Stream buffer hearing Monday

Is there a drainage ditch on your property?

If so, a public hearing Monday might be of interest. After a Washington State Court of Appeals ruling, Island County must expand the setbacks from a type 5 stream to 50 feet, double the current rule.

Since the county is compelled, the hearing is mainly a formality. Jeff Tate, Island County’s assistant planning director, said that Island County has fought the issue because of the amount of property that would be affected.

“We have fought his issue because the issue with all type 5 streams is water quality,” he said.

According to scientific data the county used as evidence, 87 percent of contaminates are filtered out within the first 25 feet from a stream.

“The planning commission and the county commissioners make a decision on if the gain in water quality is worth the loss of property,” Tate said.

The rate at which contaminates are filtered is a steep curve through the first 25 feet. It would take another 275 feet of setbacks to reach a 99-percent filtration rate, Tate said.

Island County Commissioner Mike Shelton said that imposing the rule is not something he wants to do, but is forced to do.

“The problem with type 5 streams is that most people would not call them a stream,” he said.

According to Island County Code, a type-5 stream is less than 2-feet wide and runs no less than two weeks out of the year. Commonly referred to as drainage ditches, they are monitored under the county’s critical areas ordinance.

The county is passing the stream buffer ordinance on a fast track because it does not have any other option. With the farming issues, however, that process is going the long route to establish a record that will allow the county to circumvent the court’s rules.

The decision to require 50-foot setbacks was based on concrete, scientific evidence, Tate said.

“It’s hard to do anything other than what the court of appeals says,” he said.

The hearing will be at 10:30 a.m. Monday in the Commissioners’ hearing room in Coupeville.

You can reach News-Times reporter Eric Berto at

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