In this issue: WATER
Weather, Stargazing and Wine
Firehouse Sale Approaching Fast
New Raffle Quilt A Traditional Beauty
Water Rights In Washington State
Klickitat County Water Conservancy Board
High Prairie Groundwater Supply
Low Cost Services from Home At Last Humane Society
New Fire Commissioner
Fire District Waterworks
Plant Lists For High Prairie
Ideas For Low-Water Gardening
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In this issue: WATER
Water is central to living on High Prairie. As in most places, we drink it, bathe in it, cook with it. It makes our gardens grow. It’s important for fire suppression. But High Prairie’s relationship with water has some unique differences.
High Prairie is a relatively dry area that is historically vulnerable to wildfires. The quirks of our geological configuration both limit the amount of available groundwater and break it up into numerous pockets instead of one large aquifer. Everyone gets their water from individual private wells, and as the population of High Prairie continues to grow so do the number of wells. Human activities can have a direct effect on the viability of water sources.
These factors and others are behind concerns about how to use our water wisely, how future development might impact the supply, and how to make sure we continue to have enough for both normal use and emergencies.
With that in mind, we’ve included articles on such things as High Prairie’s geology, water conservation ideas, low-water plants appropriate to the High Prairie area, how the Fire District makes use of water, and the basics of water rights in Washington state.
Also, in the interest of opening a dialogue among High Prairie residents regarding water use, we have included a short survey. We’d like to hear your thoughts and experiences around our shared water resource. Many households are exploring ways to conserve water in their homes and gardens, and your creative solutions might encourage someone else. Ideas might be a large as building a water catchment system or as small as saving kitchen waste water for houseplants. If a number of people indicate they would like more information about a particular conservation measure, we will look for an expert to offer a presentation or workshop on that topic.
Please add your thoughts to the conversation by returning our short survey. We’ll publish the results in our next issue. All responses will be kept anonymous unless you’ve offered to share expertise. You can email your completed survey to firstname.lastname@example.org; send it via snail mail to 981 Centerville Highway, Lyle, WA 98635; or fill out the online version.
Finally, we have more than water on our minds. Among other things, don’t miss our article about the 2013 Firehouse Sale happening soon on May 18 and 19. Get a first peek at this year’s beautiful Needler quilt. Check out a community-wide invitation to a special event at Morningsong Acres Bed & Breakfast. Learn about low cost services provided by Home At Last Humane Society. And more. Enjoy!
WEATHER, STARGAZING AND WINE
High Prairians are invited to Morning Song Acres on Saturday evening, May 4, for an Open House and an evening of special activities:
7 – 8 p.m. Mark Nelson, chief meteorologist for KPTV does an interesting talk and powerpoint presentation: “Climate of the Eastern Columbia River Gorge: Is it Changing?”
8 – 9 p.m. Several local wineries will have a wine tasting of their specialties through the rest of the evening as we socialize with good friends and neighbors.
9 p.m. and after: Jim White, astronomer/contributor for the White Salmon Enterprise will bring his high powered telescopes for viewing (and explaining) the visible stars and planets for that particular time.
There will be a suggested donation of $5 per person to cover some of the costs of our experts and wines. So come to 6 Oda Knight Road for part or all of the evening events on May 4!We would appreciate an indication of your coming (365-3600 or email@example.com)!
This year’s Firehouse Sale is a month away and coming fast. Once again chairperson Sharon Aleckson has gathered her committee heads and set the ball in motion. From now through the third weekend in May will be the busiest – and most lucrative – time of the year for the High Prairie community.
Put on by the High Prairie Community Council, the annual Firehouse Sale is High Prairie’s one big fundraiser. As in past years, proceeds from the sale are expected to easily cover the expenses of the Community Center and the HPCC, plus a substantial amount for High Prairie Fire District 14. Last year’s net profit was around $15,000, which meant HPCC could donate $7,300 to Fire District 14.
Now there’s an additional incentive for making the Firehouse Sale as successful as possible. With a solid commitment from the District 14 Fire Commissioners and February’s positive levy vote in support of the project, the new Schilling Road Fire Hall is on the way to becoming a reality. The more money the sale brings in, the more there will be to put toward the new Fire Hall.
