Freeland water supply in good shape

"Freeland appears to have sufficient groundwater to accommodate the growth being planned for the future.So said Doug Kelly, Island County's hydrogeologist, in a presentation before the Freeland Subarea Planning Committee on Thursday. That group is preparing a growth plan that will be submitted to the county for final approval.Kelly was hired over four years ago and given the task of getting a handle on the county's water supply. Except for Oak Harbor which uses water piped in by the Navy, the entire county is dependent upon groundwater.Kelly gave a slide show that depicted the islands' aquifers and areas where saltwater intrusion is a problem. While such intrusion is a concern on Central Whidbey and Camano, it's not a threat on South Whidbey, Kelly said. There's virtually nothing going on in the whole bottom end of Whidbey Island, he said. He attributed this to the large land mass which provides a sufficient recharge area to push saltwater out.Kelly's extensive studies have included examination of public and private wells and past groundwater studies undertaken by the U.S. Geological Survey. This year, he said, the county has budgeted money for a GPS (global positioning satellite) mapping system that will determine well elevations to within one foot. This will pinpoint how high wells are above sea level. Wells above sea level could go dry, he said, but seawater intrusion will never be a problem.Members of the committee asked many questions during Kelly's 75-minute appearance, and Jerry Robillard and Al Peyser tried to pin him down on how much water is available in Freeland. If we have 300 percent growth, will we run out of water? asked Robillard.We'll never be able to say how much water, Kelly responded. But he explained that the county is collecting lots of data through monitored wells, and it should know when a water problem pops up. And regulations are set up in such a way that when trouble appears, steps can be taken to head it off.Tom Roehl, chairman of the committee, likened water regulations to yellow and red traffic lights. Monitored wells can flash the yellow warning, resulting in some future restraints on growth.But for the present, hydrogeologist Kelly gives Freeland the green light for development, as far as the water supply is concerned."

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