A Watershed Resource Inventory Area is based on hydrologic boundaries defined by regulation in chapter 173-500 of the Washington Administrative Code. See a map of the EJWC (WRIA 17 Quilcene - Snow Watershed) area.
The Watershed Planning Act enables, but does not require, local groups called "planning units" to form for the purpose of conducting planning. If certain designated local governments and special districts agree to initiate planning, a planning unit may be formed. The bill also requires that a lead agency be declared by the initiating governments and that all Native American Tribes in and adjacent to the WRIA be consulted in the planning process.
Under the law, citizens, local governments, tribes, and other members of a planning unit must assess water resources and needs, recommend management strategies and focus on areas or elements of particular importance to local citizens. The law also includes constraints on the activities of planning units. For example, the planning unit does not have the authority to change existing laws, old water rights or treaty rights, or require an implementing agency to take action to that it has not agreed to during development of recommendations.
Jefferson County, as lead agency, outlined the intent of the WRIA 17 planning process in conjunction with the City of Port Townsend, Clallam County, Jefferson Public Utility District No. 1, and the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe (as the original initiating governments). Subsequently, Clallam County exercised their right to "opt out" of the planning process, the Skokomish Tribe was added as an initiating government and the Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe agreed to represent both the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe and their interests.
A critical first step for the initiating governments was the creation of a Planning Unit that was representative of the diverse interests in water issues throughout the WRIA. Currently the members are: Jefferson County Association of Realtors, Port of Port Townsend, Jefferson County Conservation District, Marrowstone Island Ground Water Committee, Port Townsend Paper Company, Olympic Environmental Council, Trout Unlimited, Jefferson County Home Builders, North Olympic Salmon Coalition and the North Olympic Counties Farm Bureau. Each member organization has a representative and alternate who will participate on the Council as a member at the table.
The initial purpose of the Planning Unit was to agree to a Watershed Management Plan that assessed the quantity and quality of water in the river basins, and included recommendations for managing the water resource. The next step was the development of a Detailed Implementation Plan (DIP), completed in 2007. The DIP is intended to provide the details on how the plan is to be implemented (ie. who, what, how and when). To the extent possible, the Council wants to play an active role in all aspects of plan implementation.
In 2010 the Planning Unit changed its name to the East Jefferson Watershed Council to better reflect its scope, focus and geography.