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More than $1 million collected in clean water utility to date

At least one Island County commissioner wants to see more money from the county’s clean water utility go to tangible projects.

During a recent Island County work session, Commissioner Jill Johnson questioned how money collected through the county’s clean water utility is used.

Johnson said she wanted to see more of the dollars raised to go toward projects and less about studying the conditions in Island County.

“I think the community has an expectation for results,” Johnson said during the work session noting that the county has about $500,000 available from the clean water utility for capital projects.

Island County in 2012 collected $1.46 million through the cleanwater utility, which is funded by a fee property owners pay.

The owner of a residential lot will pay a $39.13 bill that will appear on their property tax statement. An owner of agricultural property would pay $29.35.

The fee pays for the county’s surface water monitoring efforts, Island County Critical Areas Ordinance code compliance, on-site sewer inspection and monitoring and the hydrogeology program.

Island County Public Works Director Bill Oakes presented a prioritized list of projects that would repair the outfalls at several problem spots throughout Island County.

That list accounted for approximately $3 million worth of projects on the two islands.

The list presented is by no means complete. Oakes said his staff identified $10 million worth of water quality projects throughout the county.

“Our systems are getting very old and we need to start replacing them,” Oakes said after the meeting.

County officials are hoping to get one of those projects off the ground this year. An outfall on Maxwelton Road on South Whidbey isn’t functioning and, pending approval from state fish and wildlife along with the Army Corps of Engineers, they hope to undertake a $900,000 project to replace a tide gate, trunk drain and install a pump station later in 2013.

Oakes said the area is prone to winter flooding and the outfall has failed.

Other drainage projects on the county hopes to undertake in the coming years will take place on Camano Island, Palmer Court, the Maxwelton Road north outfall and Mutiny Bay.

Johnson noted that a significant amount of the money raised through the clean water utility goes toward monitoring.

“When do we switch from understanding to finding solutions,” she said.

Keith Higman, county health director, noted that Whidbey Island has a dynamic environment an water monitoring efforts will continue.

Higman and Oakes presented the report about the clean water utility during the commissioners Wednesday work session.

Oakes said staff is required by county code to provide a yearly update of the clean water utility.

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