A Message from Commissioner Bacon

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Island County

District 1 News - August 18, 2023


Thank you for reading my newsletter for the 33rd  week of 2023

Subscribers to this newsletter know I've been worrying about the potential for wildfires for a couple of years. The Maui tragedy is another reminder to us about what we could face. There are many differences between our situations, of course. Our topography is very different, with gentle slopes instead of mountains. Our weather is different--our summer winds are not hurricane-force, and we are not currently in an extreme drought. We have little multiunit housing that would impede those residents from escaping from their homes. It would be much easier for fire fighters including planes and drone support from the mainland to reach us.

But there are also similarities. Evacuation is problematic. We have long periods of time in the summer without rain, and areas with a build-up of vegetative fuel. Maui's warning sirens were not sounded because they’re usually used for tsunamis and their Emergency Manager worried they would confuse citizens who might drive in the wrong direction; although we have seven tsunami sirens in our county, none of them are south of Greenbank and we too do not practice for other types of alarm situations. We both have above-ground utility poles that could spark fires if they fall during high winds. We both have water system vulnerabilities.

The Board of Island County Commissioners intends to meet soon with our Department of Emergency Management and representatives from our fire districts. I want to know whether or not Island County or any communities in Island County have an updated Community Wildfire Protection Plan in place so we can share details of that plan with our citizens. If there aren’t any (and I can’t find any online—the 2020 Hazard Mitigation Plan update (pages 14.1 - 14.22) here https://www.islandcountywa.gov/DocumentCenter/View/2262/Island-County-Hazard-Mitigation-Plan-2020-Vol-1-pdf does not count as a CWPP), there are funding opportunities through FEMA and other granting agencies to assist in the writing of one; if there is one, there are funding opportunities through the Forest Service and other agencies to update it or help pay for projects associated with wildfire protection preparation. To understand the relationship between a Hazard Mitigation Plan and a Community Wildfire Protection Plan, see https://mil.wa.gov/asset/602d79e58b6e7#.

I urge everyone to sign up for AlertSense and the other alert apps and notifications you can find on Island County's Department of Emergency Management page: https://www.islandcountywa.gov/464/Alerts-Warnings I also encourage everyone to prepare in advance a go-bag and an evacuation plan for your family. There are resources on our Emergency Management site to assist you with that.

At 4 pm TODAY, August 18, a Type II burn ban goes into effect on Whidbey and Camano. This ban includes a ban on all outdoor burning in unincorporated Island County, including a ban on recreational fires that were otherwise exempt from a Type I burn ban. From the Sheriff’s webpage: “The danger of outdoor fires is extreme right now.”

Since I’m on the subject anyway, I also want to let you know that the Northwest Clean Air Agency sent out a message today that it is likely that wildfire smoke from the Canada fires will move into our region beginning tomorrow and extending into next week. Here’s a link to a quick smoke forecasting model. Home - FireSmoke.ca Just click the blue “View Current Forecast” button and zoom in.

