A report by scientists with Washington State University’s State of Washington Water Research Center could help inform decision makers and planners in watersheds across the state, as they develop projects that balance growth with the needs of threatened salmon and steelhead.

Mandated by a recently passed law addressing the effects of small rural wells on stream flows and fish, a WSU-led team of experts from around the state worked for more than a year alongside Washington’s Department of Ecology to develop technical guidance for watershed planners in 15 of Washington’s 62 Water Resource Inventory Areas, or WRIAs.

Stephen Katz.

“We’ve tried to open up the assessment toolbox, to place management decisions in a more contemporary, comprehensive scientific framework,” said Stephen Katz, project lead and associate professor at WSU’s School of the Environment. “Our guidance highlights available approaches that can benefit endangered species and their habitat, as well as Washingtonians’ increasing need for high-quality water.”

The team’s final report, titled “Technical Supplement: Determining Net Ecological Benefit,” is included in the Department of Ecology’s “Final Guidance for Determining Net Ecological Benefit,” published in July. The document provides a framework for watershed planners to develop proposals that offset the effects of rural wells on stream flows, and for state ecologists to gauge the merits of those proposals.

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