This was originally posted to: Guemes Island Planning Advisory Committee

GIPAC: 2018 Annual Meeting Report

Several years ago, Guemes Island Planning Advisory (GIPAC) Board members agreed that the most important issue facing our island was protecting and better understanding the aquifers that provide most residents potable water.  In 2018, as for the past several years, groundwater issues were the main focus of our efforts and they will remain so for 2019.

Early in 2018, GIPAC published a major research paper entitled Protecting Guemes Island Groundwater: Applicable County Codes and Strategy Options.  The paper was published on LineTime, and we'd be happy to provide electronic copies if desired.  The background to this research effort can be traced to two proposed code amendments we filed with the County in 2016 – permitting rainwater catchment and permitting new wells.  The very brief version of the history of the 'well' amendment was that the County told us that: first) the State, not the County, had jurisdiction over the issue, but then changed course and (second), agreed that our code amendment was already a code requirement and therefore no more work was necessary – even though they weren't, and still aren't, enforcing the code requirement.   

We then took a step back to look more closely at ALL of the existing code requirements relating to well drilling, to make sure we understood what the code currently says. There are many overlapping codes affecting water and critical areas, so it was a challenge to untangle these requirements. Our analysis shows that there are indeed many protections for Guemes Island groundwater already built into the code, but key requirements are not being enforced or implemented by the County. We provided a copy of our analysis to the Planning Department, and shared it with the Board of Commissioners on November 5, 2018.

On rainwater catchment, our goal is make rainwater catchment an economical and viable source of potable water for Guemes Island. To do this, we want to see catchment as easily permitted by the County as drilled wells and as inexpensive as possible. This goal is completely feasible if Skagit County commits to making it so but, based on experience over the past 2 1/2 years, is not likely to occur unless the Board of Commissioners insists it happen. We held a meeting with the Commissioners earlier this month and are working on focusing them on these issues.

Related to this, GIPAC issued a major research paper in late February 2018 entitled "Suggested Elements of a Rainwater Catchment System Program."  This was published on LineTime and electronic copies are available on request.

Again, very briefly, in response to our code amendment in 2016, the County commissioned a study of a rainwater catchment "template" in 2017 via a contract with Western Washington University.  That template was completed in late July, 2018, but it appears County staff promptly filed it in the proverbial 'circular file'. 

Thoroughly frustrated by this history over the past two-plus years, GIPAC again filed code amendments for 2019 on permitting rainwater catchment and permitting new wells.  We told the Board of Commissioners on Nov 5th that we are flexible about how we accomplish the goals of our two proposals; and that these two proposals are very similar in intent to the two code amendments we submitted to the County in 2016 but which were never acted on.  We told them that we have resubmitted our proposals as code amendments for 2019 because we frankly don’t know how else to bring them to the attention of the County, but we believe they could be implemented faster and more easily by administrative action by the Planning Department. 

For the coming year, we are excited at the prospect of partnering with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to expand on and update a USGS study on Guemes water issues done in the early 1990s.  Partnering with GIPAC, USGS proposes a follow-on study that will identify the recharge areas of our aquifers and the estimated rates of recharge.  This is important basic information on our groundwater which is needed to give islanders a better understanding of the amounts of inflow and outflow, and the quality and quantity of the water from our sole-source aquifer that most residents depend on.
Other initiatives of GIPAC in the coming year will be to continue the work of our Shoreline Restoration Committee, whose goal is to identify shoreline restoration projects that can make use of Roz Glasser's bequest to GIPAC.  Toward that end, The Roz Glasser Shoreline Restoration Group has completed the first stage of a demonstration project: planting native plants on the shoreline of the Peach Preserve. 

    •    Working with the Skagit Land Trust, the Group hopes to learn which native plants will thrive on our shorelines and for these plants to serve as an example to island residents who wish to improve the health of their shoreline properties. Related to this effort, the Group produced a shoreline pamphlet designed for new people moving to the island to educate them about shoreline issues. 

And, circling back to water, we have undertaken a program of hosting neighborhood 'coffee-klatches' designed to help educate residents on groundwater issues. 

Treasurer's Report for 2018

01/31/18: BUSINESS INTEREST CHECKING  $ 2,681.42?   Donation   $100.00?   Donation   $25.00?   Interest   $2.04?10/31/18: BUSINESS INTEREST CHECKING  $ 2,808.46
03/31/2018: BUSINESS SAVINGS ACCOUNT  $ 10,515.21?   Interest   $7.86?09/30/2018: BUSINESS SAVINGS ACCOUNT  $ 10,523.07