February 2023 Conservation Report
- Last Updated: January 30, 2023
by Tim Manns
In the last days of 2022, exceptionally high, or “king”, tides coincided with very low barometric pressure to flood parts of La Conner and overtop a dike, flooding a county road and making Samish Island truly an island again. This has happened before and will happen again and again as climate change furthers sea level rise. Skagit County suddenly decided last year to end its practice of six or more decades and no longer help maintain dikes protecting county roads including the sole road to Samish Island. Also last year, the county forwarded its draft update of the Shoreline Master Program (SMP) for Department of Ecology (DOE) review without addressing the effects of climate change. During last year’s hearings on the SMP, the County Commissioners reacted to concerted public input on this failing by at least implying that Planning & Development Services would apply for a DOE grant to fund amending the new SMP to address sea level rise sooner than the plan’s mandated eight-year update. Whether Planning applied or not we don’t know, but Skagit County is not receiving this grant. DOE will be announcing a public comment period on the draft shoreline plan and will hold a public meeting. Both Audubon Washington (the state office) and Skagit Audubon will continue to work with local partner organizations to ensure that the county’s shoreline planning and regulations stop ignoring the effects of climate change (see Puget Sound Series: A Winning Formula for Coastal Resilience | Audubon Washington).
Among the bills Audubon Washington is supporting during the current state legislative session are Senate Bill 5203 and its companion bill in the House, HB 1181. These bills would require counties and municipalities to address climate change in the comprehensive plans required under the Growth Management Act. They would also require addressing sea level rise in the Shoreline Master Programs mandated by the Shoreline Management Act. A similar bill came close to passing last year and may just make it this time. Other counties have proactively planned for climate change. Skagit County’s ability to duck this responsibility may finally be ending.