Anyone who has been to the Firehouse Sale knows it goes way beyond just another rummage sale. With all the extras, and the relaxed country setting, it’s a fun and festive occasion. This year will see the return of all the familiar features – heaps of ‘treasures’ for sale; the Silent Auction and Buy-It-Now Board; a raffle for another beautiful quilt by the High Prairie Needlers; the Food Booth featuring Myrin’s brats (and other hot food options) plus an array of homemade baked goods; home grown tomato and pepper plants anchoring the plant sale; face painting and a fire truck/fire hose game for kids; and live music giving the whole affair a festive tone. And don’t forget the people! Whether shoppers or workers, everyone’s having fun.
An event this successful is the result of many people coming together to make it happen. The Silent Auction team has been out seeking donations since early April. Other committees are making their plans and starting to put them into action. As the dates get closer the activity will accelerate. That’s when the community really shines, as more and more people come out to help put on the event. And help they do, whether it’s donating sale goods or food booth items, putting up tents and tables, laying out and pricing the ‘treasures’ or working at the sale itself. A flyer with more specifics about getting involved will be mailed out around the first of May.
Sharon Aleckson is the person to call with questions or to volunteeer, at 509-365-4429.
Once again, she says, this is certain to be “the best sale ever!”
NEW RAFFLE QUILT A TRADITIONAL BEAUTY
The Needlers have once again created a beautiful quilt. This time they decided on a Log Cabin pattern chosen from McCall’s Quick Quilts, December 2012.
A short history on Log Cabin quilts. It is one of the most beloved and recognized of the quilt designs. It may be older and newer than you might think. Similar designs have been found on ancient Egyptian mummies and in an English quilt predating 1830.
Log Cabin quilts first made a wide-spread appearance during the Civil War. A red center symbolized the hearth of the home and a yellow center represented a welcoming light in the window.
Our traditional Log Cabin uses light and dark strips of fabric with a blue star in the center. Our quilt’s name is “High Prairie Star.”
It will be on display at the Home and Garden show in Goldendale, Washington on April 19, 20 and 21. You can purchase raffle tickets there. They are $2.00 each or three for $5.00. You can also purchase tickets during our Firehouse Sale in May. The dates for the sale are May 18 and 19.
A special thank you goes out to Linda Daughetee who graciously added the borders and quilted our quilt. Thank you Linda for the beautiful work you did.
WATER RIGHTS IN WASHINGTON STATE
The waters of Washington State collectively belong to the public and cannot be owned by any one individual or group. Instead, individuals or groups may be granted rights to use them.
A water right is a legal authorization to use a predefined quantity of public water for a designated purpose. This purpose must qualify as a beneficial use. Beneficial use involves the application of a reasonable quantity of water to a non-wasteful use, such as irrigation, domestic water supply, or power generation, to name a few.
State law requires certain users of public waters to receive approval from the state prior to using water – in the form of a water right permit or certificate. Any use of surface water (lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, or springs) which began after the state water code was enacted in 1917 requires a water-right permit or certificate.
Likewise, withdrawals of underground (ground) water from 1945 onward, when the state groundwater code was enacted, require a water right permit or certificate – unless the use is specifically exempt from state permitting requirements. While “exempt” groundwater uses are excused from needing a state permit, they still are considered to be water rights.
Water use of any sort is subject to the “first in time, first in right” clause, originally established in historical western water law and now part of Washington State law. This means that a senior right cannot be impaired by a junior right. Seniority is established by priority date – the date an application was filed for a permitted or certificated water right or the date that water was first put to beneficial use in the case of claims and exempt groundwater withdrawals.
The only exceptions to the permit requirement is for withdrawals of groundwater for:
- Providing water for livestock (no gallon per day limit).
- Watering a non-commercial lawn or garden one-half acre in size or less (no gallon per day limit, however limited to reasonable use).
- Providing water for a single home or groups of homes (limited to 5,000 gallons per day).
- Providing water for industrial purposes, including irrigation (limited to 5,000 gallons per day but no acre limit).
Although exempt groundwater withdrawals don’t require a water right permit, they are always subject to state water law. In some instances, the Department of Ecology has had to regulate, stop or reduce groundwater withdrawals when they interfere with prior or “senior” water rights, including instream flow rules.
KLICKITAT COUNTY WATER CONSERVANCY BOARD
Did you know that local water rights questions are decided here in Klickitat County? Klickitat county has one of 20 Water Conservancy Boards currently operating in Washington state. It can:
- Accept and process the same types of water right transfer applications that Ecology can.
