City is still willing to consider entering into a water supply agreement with Sallal in a form as already offered.
Visit the East North Bend Water Update webpage for graphics that illustrate the City of North Bend and Sallal Water Association's current water supply systems, as well as the two different options for a future system - a water supply agreement and system consolidation: East North Bend Water Update | North Bend, WA - Official Website.
Yes, the City has successfully reached agreements with Seattle Public Utilities to share water, and with the City of Snoqualmie to share municipal services, such as police and public works. In addition, the City has agreements in place with other utilities including Tanner Electric, Puget Sound Energy, and more.
While Sallal is in the emergency moratorium, they will not be able to collect general facility charges which help pay for key upgrades to the pipes and systems that ensure safe water is delivered to your home or business.
Combining the systems into a unified public system will provide transparency into the upgrades that are needed and provide access to state and federal resources that are not available to private utilities, such as state grants for a reservoir to serve the new National Guard facility. This additional funding will help alleviate the cost burden of these improvements on customers.
The City currently serves many customers who live outside City limits, however we have heard concerns from Sallal customers that they are most concerned about representation should consolidation occur. Just as City residents have a voice in how their water system works, the City is open to options, such as advisory boards, or other forums to ensure that the voices of unincorporated residents are heard.
A consolidated system will ensure that any business, school, or home throughout the City of North Bend and its water service area will have clean, safe, and accessible water. Consolidation would also unify and strengthen our community's water system, enabling moratoriums to be lifted and mitigation sources to be accessed, benefitting our local economy, and preserving our natural resources now and into the future.
Yes. The City has 3,430-acre feet of water rights. The City uses approximately 650-acre feet of water per year and has adequate potable water supply to reach full build out based on current zoning.
While the City does not have access to all of Sallal’s current data, the City estimates that Sallal has approximately 696-acre feet of water rights from their current Water System Plan. Given their current water moratorium, it is likely that they are using the majority of that water.
As you can see in the graph below, the City has enough potable water supply to cover current, and future, Sallal water customers.
For now, yes. However, as the region continues to grow, in alignment with the Growth Management Act* and to provide the amenities requested by the community, the City must secure additional sources of mitigation water to support the Snoqualmie River. Sallal’s wells at Rattlesnake Lake are the only other additional source of Washington State Department of Ecology pre-approved mitigation water for the Snoqualmie River. Consolidating the two systems would ensure better protection of the Snoqualmie River in addition to providing water to future customers.
*The Growth Management Act (GMA) is a series of state statutes, first adopted in 1990, that requires fast-growing cities and counties to develop a comprehensive plan every 10 years to manage their population growth. The comprehensive plan creates growth management areas within and adjacent to a City for concentrated urban growth.
Since mitigation was required by the Department of Ecology in 2007, 2015 was the only year that the City would have needed to use a second, backup mitigation source, due to lower than usual snowfall in the mountains the preceding winter, limited spring snowpack, and warmer, drought-like, summer weather. The 2015 mitigation water violation prompted the following over the course of the next several years:
In 2019, the mitigation water violation was simply a flow meter equipment installation error. This was corrected and the mitigation water that had not been added because of the error was added as soon as the flow meter installation was corrected.
The City uses approximately 200 million gallons of water annually for its City customers. The City replaces an additional 20 million gallons on average annually back into the Snoqualmie River to meet the Department of Ecology’s mitigation requirements. This mitigation water is added to the 600 billion gallons of water that flow through the Snoqualmie River on an average annual basis. (See comparison chart below)
Every water system has leaks, and the City is working diligently to reduce leaks in its system to the standard of 10% set by the Department of Health. To monitor leaks across the system, the City has taken the following steps:
In July 2022, the City was just above our 10% DSL goal at 10.9%. Moving forward, the City will continue to take the steps stated above to find leaks across our approximately 40-mile water main system, and make adjustments as needed.
The existing water mains along North Bend Way are currently operated by Sallal Water Association and are not large enough to have adequate capacity or fire flow to serve and protect future dense commercial and mixed-use developments. With Sallal’s existing water moratorium, there is also not sufficient water to supply future customers along North Bend Way.
To ensure that these property owners and businesses have the water they need, the City is investing $12M to design and build a 16-inch diameter water main several miles up North Bend Way, a water pump booster station, and the City’s fourth reservoir tower to store water. This investment will support both the future National Guard site and amenities near exit 34, including new restaurants and a hotel. This water main will also be able to serve new businesses and amenities on North Bend Way, ensuring that future customers have the water they need when they need it.
They might. As a public utility, our water rate price structure is different than Sallal’s as a private, co-op. Our rates reflect the significant investment we put into our system as well as our ongoing quality assurance monitoring and sustainability initiatives. Our monthly rates and general facility charges for a new hook-up are required to remain as low as possible to ensure the safe delivery of water today and into the future.
However, the City is willing to pay Sallal members for the investment they have made. In addition, the City is prepared to commit to a water rate price structure that protects current Sallal customers from abrupt, and potentially, significant costs to repair, replace and update the failing system. Combining the systems into a public system will provide transparency into the upgrades that are needed and provide access to state and federal funding options that are not available to private utilities. This additional funding will help alleviate the cost burden of these improvements on the customer.
