Streamside buffer tax unlikely to go to Skagit voters

The Skagit Valley Herald (subscription required) reports that the county commissioners do not plan to put a tax increase to pay for streamside buffers on the August ballot:

Skagit County’s plan to pay farmers for streamside buffers is unlikely to go to the voters in August, Skagit County commissioners said Friday.

A voter-approved tax increase had been a key component of the Salmon Heritage Program when it was unveiled last month. But after Tuesday’s apparent failure of four local school district bonds, the commissioners now say they don’t believe voters would support the measure.

The commissioners said they still plan to go ahead with the program, which calls for buying easements to install buffers — strips of land planted with trees and grasses. The buffers help keep the waters cool, which salmon prefer, and filter pollutants out of water before it enters the stream.

But now, county officials hope to pull money from outside Skagit County to pay for the program.

The Skagit River has regional significance to Puget Sound and beyond, (Commissioner Ken) Dahlstedt pointed out. The salmon that spawn in the river system are caught in Alaskan and Canadian waters. So why, he asked, should Skagit County taxpayers bear the burden of paying for buffers?