- Issue Records of Decision (board’s decisions on the water right change request).
- Maintain an information exchange regarding potential buyers and sellers of water rights.
The 1997 Legislature (in RCW 90.80) authorized counties to establish water conservancy boards (boards) to enable the processing of water-right transfer applications at the local level. A board can serve a single watershed, multiple watersheds, a county, or multiple counties.
Once established, a board operates as a separate unit of local government. Boards process water right transfer applications and issue records of decision. All board decisions are ultimately reviewed and affirmed, reversed or modified by Ecology.
Each board consists of three or five commissioners with up to two alternates. All board commissioners and alternates must initially receive 32 hours of training from Ecology, and maintain 8 hours per year of continuing education after that.
HIGH PRAIRIE GROUNDWATER SUPPLY
It seems like just about anywhere there are people who live in rural areas with their own
private water systems there are as many opinions about the water supply as there are about
the best way to grow tomatoes. One bit of wisdom I have gained in 20 years of water resource
engineering is that there are no guarantees in well drilling and you never really can
fully understand a groundwater supply source, aka an aquifer.
We are lucky to have a County that has the ambition and foresight to have put in place a
well monitoring network on the High Prairie and hired expert consultants to study the results of
the monitoring data and also prepare an evaluation of the local geology and hydrogeology.
For all the gory details you can find the study on line at the following link:
Scroll down the page to the WRIA 30 Assessments and Reports, item #8, titled, “Hydrologic
Information Report Supporting Water Availability Assessment: High Prairie Study Area, WRIA
30, June 2011”. There are some great maps in this report that show all the monitoring wells,
the location of geologic structures (folds, faults, etc.) and the groundwater flow directions.
It’s interesting stuff; did you know there are avalanche deposits on the Columbia Hills and
deposits from the Missoula floods?
Our Water Supply
The groundwater that supplies High Prairie wells is almost entirely located in the Columbia River Basalt Group. These basalts are lava flows that are up to a mile thick in places and up to several million years old. Just about anywhere there are eroded canyons, like in Dillacort Canyon, you can see exposed basalts. Geologic activity created the Columbia Hills. The massive forces that compressed the land into these hills also resulted in many faults and folds throughout the High Prairie area. These geologic structures make the aquifers in our community extremely complex and variable. Because the geology is very complex there is no regional aquifer. Instead there are dozens of small aquifers of many different sizes each with its own characteristics. For this reason it’s very hard to make any general conclusions about the HP aquifer. It is safe to say, however, that the groundwater comes completely from the rain that falls on the High Prairie. So when we have lengthy droughts you can expect the water level in all the wells to decline and vice versa.
Rainwater infiltrates through the soil and down through the basalt rock via fractures caused by geologic activity and weathering. When the water hits an impermeable boundary, like unfractured basalt, it pools and fills all the voids in the fractured rock. A completely saturated geologic layer is an aquifer. Our wells tend to produce water from these fractured basalt layers. Some of these pools of water on the High Prairie are shallow and some are deep, and some wells tap into more than one of the pools. Some of the very shallow pools (less than 200 feet in depth) may be extremely isolated and small. It is not unusual for a single well to dewater one of these pools and go dry.
The High Prairie groundwater system is small and bounded by the Columbia Hills, Swale Canyon, and the Klickitat River. Generally the groundwater flows from the Columbia Hills toward Swale Canyon or toward the Klickitat River. A good analogy is a bathtub. If you filled a bathtub with broken basalt and filled it up with water, the saturated rock represents an aquifer. The faucet represents rainfall and the drain represents the flow of groundwater out of the aquifer to the Klickitat River, etc. The wells are straws stuck into the rock and sucking out water. Without rainfall (turn off the faucet) the tub (aquifer) would eventually empty. The County has been monitoring our wells since 2007 and there are now about 23 wells in the monitoring network. A study of water level data collected since 2007 indicates that water levels seem to be fairly stable with the exception of two or three wells that are declining (including mine!). The period of study is too short to make any strong conclusions regarding overall water level trends.
Unlimited groundwater is not guaranteed. You can impact the aquifer by wasting water or by modifying the landscape, for example by damming up creeks. This can lead to problems for you and for your neighbors. Since there are no other water supply options it’s only prudent and conservative to use our groundwater supply wisely.
