July 18, 2022
Skagit County Adopts Moratorium Prohibiting Offsite Compensatory Mitigation Projects on Local Farmland
County Commissioners Move to Protect Agricultural Land Base and Economy
Seeking to protect Skagit Valley’s irreplaceable farmland from the threat of incompatible commercial, residential and industrial use, the Skagit County Board of Commissioners has adopted an interim ordinance banning offsite compensatory mitigation on Skagit Valley farmland.
It can be cheaper for energy companies and other industries to buy Skagit Valley farmland as mitigation for environmental harm they create in distant places, which threatens the long-term stability of the Skagit Valley’s agricultural land base and economy.
“Our community has worked and sacrificed for generations to protect the Skagit for agriculture, so it’s a problem when outside corporate interests look to mitigate distant environmental impacts by purchasing Skagit Valley farmland and taking it out of production,” said Skagit County Commissioner Ron Wesen. “The Skagit produces a significant portion of the world’s vegetable seed in a time of escalating food prices, so protecting the world’s best farmland is more important than ever.”
Skagit County prohibited mitigation banking on Skagit farmland in 2009, and County officials have continued to consider potential code updates. Seattle City Light, which supplies electricity to the City of Seattle, recently expressed plans to acquire and convert a significant amount of Skagit Valley farmland as mitigation for the impact of its hydroelectric dams, which are not located in Skagit County, adding immediacy to the County’s concerns.
“Skagit County government fully supports well-planned and well-executed habitat projects on the Skagit Delta to meet our collective recovery goals under the 2005 Skagit Chinook Recovery Plan,” said Skagit County Commissioner Lisa Janicki. “But it is a very different thing when an energy production concern looks first to private Skagit farmland as mitigation for its environmental impacts 70 miles away, rather than mitigating on the public lands where Seattle’s dams are located.”
As the Interim Ordinance reflects, the Board’s action is motivated in part by concerns about the integrity of prior offsite compensatory mitigation within Skagit County.
“Mitigation needs to be good, not just sound good. We’re a natural resources community grounded in fishing, farming and forestry, with close connection to nature, so actual outcomes matter to us,” said Commissioner Peter Browning. “Ultimately, we think that local and indigenous knowledge, working together, is the best way to protect the Skagit for future generations.”
The Board anticipates adopting a permanent ordinance after hearing from the public and interested stakeholders. Skagit County will hold a hearing to accept public testimony on this matter on Tuesday, September 6, 2022, from 9:30 AM to 10:30 AM. The public is invited to attend and express their views on this important issue.
The full presentation to the Board of County Commissioners on July 18, 2022 can be viewed here.