Skagit County proposes raising taxes to save salmon

Skagit County commissioners proposed raising property taxes to create streamside buffers around the Skagit River and its tributaries.

The Seattle Times:

A proposal announced Thursday and headed to the county’s voters in the summer would cost the average homeowner about $25 a year. The county commissioners say raising public money to buy land from willing sellers would not only preserve land along the river and streams and boost salmon survival, but it might even help endangered orcas.

The Skagit Valley Herald (subscription required):

Some stakeholders — farmers and salmon advocates — said they would have to wait and see how the plan unfolds. The Swinomish Tribe, which has fought the county in lawsuits and appeals for the past 10 years over the issue, was disappointed.

The tribe participated in the year-and-a-half long negotiations within a body called the Growth Management Act Resolution Team, of which the county was a part.

No consensus was reached by that team.

But the Swinomish Tribe said the lack of consensus is a problem and that it indicates a fundamental weakness in the county’s buffer plan.

“After 10 years of litigation and millions of dollars spent on attorneys, the tribe thought sitting down and negotiating and trying to work out a settlement was in everybody’s best interest,” said Swinomish Tribal Chairman Brian Cladoosby.

The new plan doesn’t get the county any closer to complying with the state’s Growth Management Act, nor does it provide the endangered Chinook salmon with any more certain protection, Cladoosby said.

“(The law) doesn’t say ‘You as a county can protect critical areas if people feel like selling you easements,’” said Marty Loesch, an attorney for the tribe. “Making it voluntary doesn’t provide the protection that the (law) requires.”