News

State bestows bucks on island

North and Central Whidbey was remarkably well represented in the capital budget projects approved by the state Legislature during the recent session.

Nearly $5.5 million in funding and land transfers will benefit the area, from a small grant to help fund the Oak Harbor High School stadium to a large grant to preserve Central Whidbey farmland.

In all, the budget includes $15 million in 10th Legislative District capital projects through an alphabet soup of state agencies.

Mary Margaret Haugen (D-Camano), Rep. Chris Strow (R-Clinton) and Rep. Barbara Bailey (R-Oak Harbor) get the credit for including many local line items in the budget. The Whidbey Camano Land Trust, however, was also instrumental in bringing about several of the important land conservation projects.

“Our executive director, Pat Powell, worked hard during this legislative session to help make sure the (Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program) and (Trust Land Transfer) programs were fully funded...” said Lisbeth Cort, director of outreach and development for the Land Trust. “We know that many Land Trust members — both inside and outside Island County — contacted their legislators in support of the two programs. There’s no doubt that these efforts made a big difference in Olympia.”

The largest amounts of money heading to North and Central Whidbey is coming from the Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation. The grants aren’t finalized until the IAC board meets this summer. The IAC administers Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program grants, which lawmakers doubled this year.

The agency is giving Island County a $750,000 grant for purchasing conservation easements on 150 acres of farmland inside Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve. The county will contribute an additional $750,000 in donated land and a federal grant. The purchase will prevent development on the large swath of current and historical farmland, connecting Crockett Prairie to Ebey’s Prairie.

The county is getting another $390,000 to purchase conservation easements on a 66.5-acre seed orchard on Smith Praire, which is at the south end of Ebey’s Landing. The county will contribute $390,000 from a federal grant.

In addition, the agency is providing a $459,775 grant to State Parks to expand Deception Pass State Park through the purchase of 57 acres on Hoypus Hill. Island County is matching the grant through funds from the Conservation Futures program.

A separate $485,000 grant to State Parks will be used to redevelop the day-use area at Cornet Bay in Deception Pass State Park. Work will include converting a road into a trail and adding a restroom, kayak launch, bus shelter, boat rinse-down station and picnic areas. State Parks will contribute $300,000.

Lastly, the IAC is giving the Department of Natural Resources a $99,960 grant to restore a prairie in the Admiralty Inlet Natural Area Preserve, which is on Engle Road in Central Whidbey. Also known as the Naas Natural Area Preserve, it is owned by the Whidbey Camano Land Trust with a conservation easement held by the Department of Natural Resources. The 25-acre preserve is one of only 11 sites in the world where golden paintbrush survives. The work will expand the prairie habitat from 0.5 acres to 3.5 acres by removing invasive species and encroaching conifers, as well as installation of fencing and caging.

The Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development is providing three grants to Whidbey Island entities. The Coupeville School District will receive a $113,000 grant for a covered play area at the elementary school.

The city of Oak Harbor will get $59,000 for dredging needed at the Oak Harbor Marina. The marina needs $1.76 million in dredging work, according to the marina redevelopment plan. But City Administrator Paul Schmidt said city officials have decided to do the work in phases.

“This will definitely help with the first phase,” he said.

The Oak Harbor School District will receive a $50,000 grant to help with the new Wildcat Memorial Stadium.

The Department of Natural Resources was also in a giving mood. The department has a Trust Land Transfer program that allows the department to transfer state lands to local or state governments, at the same time protecting the land and providing lumber revenue for school construction.

The DNR transfered two parcels to Island County and provided a third under a 50-year lease. A 46-acre parcel at Monroe Landing is valued at $920,000. A 50-acre parcel in the Scenic Heights area is worth $560,000.

In addition, the county received a 50-year lease on a 40-acre parcel on Swantown Road. It is one of the last forested areas on the outskirts of Oak Harbor. It contains a great blue heronry and is heavily used by raptors and other native wildlife, according to Whidbey Camano Land Trust.

You can reach News-Times reporter Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611.

Community Events, April 2014

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