North Bend may be headed for a building boom following the announcement Friday of an agreement with Seattle Public Utilities that will allow...

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North Bend may be headed for a building boom following the announcement Friday of an agreement with Seattle Public Utilities that will allow the city access to millions of gallons of ground water and end a years-long moratorium on new construction.

The agreement has been long-awaited since North Bend discovered nine years ago that it was exceeding its water rights and pumping too much water out of its spring wells. In April 1999, the city issued a moratorium halting all new construction because it didn’t have the water to serve more customers.

The agreement lays the groundwork for the city to lift the moratorium and begin building anew, said Ron Garrow, North Bend’s public-works director.

“This has been a number one priority of the city’s for the last nine years,” Garrow said. “They [City Council] will be ecstatic to lift the moratorium. This is a big deal.”

The agreement will go before the Seattle City Council for final approval Monday.

Judi Gladstone, who was Seattle Public Utilities’ lead negotiator for the deal, calls the agreement a complicated and “creative solution.”

At issue was North Bend’s desire to pump more water from ground wells, but doing so would suck water from the Snoqualmie River, because the river and the wells are connected through a common water table. The state Department of Ecology refused to grant additional water rights to North Bend out of concern that pumping more water would lower the river’s flow and affect fish and wildlife.

The agreement would allow North Bend to purchase up to 1.1 million gallons of water from Hobo Springs in the Cedar River Watershed area from Seattle Public Utilities, which owns the rights to that water. North Bend would construct a pipeline to pump the water to the Snoqualmie River. The excess flow of water would keep the river level high enough to allow North Bend to pump additional water from ground wells.

In 2008, the city estimates it will spend about $85,000 to purchase water from Seattle Public Utilities, but by 2025 the city may be buying $365,000 worth of water as the number of new customers and the demand for more water increases.

“Seattle does have excess water to allow for this arrangement,” Gladstone said. “We’re providing water that enables them to get more water out of their wells.”

Ultimately, the goal is to allow North Bend to grow, and to keep construction and urban sprawl out of rural areas, which are meant to be preserved under the state’s Growth Management Act, Gladstone said.

The Department of Ecology is beginning the process to grant North Bend the right to pump the additional water. The city hopes to have the water rights by June.

Rachel Tuinstra: 206-515-5637 or rtuinstra@seattletimes.com