(click to view enlargement)
LOW COST SERVICES FROM HOME AT LAST HUMANE SOCIETY
Hello High Prairie,
My name is Kris Boler and I am the Executive Director at Home at Last Humane Society in The Dalles, Oregon. Andy Ellingson suggested I share some information about our low cost spay/neuter program and other programming that will be helpful to you.
Home at Last offers low cost spay/neuter vouchers to people who need assistance paying for spaying or neutering their own animals or animals that are strays in their area. The co-pays for these services are $15 for a cat neuter and $20 for a cat spay; $30 for a dog neuter and $35 for a dog spay. The remainder of the vet bill is paid for by the generous donations of refundable cans and bottles we receive from this area. Last year the community donated over $58,000 in cans and bottles.
|On April 20, Home at Last will offer a low cost vaccination and microchip clinic. This is a great time to get your animals vaccinated (rabies included) and microchipped.10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Home At Last Surgical Center, 200 River Road, in The Dalles|
NEW FIRE COMMISSIONER
The Chairman of our High Prairie Fire Commission, Greg Hayrynen, recently resigned his post. Arlen Aleckson has agreed to fill the position through the end of the year. This position and the one currently occupied by James Amery expire at the end of this year, so expect to vote on two positions on the November ballot.
A big thank you to Greg, for his service to High Prairie. Welcome aboard, Arlen. And thank you to new Chairman, James Amery, and to Commissioner Phillip Haner, for their interest and donation of time to these important positions.
High Prairie has the good fortune of acquiring a new piece of fire apparatus that is both a tender and pumper. It arrived via flatbed from New York last week. This beauty features allwheel drive and a 2,000 gallon tank with a 500 gpm pump, and it’s capable of pump and roll (ability to feed water to hoses or nozzles while moving forward).
Washington Department of Natural Resources found the truck for us, per a request from our chief, Doug Hutchison. We got it for the cost of shipping, but it’s worth far more. A New York Fire Department diesel mechanic and one of their firefighters that thoroughly checked it over for us quipped, “You stole it!”
The goal is to have the truck outfitted with hoses, nozzles, fire tools, and other equipment by the time wildfire season comes around. Later we will seek a matching grant to get it painted (it’s Forest Service green now), install racks for portable tanks, and whatever else is necessary to make it fit High Prairie’s needs.
FIRE DISTRICT WATERWORKS
Most everyone knows water availability is critical in fighting fires and that it functions by cooling and smothering flames. So where does the High Prairie Fire District obtain its water and how does it employ water in a manner that is most effective in extinguishing fires?
Our primary water source is the same well that serves the community center and fire hall on Struck Road. About eleven years ago a group of forward thinking, hard working High Prairie volunteers installed a 15,000 gallon underground tank at the site, complete with a pump capable of filling fire apparatus at 500 gpm. Now that sounds like a lot of water, but tenders ferrying water to a serious house or wildland fire can drain the tank rather fast, especially since the well pump only refills the tank at 15 gpm. This is why the Fire District has additional tanks in the form of 5,000 gallon tanker trailers remotely located on Oda Knight Road, Schilling Road (at the site of the future fire hall), and off Hartland Road.
Another potential source of water for firefighting is High Prairie ponds and other sources over 5,000 gallons in size. Landowners who own ponds or water tanks, etc., can help supply water in the event of an emergency by entering into an agreement with the Fire District allowing use of their water source for drafting by tenders and dipping by helicopters. The Fire District will be contacting pond owners in the coming months to discuss this need. Landowners interested in helping can contact Fire District volunteer Fred Henchell at 509-365-5283.
Our water tender plays a crucial role in getting water to where it’s needed. At 4,000 gallons—7 tons of water—it is slow, but fast enough to be on a fire scene by the time the structure engine or wildfire apparatus exhausts its own water supply. The tender can then be connected to the engine via 4” hose and supply enough pressure to keep the active fire hoses charged while simultaneously refilling the engine’s tank. Also, square folding portable tanks on the tender can be deployed and filled very quickly by the tender, which then leaves for a refill while the engine drafts from the tanks.
In addition, this awesome machine can spray up to 70 feet from the nozzles on the sides, front, and back. Thus it can soak roadside vegetation, adding to the size of firebreak a road provides in the face of an advancing wildfire. (We have recently added a second tender; see separate article, this issue.)
Our fire apparatus are foam-capable, meaning they can mix a wetting agent with the water. This breaks down the surface tension, making the water “wetter” (more effective and efficient) and able to absorb three times more heat than plain water, in addition to smothering the fire. As a result, a given amount of water lasts longer and goes much further.
