Clallam County would be a very different place without the ongoing efforts of the Clallam Conservation District.
What was once a maze of open irrigation ditches crisscrossed throughout the Sequim-Dungeness Valley is now mostly piped, thanks to the Conservation District’s work with the local irrigation districts and companies. Piping the majority of the irrigation ditches has had multiple benefits for local water quality and conservation.
“I think going back about 20 years, the irrigators have reduced their annual diversions from the [Dungeness] River by about 50 percent,” said Joe Holtrop, Clallam Conservation District executive director. “Also, piping in areas where we have enough pressure means people don’t have to use pumps anymore, which reduces energy consumption.”
The Conservation District’s dedication to piping irrigation ditches, as well as implementing best farm management practices and repairing failing septic systems have helped to reduce non-point pollution and thus limit the amount of pollution flowing into important water bodies. In 2015, the Conservation District was among the partners recognized by Puget Sound Partnership for its critical role in a large water quality upgrade in Dungeness Bay. The Conservation District continues to focus on water quality through a collaborative program known as the Pollution Identification and Correction (PIC) Plan.
“PIC is a strategic way of dealing with water quality problems, especially now that all the low hanging fruit has been picked,” said Holtrop. “We still have pollution problems, but it’s really hard to figure out why, so PIC is critical for that. And, one of the beautiful things about PIC is the collaboration that comes along with it.”
More than just water-focused
Water quality and conservation is not the only focus area of the Clallam Conservation District, however. For 59 years, the Conservation District has been working within communities across Clallam County to help landowners conserve natural resources. Via a variety of programs and onsite assistance, they provide educational, technical and financial assistance to community members to help them achieve their land use goals in an environmentally sustainable manner.
The Clallam Conservation District is involved with and/or spearheads a number of programs, such as aquifer recharge, natural landscaping workshops, the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), community climate resiliency, soil testing, farm conservation plan development, and collaborative work to implement an off-channel reservoir intended to maintain healthy flows in the Dungeness River – just to name a few. The Conservation District works with landowners of all types from urban, forest and farm landowners to those wanting to restore and improve riparian areas along streams or wetlands.
2018 Out Standing in the Field Award
In recognition of the influence the Conservation District continues to have on community and environmental health and sustainability, North Olympic Land Trust honored them with the 2018 Out Standing in the Field Award at the 10th Annual Conservation Breakfast on Friday, March 23. Nearly 300 community members joined the Land Trust in honoring the Conservation District.
Every year, following a community nomination process, the award allows the Land Trust to recognize an individual or group that has made lasting improvements on the quality of life on the North Olympic Peninsula. Building on this tradition, the Clallam Conservation District is the fifth partner to be awarded the Out Standing in the Field Award. Past recipients include the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, Jefferson Land Trust, Dick Goin (posthumously), and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and its Natural Resources Department.
“We are in awe of the accomplishments the Conservation District has achieved and the positive impacts it has had within Clallam County,” said Tom Sanford, North Olympic Land Trust executive director. “The dedication and work of partners like the Conservation District are instrumental to successful conservation and stewardship of the natural resources of the North OlympicPeninsula for today and future generations.”