April 16, 2006

Unintended Consequences

The Skagit lowlands are gorgeous. The soil is very fertile and they get a lot of water so this is primo agricultural land. Want to grow Tulips?
Skagit County accounts for the majority of the tulips sold in the USA. Same for some berries. They produce a lot of milk too. The State of Washington introduced Wetlands Mitigation Banking around 1995. The idea sounds good -- the State buys up large parcels of land that can be converted to wetlands and then allows small landholders to "buy" permits from this "bank" if they want to drain a marshy area or dig in a riverbed. The apparent beauty of this plan is that it eliminates a lot of tiny "postage stamp" wetlands scattered around and creates areas several hundred acres in size that are more environmentally sound and more easily managed. Until the Clear Valley Environmental Farm... Under this plan, the State will buy an 805 Acre ex-Dairy farm and convert 355 Acres of it into a wetland. The public notice was dated December 8th, 2005 and was initially posted at the Wetlands Mitigation website Unfortunately, it seems that it was not well publicized so very few people have heard about this. The problem? It has farms as direct neighbors. The wetlands will raise the water table. This land gets very wet during the winter rains and the farmers cannot plant if the soil is flooded. The Capital Press has a good article:
Deadline looms for wetland plan
Comment period for 805-acre proposal ends by April 24

Farmers in Skagit County, Wash.,say they are concerned about a proposal that flew in low under the radar: the purchase of an 805-acre farm near Clear Lake, half of which would be turned into a wetland mitigation bank.

“There are those of us who live and farm in that area who are concerned about the project’s impact on the drainage system,” said dairy farmer Ken Johnson. “We need to be able to get rid of floodwaters, and we need our low ground to drain in the spring.”

Of particular concern to Johnson are four engineered logjams that would be placed in Nookachamps Creek.

“It could raise the water table and back the water up,” he said. “It would make our land worthless for farming.
The idea of a Mitigation Bank is an excellent one but sheesh - they should have driven around and talked with some people before siting this here. Wrong place, bad engineering. Posted by DaveH at April 16, 2006 8:23 PM
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