Just remember, although this great equipment does a good job of delivering the water, the firehouse well is the foundation of our ability to fight fires. It is vital to fire protection efforts on High Prairie, and it’s just as dependent on a stable aquifer as other wells in the area. It’s another good reason to conserve our aquifer now for needs in the future.
PLANT LISTS FOR HIGH PRAIRIE
Several plant lists and catalogs exist that focus on plants particularly suited to High Prairie’s hot, dry summers and cold, damp winters. As anyone gardening here has learned, we have microclimates within microclimates; and rocky ‘soil’, high wind exposure, deer, ground squirrels, et al, can bump many plants off these lists. Links to the following lists are available at the end of this article.
- Sunset Western Gardens plants for dry areas. This list has been cross-referenced with Sunset’s climate zone information and further
- edited by a High Prairie gardener to eliminate ‘don’t even bother’ plants. Deer-resistance was not taken into consideration.
- Central and Eastern Klickitat County Conservation District plant sale catalog for 2013. This sale has already taken place, but the well-designed catalog lists broadleaf trees, shrubs, ground covers and flowers — many of them natives — with a proven track record in our area.
- High Country Gardens’ catalog of perennials and wildflower seeds
- Regional Plant List for Idaho and Eastern Oregon and Washington
- Washington State Extension Service/Spokane County list of drought tolerant shrubs
- Milestone Nursery’s seed catalog. Located in Lyle, Milestone grows natives from seed, and is primarily a wholesale nursery. Their once a year native plant sale will take place this year on May 3, 4 & 5 from 9 to 3.
OTHER LOCAL RESOURCES
Good News Gardening in Hood River carries many plants adapted to our climate, including an enormous number of herbs and a large area of perennials for dry areas. Ask for a salesperson knowledgeable about High Prairie.
HIGH PRAIRIE LOW WATER, NON-NATIVE PLANT LIST
COMPILED FROM ‘SUNSET WESTERN GARDENS’ BOOK
Many of these plants have multiple varieties, only one of which might be appropriate for High Prairie. Please refer to ‘Sunset Western Gardens’ or to the staff at Good New Gardening to help in selection. Deer resistance has not been taken into consideration.
Rhus – Sumac
Artemisia species – Wormwood, Sagebrush
Berberis – Barberry
Cistus – Rockrose
Lavendula – Lavender
Mahonia – Oregon Grape
Ribes – Currant/Gooseberry
Rosa rugosa – wild rose
Rosmarinus officianalis – Rosemary
Santolina chamaecyparissus – Lavender Cotton/Santolina
Symphonicarpos – Snowberry
Teucrium – Germander
Thymus – Thyme
ANNUALS, PERENNIALS, HERBS AND BULBS
Achillea – Yarrow
Allium Schoenoprasum – Chives
Armeria maritima – Armeria/Common Thrift
Guara lindheimeri – Guara/Whirling Butterflies
Linum – Flax
Narcissus – Daffodil
Nepeta – Catmint
Origanum vulgare – Oregano
Penstemon – Beard Tongue
Perovskia – Russian Sage
Salvia species – Sage (flowering perennials and culinary herbs)
There is a wide range of ornamental grasses, but only a small number are available that will succeed on High Prairie. Good News Gardening is a great resource, carrying ornamental grasses not found in other retail locations, with excellent cultivation information on their plant tags.
IDEAS FOR LOW-WATER GARDENING
Loretta Lindsey shares that, because their well output has dropped, most of their garden is now in big wooden apple bins instead of in the ground. By placing the bins in a shadier area, using intensive planting, putting cool weather plants behind sun-loving plants, and mulching the surface of the soil, they can get by with only a gallon of water a day per bin. Because the bins don’t warm up as early in the shade, Loretta starts more plants inside and then transplant them. What vegetables they still grow in the regular garden are early varieties that can make use of the spring rains. All their buildings are outfitted with catchment systems, and greywater from the kitchen sink waters the flowerbeds.
Audrey Bentz writes this suggestion: “We try to save water by focusing on plants that use the winter and early Spring moisture. The one that does so well in this area is asparagus. Although one has to wait three years before the first harvest, after that it produces and reproduces abundantly, providing a tasty vegetable for about a month in the Spring. We hardly water them at all, only two or three times a year with a soaker hose.”