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San Juan County Greenhouse Gas Inventory shows 177,830 tons in 2019

LWVSJ Observer Corps*:Summary of San Juan County Council September 18, 2023 meeting. An Orcas Island resident thanked the Council for listening to community concerns about Killebrew Lake Road Culvert project and spoke in favor of the new plan.

The Environmental Stewardship Department presented the Greenhouse Gas Inventory, which uses 2019 as the baseline year to avoid atypical data during the Covid years. County emissions were 177,830 tons.

The largest sectors are transportation with 64% of emissions, land use 16%, and building energy use 9%.

The biggest individual sources are

wood-burning 19%,

ferries, 18%,

road traffic 15%

recreational boating 15%

and tree loss 10%. However, tree loss is mainly forest thinning which sequesters carbon greatly exceeding emissions.

They want more data on off-road traffic and visitor impacts. They recommend redirecting staff efforts to getting state/federal grants as the main barrier to reduction measures is a lack of staff and resources. The Council approved releasing the Inventory to the public and applying for and accepting a $300k state grant.

The Department then briefed the county on resilience to sea level rise. They are mapping the County for frequency, severity, and erosion hazards.

Areas vulnerable to sea level rise include 930 structures, 13 miles of road, and key shoreline formations and impact sewer and water systems.

Once mapping is done, they will engage the community about high-risk areas and do a backroads feasibility study for key road segments threatened on each island. They will start a policy planning process on culvert replacement and begin conversations about how to balance safety/access with environmental requirements, including possible regulatory relief.

Orcas has had multiple culvert failures and road flooding, with culverts deeply buried on steep slopes.

The Bayhead Creek/Killigrew road project was cancelled in June 2023 due to community protest to allow for a revised plan with more community input. A new plan limits road closures but has doubled the cost. The county is seeking a place near the project to accept fill hauled out of the site. Hauling off-island would further increase costs.

The public review of the SJI Destination Management Plan has been extended to October 31 st . Clarifications are being provided to the public on issues with apparent confusion, especially the parking pass option. All possible actions in the draft plan are options for discussion, not a checklist of approved measures. The proposal to increase accommodation is for seasonal workers and not for visitors. Other community comments so far include questions about optimal capacity, housing and ferry issues, and public requests for improvements in bike lanes, roads, and ports.

The Council approved appointments to the Solid Waste Advisory Committee and the Civil Service Commission.

The Council discussed Governor Inslee’s visit to the County on September 26. Council Member Fuller with accompany the delegation. Council Chair Wolfe will have a brief one-on-one meeting and plans to raise ferries, education, and climate resilience. The Treasurer’s Office has some numbers on the economic impact of ferry disruptions in the County she will provide to the Governor.

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan organization encourages informed participation in government. The Observer Corps attends and takes notes at government meetings to expand public understanding of public policy and decisions. The notes do not necessarily reflect the views of the League or its members.

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