For the last decade and a half, I and other Skagit residents have urged Skagit County to address sea level rise planning in its Shoreline Master Plan (SMP) update. Most recently, as it became clear that the County’s SMP update would not include sea level rise (SLR) planning, many began to push for an alternative. This summer it seemed the County had heard us.
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.
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?
For Guemes Island residents, the only source of fresh water for most household use are three naturally occurring underground aquifers. Up until 1994, these aquifers supplied all the fresh water needed to support the families of Guemes. Everything changed when wells began to fail because of salt water intrusion. For the last 26 years, Skagit County has failed to implement steps needed to protect Guemes Island’s water supply.