  • Regular Session.  The agenda and recording for the August 15th regular session can be found here: https://media.avcaptureall.cloud/meeting/b016c594-92e4-4506-83b3-72219441ddd1
    • The first item on the agenda was public comment. We took public comment on homelessness, the Robinson boat launch, and Crawford Road.
    • The Board passed two resolutions on our consent agenda: C-49-23, “Approving Diking District No. 4 Maintenance Estimate” and C-50-23, “Approving Plans & Specifications and Authorizing Call for Bids for Penn Cove Road Stabilization Realignment”.
    • Prosecuting Attorney Greg Banks brought Resolution C-51-23 to the Board initiating a lawsuit against the Department of Social and Health Services to compel them to do their job with regard to providing services to mentally ill individuals accused of committing crimes. The Board voted in favor of this. It was an interesting discussion for those of you who wonder how people with mental health issues are treated by the court system. You can watch this discussion beginning at mark 17:49 in the recording.
    • The agenda for the August 22nd  regular session is here: https://www.islandcountywa.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_08222023-611 On the agenda: Appointing three appraisers to Apportion special Benefits in Diking District No. 4 (Resolution C-52-23), and a public hearing on regulating Speed Limits through School Zone along Maxwelton Road (C-41-23).
  • Board of Health. The agenda for the August 15th Board of Health can be found here: https://www.islandcountywa.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_08152023-600 The audio recording is here: https://www.islandcountywa.gov/DocumentCenter/View/4313/BOH-08152023_Recording-MP3
    • Coupeville High School, 11 am – 3 pm
    • Oak Harbor High School, 5 pm – 8 pm.
    • With school starting, it’s time for childhood immunizations. There are two locations in our area that are offering FREE childhood immunizations on Thursday, August 31. Pre-registration is encouraged; contact Paul Shimada for further information at p.shimada@islandcountywa.gov. Walk-ins will be accepted as space allows. No ID or insurance required—but please bring vaccine card or record if possible. Vaccine records can be found at https://waverify.doh.wa.gov/ and https://wa.myir.net/rorl?next=/
    • There were two presentations given at the Board of Health that residents might find interesting (I did). The first was a presentation on Climate Health Impacts, presented by Jason Vogel, University of Washington EarthLab, which reviewed their “In the Hot Seat” report, detailing health effects of heat in Washington, including direct and indirect heat-related illness, as well as which individuals and communities are at risk. It was interesting to hear this presentation on the hottest day of 2023 so far. Did you know that in our area, 84’ is defined as “extreme heat”? Presentation can be seen beginning on page 34 of the agenda; the discussion can be heard beginning at around mark 00:19:43.
    • The second presentation was an overview of the Public Health program Living Environments. This program is responsible for food safety, solid waste (from the Public Health side), and zoonotic disease programs (like rabies). The presentation begins on page 47 of the agenda; the discussion starts at around 01:07:30 in the recording.                                                
  • Work Session. The agenda for the August 16th work session is here: https://www.islandcountywa.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_08162023-602 The recording is here:  . If you want to fast forward to the conversations I note below you will need to download the audio instead of just streaming it, which you can do by clicking on the three dots at the right end of the streaming dashboard and clicking “download”. Depending on your internet access, this download may take a while.
    • First on our agenda: Superior Court Administrator Megan Frazier brought 5 contracts to the Board, all associated with funding juvenile court services. A lot of frustration was expressed by Board members regarding recent changes in law that we feel are not in the best interests of our youth.
    • We discussed the Shore Friendly program with DNR Manager Jennifer Schmitz. Mark 00:28:47 in the audio.
    • During the Treasurer’s report, I explained why I do not intend to ever again vote in favor of selling unbuildable properties that the County has foreclosed on. Mark 00:44:05  in the audio.
    • The Planning Department provided their long range planning update, beginning at mark 00:56:34 in the audio.
    • After much discussion the Board decided to prioritize taking action on the North part of Crawford Road before beginning on the South part. This discussion begins at mark 01:29:43 in the audio. The slide presentation can be found on pages 141 – 147 in the agenda above.
    • There is no work session next week. On Wednesday August 23rd the Council of Governments (COG) will meet at 9:00 a.m. and the Island Regional Transportation Planning Organization (IRTPO) will meet at 10:00 a.m. You can find the agendas for these meetings, including the Zoom links, here: https://www.islandcountywa.gov/AgendaCenter

  • 2024 Budget: The most crucial work the Board of Island County Commissioners does is pass a budget to keep your local government going for another year. All meetings are held in the Commissioners Hearing Room in Coupeville (in case you want to attend in person—but the Board does not accept public comment during these meetings). If you scroll down to the Events Calendar on the main web page, you will find info links embedded on the dates to each of these meetings.
  • Speed Study Meetings—We’re trying to get your opinions on the formulas we used to make the recommendations. Historically, data points (including the 85% and 50% percentile), Average Daily Traffic (ADT), collision history and engineering judgement have provided the recommendation for a posted speed limit.  The current project also considers development density and pedestrian and bicycle use. The information provided on this South Whidbey flyer pertains to all of these speed study meetings: https://content.govdelivery.com/attachments/WACOISLAND/2023/08/10/file_attachments/2581307/South%20Whidbey%20Speed%20Eval.pdf
    • Central Whidbey – Coupeville Rec Hall September 20th, 4:30 PM – 5:30 PM
    • South Whidbey – Trinity Lutheran Church August 23rd, 4:30 PM – 5:30 PM
    • Camano Island – The Multi-Purpose Room located next to the Camano Annex building Sept 12th, 4:30 PM – 5:30 PM
  • Every  Monday I hold Monday Tea with Melanie at 3:00 pm at the WiFire Community Space, 1651 E. Main Street, Freeland. I will be available every Monday in August, but will miss September 4 (Labor Day), and will also miss September 11.


“One of the big questions in the climate change debate: Are humans any smarter than frogs in a pot? If you put a frog in a pot and slowly turn up the heat, it won't jump out. Instead, it will enjoy the nice warm bath until it is cooked to death. We humans seem to be doing pretty much the same thing.”   ~Jeff Goodell