The Skagit Basin In-stream Flow Rule - A Letter to the Department of Ecology

The following letter from Jacob and Wendy Tellberg to Department of Ecology Hydrologist and GIS Analyst John Rose provides further proof of the burden that the flawed Skagit Basin In-stream Flow Rule is causing citizens of our county. Like many others, Jake and Wendy continue to suffer serious financial harm in the aftermath of the 2013 Swinomish decision. Their property has been dramatically devalued and they are unable to do anything with it. Their retirement plans are in complete disarray.

Jacob S Tellberg
Wendy B Tellberg
19373 County Line Rd (Skagit County)
Stanwood, WA 98292

Attention:  Mr. John Rose, DOE


In 2010 my husband and I pulled our money out of stocks and bonds tired of the volatility of the market, and purchased the 5 acre p112709 next to our home on the County Line Road in Skagit County. Our neighbor of 10 years was moving and it was our idea to invest in it and later sell the acerage to someone we were aquainted with or possibly build a house on it  for our retirement. Our neighbor had drilled an 130' well on it in 1997 as required by the county for the Short Plat he did. We checked with the building and planning department before buying the property and were told that it was zoned Rural Residential ready for a 3-4 bedroom house and one outbuilding, no business use and had been approved for  a gravity feed septic system as per the plat division SP97-0057 and had been assessed at $140,000 when we bought it November 11, 2010. There was no suggestion that the well had to be connected to a permitted building from the seller, the county, or the title company before being able to sell it to someone else or get a building permit ourselves . We received an offer on the piece in 2013 for $180,000 in November before we left for our winter home. When we returned in March 2014 we continued the negotiations with the proposed buyers. They went to the county to get a building permit and were told that as of October 2013 it was not possible because of the moratorium on residential  exempt wells even though the well was put in years before. We were absolutely flabbergasted that this could be done without reporting changes to property owners since the water rights issue has been going on without public input or per parcel notification since 2001.

This parcel has, since 2014, been assessed as low as $30,600. We have lost essentially $150,000. Rumor has it that if we put in a rain catchment system for $25,000 or a mediation solution from the county the property would be re-valued at the original rate less the amount of our cost for any system. There is no reason for this. There is no scientific  proof that there is connectivity between the surface water creek and the ground water aquifer or that our residential well affects the water flow in the West Fork of Fisher Creek 100' east of this parcel regarding salmon habitat. We live on top of the second largest aquifer in Washington and the third largest aquifer in the western USA.  Jacob has lived on the County Line Rd since the 1970's and the West Fork of Fisher Creek has dried up for 4-5 months every year, yet the 130' well on the neighboring piece where we live (P17651) has no lack of water while supplying our home, garden and water for cattle. In 2014, according to the DOE In-stream Flow Meter the creek went dry July 7 to October 11. Procured water would only disappear into the soil and not improve the water flow. The legal allotment of 5000 gallons of water per day per permit is more than would be needed for a 3-4 bedroom home. Even 1000 gallons or less per day for domestic, garden irrigation and a small number of livestock on 5 acres could be sufficient. 

Even with the wells and spring on our other parcels we cannot share the water from P17650 or P17651 to plumb into P112709. There is a French drain on P112709 that feeds water towards the creek that has not been taken into consideration either. We have reduced the number of cattle on P17650 and P17651 from up to 15 head of cattle to 5.

After our neighbor on the 17 acre parcel east of us passed away, in October 2011 we purchased P17650. Again we checked with the county before buying it. We were informed that we could do cluster housing of 3 individual homes on an acre apiece and turn the rest into protected open space. There is a beautiful view of the Skagit River, Puget Sound, surrounding islands and farms making the possibility of gains from a division of this piece to fund our retirement. There is now a 2 bedroom house, well and surface water spring we hold the water rights to. Our future plan was also stopped by the moratorium on new residential wells. 

There must be a better way than the in-stream water flow rule. We would appreciate any assistance in removing the moratorium on rural residential wells and reinstating the exempt well status. 


Jacob and Wendy Tellberg

October 4, 2016