This was originally posted to: Guemes Island Planning Advisory Committee

Planning Advisory Committee Annual Report 2021

GIPAC Annual Report: 2021

This past year has seen some exciting progress on GIPAC’s agenda, but also continuing frustration with the County’s inaction on issues we believe critical to protecting our groundwater aquifers. 

The exciting news is that we finally got $80,000 funding from the Legislature (thanks to 40th District Senator Liz Lovelett) to pay for GIPAC’s share of a USGS study of Guemes Island’s aquifer recharge areas.   We’ve been working to secure this funding since 2019.  You’ve just heard about that study from the USGS folks who will lead that effort and we’re delighted it’s finally underway.  

 The frustrating news is that we continue to get no traction from the County on our dual and parallel efforts to: 1) make it easier for homeowners to get the necessary permits to install rainwater catchment rather than having to drill wells for potable water; and 2) institute a seawater intrusion monitoring system modeled on that used by Island County on Whidbey Island. 

As those of you who have followed our work know, we've tried to do this by introducing amendments to the Skagit County Code because we haven't found a more effective method to try to get changes enacted by the County. 

However, the code amendment route has proven increasingly frustrating.  We’ve been pursuing these efforts, in various forms, since we first introduced these amendments in 2016, and then again in 2018 when they hadn't been acted on, and we're still at it now.   

For 2022, we plan to continue focusing on water issues, but from a new angle.  Under current law and practice, Skagit County does not consider the impact on groundwater resources when issuing variances and we plan to review the criteria and process for issuing variances on Guemes. In addition, short term rentals are essentially unregulated and some residents have expressed concern about the potential impact on our aquifer of visitors who don't understand that water is not as plentiful on Guemes as it might be in other, especially urban, areas. Both topics are complicated and we will welcome community input as we study them. 

Other developments in 2021 included:

A change in our board membership.  We welcome Jep Burdock to the board.  Jep took Nancy Fox’s position when she resigned because of health issues. We hope to be able to continue benefiting from Nancy’s experience and wisdom via her new Emeritus status. 

Patty Rose led our efforts to utilize the Roz Glasser bequest to work on restoring Guemes shorelines.  She reports that shoreline plantings at the Peach Preserve continue to mature with the help of island volunteers, the San Juan Preservation Trust, and those who respect them as they make their way to the beach.  GIPAC welcomes suggestions about additional shoreline restoration efforts. 

When required because of COVID, we hold our monthly meetings via Zoom but when possible, we meet at the community room at the church.  We continue to welcome public attendance at our meetings, either in person when possible, or remotely.

Thank you.

Hal Rooks

Chair, Guemes Island Planning Advisory Committee