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.
The legislature’s website (Legislature Home (wa.gov)) makes it easy to be an active citizen expressing to your legislators and to committees holding hearings on bills how you would like them to vote. This page gives instructions on how to do this: Washington State Legislature Participating in the Process. You can simply indicate your position for or against, write a statement, or give live testimony. The bill information page (Bill Information (wa.gov)) is the place to search for the text of the bill in which you are interested and to see where it is in the legislative process. Your voice has greatest impact with committee members who represent the district in which you live. Don’t know your district? Go to Washington State Legislature.
To better help advance Audubon Washington’s state legislative priorities, join the Action Network. Go to Advocacy | Audubon Washington and scroll down to “Be the Voice for Birds.” Audubon Washington’s Bill Tracker gives weekly updates on the progress of these priorities and how you can help: Bill Tracker: 2023 Legislative Session | Audubon Washington.
The Environmental Priorities Coalition (EPC), comprised of over twenty environmental groups including Audubon, is organizing virtual Lobby Days for February 14-16. The coalition’s four priorities overlap those of Audubon Washington. In brief, 15-minute Zoom appointments with your senator and two representatives or their staff members you can make a difference. (Most of) our elected officials want to hear from us. Register here: Lobby for Environmental Health and Justice in 2023 (google.com). See January’s Conservation Notes on the Skagit Audubon website (Skagit Audubon Society - Home) under the Conservation tab for details about Audubon and EPC priorities.