Native Americans from the Skagit Valley and surrounding areas have relied on the native elk population for food and cultural sustenance for thousands of years. When European settlers arrived here, they marveled at the abundant wildlife, including elk, that inhabited the landscape.
For six years a group of citizens called Central Samish Valley Neighbors (CSVN) has been working to protect their rural community from the impacts of a large new gravel mine. The permit review process, led by Skagit County Planning and Development Services, has been long, drawn out, and fraught with problems from the outset.
The long saga of failing wells on Guemes Island goes back to 1994. The sole source of fresh water for island residents is an aquifer that has been jeopardized by unchecked drilling of new wells. As the population of Guemes has grown, and new wells are drilled by new property owners, existing wells have been corrupted by seawater intrusion making the water unsafe for human consumption. Since then, Guemes Islanders worked to get Skagit County to find a solution to protect the aquifer. They have been continually thwarted in their efforts. In 2022, they tried again.
On May 11, 2021, despite over 700 public comments urging them not to do it, the Skagit County Commissioners unanimously voted to docket a comprehensive plan amendment proposal to allow FCCs or “Fully Contained Communities”. By “docketing” the proposal, the County Commissioners prepared a path for developers to turn sections of rural Skagit County into massive housing enclaves.
Skagit County is proposing a Comprehensive Update (major rewrite) to the County’s Shoreline Master Program (SMP), which has not been comprehensively updated since its adoption in 1976. These are just a few of the concerns recognized by several nonprofit groups and tribes who are reviewing the draft and provided comments during the May 11, 2021 Public Hearing before the Skagit County Planning Commission.
Skagit County, Swinomish, and La Conner began to address the impacts of climate change in the mid-2000s. Each took a different approach. What became of those efforts?
The Planning Commission plays a fundamental role in land use planning in Skagit County. But many county residents are unfamiliar with that role and with the series of misguided recommendations the Planning Commission has made – and the Board of County Commissioners has summarily accepted – over the past decade.
Skagit County failed to meet every single state-mandated deadline for updating the Shoreline Management Plan plan over 44 years. Now County staff are trying again.
In 2020, Secretary of the Interior, energy industry lobbyist David Bernhardt, reversed his predecssor Zinke and ended a years long process to restore grizzly bears to the North Cascades. The Skagit County Commissioners once again joined commissioners in several other counties to oppose implementing the Endangered Species Act. For now, planning to restore the grizzly bear to the North Cascade Ecosystem has been halted.
This was our first documented experience of possible climate change impacts to our communities. Increased storm intensity, minor sea level rise in combination with a high tide created this unexpected event.