Much of the purchase price, as required by law, will need to be determined by a certified appraiser and the Sallal Board can immediately take the steps to provide full and fair access to the facilities and records that will be needed to determine the offer price.
While you may see an increase in your monthly rates, our goal will be to work with Sallal customers to make the transition as seamless as possible. Resources are available online for customers having difficulty paying their utility bill.
If Sallal refuses to sign a Water Supply Agreement or refuses to be purchased, then Sallal’s moratorium on new water connections will likely continue for an extended period. In Sallal’s own “notice of emergency interim moratorium,” Sallal admits that the Sallal Board may “make the moratorium permanent until additional water rights are obtained.” By imposing the moratorium, Sallal acknowledges that it lacks water to supply for new connections. Without new water connections, Sallal cannot collect new general facility charges to pay for, and complete, necessary upgrades and maintenance to ensure public health, by protecting the safety and reliability of its water and water delivery system. In other words, without new water connections, Sallal cannot collect new facility charges. As a result, the monthly water rates that Sallal charges to its customers will either substantially increase, or those facility upgrades and maintenance will not occur. The likely failure to provide necessary or required upgrades and regular maintenance to the water system is a major concern for the City as Sallal serves a large number of properties inside the City limits.
The City’s proposed water service agreement with Sallal and/or purchase of Sallal will ensure that new water connections are again available. Without that fix, Sallal members face a continuing risk of more “boil water” notices, other interruptions in service, or simply no new water service at all.
The City of North Bend currently has 3 water sources. There are two production water sources, which are: 1) Mt Si Springs, a spring-fed water source near Mount Si; and 2) Centennial Well, which is a groundwater well located at the City’s Public Works facility. Centennial is the newer of the city’s two water sources. The third water source is solely for mitigation water use and it’s called Hobo Springs.
Due to Centennial Well’s location in the area of influence of both the Middle and South Forks of the Snoqualmie River, water used from the well is required to be compensated drop-for-drop by other sources into the River only at times when the Main Fork Snoqualmie River is below the ‘Base In-stream Flow’ as defined by the City’s Centennial water right agreement. In-stream river flows are measured at three different points along the Snoqualmie River near Fall City, Carnation, and Monroe. When the in-stream flow is below the Department of Ecology’s level determined necessary to maintain River health and the City is pumping water from Centennial, then the City is required to add mitigation water to Snoqualmie River. Mitigation is typically needed approximately 80 days per year.
Hobo Springs is the City’s active mitigation source and has met the City’s mitigation needs for the full 13 years of the requirement to date. The City purchases Hobo Springs mitigation water from Seattle Public Utilities. Hobo Springs is located near Rattlesnake Lake in the protected Cedar River Watershed. Mitigation Water is delivered via pipe from Hobo Springs to Boxley Creek which feeds into the South Fork Snoqualmie River.
During nearly the past decade, City staff have been evaluating many potential water mitigation sources including the Cascade Golf Course property, a Hobo Springs Expansion, a Chester Morse Reservoir pipeline, a Tolt Reservoir pipeline, small and/or large mitigation water reservoirs, and a potential inter-tie water supply agreement with Sallal, among others. Hobo Springs expansion has occurred, but other mitigation sources have been deemed infeasible, primarily due to the 2015 State Supreme Court’s Foster decision*.
*In 2015, the State Supreme Court issues a decision on Foster v. Ecology, City of Yelm, and Washington Pollution Control Hearings Board. The decision, frequently referred to as the “Foster decision,” stated that water right mitigation must address instream flow impairment both in-time and in-place.
No. North Bend's Centennial Well Water Right permit was issued after water rights laws changed, including minimum in-stream flow levels that were established on the Snoqualmie River. Older water rights - even if those water sources impact the River - do not have to supply mitigation water like the City of North Bend does.
First and foremost, water conservation is the right thing to do for the environment. Snoqualmie River, unlike many major rivers in Washington State, is not dammed. Lacking a dam that provides flood control, this means there is a higher standard deviation of river flows during the year. During winter storms, the river flow is very high. In contrast, in early fall, the river flow can be quite low. Water conservation measures are intended to keep the river healthy and are supplemented through water mitigation by the City. By decreasing water usage during this peak time of usage, less mitigation water is needed for the Snoqualmie River - which protects the river’s natural health and saves customers money on their bills.
The WCO starts with education and voluntary compliance with the usage guidelines. This includes the automatic stage 1 conservation measures which go into effect beginning each year on August 15th. The WCO is foremost an educational tool, and the City is a proponent of educating residents on water conservation. The WCO is foremost an educational tool, and the City is a proponent of educating residents on water conservation. However, if water usage that violates the WCO is noticed and/or reported, violators can expect to hear from the City.
Yes, because the City believes that water conservation is the right thing to do. In fact, the City hopes more cities in the Puget Sound region follow North Bend’s lead in water conservation. We are pleased to see the City’s overall water usage decline since enacting the WCO last spring and actively engaging in water conservation education with residents.
North Bend property owners have the constitutional right to develop their property as long as all legal zoning and development requirements are followed. The City is also legally required to provide water to those properties if it is available – e.g. the City has a legal ‘duty to serve.' North Bend is a beautiful place to live, which makes land desirable for new homes and businesses. Nearly everyone residing in North Bend lives in a home that was once forested or farmland.